CBN introduces new policy on dormant accounts

The Central Bank of Nigeria has introduced new guidelines for the treatment and management of dormant account balances by deposit-taking financial institutions.

Part of the objectives of the policy, according to the CBN, is to ensure that dormant account funds are identified and channelled through appropriate institutions to make them more productive to the economy and eliminate the possibility of banks converting dormant account balances to income.

The bank, in a circular released signed by its Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department, Mr. Kevin Amugo, on Tuesday, stated that the absence of clear guidelines for the management of dormant accounts had resulted in the disproportionate treatment of such account balances by deposit-taking financial institutions.

This, it noted, was generating concern among bank account holders, regulators and other stakeholders.

It said representations received by the CBN from stakeholders on the subject highlighted the need for the bank to develop a regulatory framework for the management of dormant accounts for the benefit of the banking system and the Nigerian economy.
The directive stated, “It is in view of the above and the imperative to promote transparency in the financial system that the CBN hereby issues these guidelines to provide a standard for the treatment and management of dormant account balances in Nigeria.

“The purpose of the policy is to curb possible abuse in the operation of dormant accounts, set operational standards for banks and other financial institutions in line with best practice, and to reinforce the property rights as guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“A dormant account shall be a bank account that has no customer or depositor originated transaction within a specified period of six years after the last customer or depositor initiated a transaction. However, such an account shall be recognised as inactive after the first six months of non-depositor or customer originated transaction in it.”

The CBN also said, “Accounts shall retain their interest earning status during the period of dormancy in the bank. Deposit-taking financial institutions shall continue to monitor accounts that show tendencies of inactivity and where necessary, initiate actions for their activation or protection from wrong usage.

“Once dormant accounts exceed a six-year period, they shall be reported to the CBN along with efforts made by the obligor bank to locate the owners or their personal representatives.”
The CBN stated that three months to the end of the six years, both the account holder and the next-of-kin would be notified, adding that revalidation of inactive/dormant accounts would not attract any charge to the account holder as the banks would have made ample use of the idle funds.
It said, “Dormant account balances shall continue to be reflected in the books of banks as deposit liabilities until they are eventually withdrawn by the account holders or disposed of on their instructions. Dormant account balances shall, therefore, be regarded as deposits and shall be covered by deposit insurance.

“In the case of government-owned inactive/dormant accounts, banks shall notify the relevant government agency of their existence, with periodic returns of such notification sent to Banking Supervision Department. Banks are also required to turn over the funds to the concerned treasury after six years of inactivity.”
The bank said account opening forms would include the provision of next-of-kin, who would be contacted at the point of declaring the accounts dormant.
“The provisions of the guidelines shall take immediate effect. Sanctions for contravention of the provisions of the guidelines shall be imposed under Section 60 of the BOFIA (1991) as amended,” the CBN said.
Credit: Femi Asu/Punch