This is becoming a season of abandoned cash in Nigeria. Sources are telling ‘Heard on the Street’ that sitting in the vaults of Nigerian banks is as much as US$2.5 billion belonging to customers who have refused to come forward to claim them because they do not want to be linked with the money. The customers abandoned the money after the introduction of the Biometric Verification Number (BVN).
The monies have been placed in the banks under different names to hide their identity but with BVN, these individuals will have to show their identity in other to be able to claim it and since most of them are not in a position to explain how they came about the huge cash at their disposal, they would rather allow the money to sit quietly in the vaults of the various banks than lay claim to them.
So the sad situation now is that the money is not useful to its real owners while the government also has no access to the money. Only the banks are enjoying the float of sitting on money that no one is laying claim to.
So some people are suggesting that the government should offer some form of amnesty for “looted” funds as was recently done in Indonesia. This could be done by giving those who own these questionable funds, whether it is in Nigerian banks or offshore banks, a window in which to declare these funds with no questions asked on how it was obtained.
The government can then impose a heavy tax on the declared funds of say 50 percent to 70 percent with no threat of prosecution. This way, the government can get a lot of this illicit wealth back into its purse. The Indonesian government recently offered a tax amnesty which resulted in Indonesians declaring US$330 billion of their assets to the government. There are those who think the Indonesian model could be applied in Nigeria, although there is the fear that Nigerians will not trust the government enough to come forward.