By Tordue Salem
National Mirror, May 1, 2013
The House of Representatives yesterday disclosed that about N100bn belonging to deceased banks’ customers is presently trapped in dormant accounts across the country.
According to the lawmakers, while the banks continue to trade with this money, beneficiaries of the deceased persons’ estates are living in penury, with many unable to feed.
The House therefore mandated its Committee on Justice and Judiciary to liaise with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Aloma Mukhtar to relax the requirements for access to bank accounts of deceased persons by their next of kin and dependants.
This, the lawmakers said, can be done by simplifying the process of obtaining Letters of Administration from the courts. Letters of Administration is an instrument issued by a court or public official authorizing an administrator to take control of and dispose of the estate of a deceased person.
The resolution of the House followed a motion by Hon. Abiodun Balogun (ACNOgun), which was unanimously adopted. In the motion entitled: “Need to stop the pains of Beneficiaries of Dead Account Holders go through in Nigerian Banks and Courts,” Balogun noted that death was an inevitable end for all living souls.
According to him, most people keep reasonable amount of their money in the banks due to the culture of savings imbibed by Nigerians and that when account holders die some of these monies are usually left with the banks.
He said that N100bn of deceased persons’ money was lying idle in dormant accounts in Nigerian banks. He argued that while banks had continued to trade with such monies, the beneficiaries of deceased account holders wallowed in penury.
The lawmaker noted with concern that the beneficiaries often found it difficult to access the funds as the next of kin owing to bottlenecks placed by banks. He further expressed worry that beneficiaries of bereaved contributors to the Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, also experienced same cumbersome process of getting Letters of Administration. Balogun said that the inability of the beneficiaries to assess funds of deceased bread winners was discouraging people from saving with banks.
He stressed the need for the process of obtaining letters of administration from the courts to be simplified to allow beneficiaries with genuine claims access their inheritance.
He said: “That anytime beneficiaries show up to access the funds as the next of kin to the deceased, the banks usually place official and unofficial hurdles to frustrate them.
The courts that are supposed to issue Letters of Administration also engage in unwarranted delays sometimes for a period of up to one year before such Letters of Administration are issued, thereby adding greatly to the frustration of the already traumatized beneficiaries.
“Even the beneficiaries of the bereaved contributors to the CPS are not left out as they are frustrated due to their inability to make claims for their entitlements as a result of the cumbersome process of getting Letters of Administration. The inability of beneficiaries to access unclaimed funds may further discourage people from saving in our banks.”