Sunday, July 2, 2017

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: The 20 Pounds Ex-gratia Payments

The company in which I worked during the war paid an average of 8 pounds per month to a casual laborer. If you were successful in you school certificate, you were paid sixteen pounds by the ministry and about 20 pounds in my company. As a confirmed factory laborer, you earned an average of around 16 pounds. A university graduate earned 72 pounds on the average. I would not hazard a guess as to what happened to those with thousands of pounds left in their bank accounts before the war. Those kinds of money were not easy to come bye by anyone before the war. One thousand pounds, would be more than a graduate's yearly salary.

And before the war, many of the Ibos, as it was with most of us, were either doing menial jobs or working as laborers or factory workers. Not too many people, as it has been pointed out, even had a bank account. This is the truth.

In that company where I worked, people who left for the East who did not defraud the company had their jobs restored to them when they came back. Those in managerial positions resumed at exactly where they left. Let us remember that during the war, we who were on the federal side had a portion of our salaries taken towards the war efforts.

Let us also remember that there were Ibos, quite a lot of them, who did not go back during the war. These people lived among us or were protected by us if they had any reason to fear for their life. We did all these because the Ibos were like family to us. We lived together and grew up together and went to school together.

These are some of the reasons why it is really painful to us to hear some Ibo people who might even not have been alive then to start disparaging us.

Let us join hands and build a country for ourselves that is worthy of calling home. Anyone who thinks that a separation can be achieved at this stage of our existence without a major disruption in our lives, or even a major war, is kidding himself. War is not funny. It is not a televisionn show.

And, should there be a war in Nigeria, the internet gurus who live in America and Europe, either he is a Biafran or a Nigerian, will be the least affected by the war. Those who live in Nigeria will be the people mostly affected by the war we used our internet sites to conjure.

On Friday, June 30, 2017 at 10:30:47 AM UTC+1, Ogbuagu wrote:
Frankly, I am awed by Kadiri's boldness in revising historial records and pushing forward new interpretations. Here is another one on ex-gratia payments made by the federal government to returnee account holders from the Eastern Region after the Civil War:

"All the bank operations inside Biafra during the war were null and void and moreover the Biafran currency (pound) was illegal and not tenable anywhere in the world. For almost three years, Biafra was an enclave of starving citizens, therefore, the Biafran pounds were not printed on any real economic activities. It should not be forgotten that Nigeria prosecuted the war without borrowing a farthing from the outside world. Despite that, the federal government could still offer £20 social grant to the liberated Biafrans who requested for it. As of today, less than 30% of Nigerians have bank accounts which was even much more less in 1967-1970. Thus, it is dishonest and fraudulent to pretend as if all Igbo had bank deposit in Nigeria at the end of."

Rather than dispute this claim, allow me to offer what Chief Awolowo himself said on the subject when he was interviewed by a group of journalists at a town hall meeting in Abeokuta in 1983:

"That's what I did, and the case of the money they said was not given back to them, you know during the war all the pounds were looted, they printed Biafran currency notes, which they circulated, at the close of the war some people wanted their Biafran notes to be exchanged for them. Of course I couldn't do that, if I did that the whole country would be bankrupt. We didn't know about Biafran notes and we didn't know on what basis they have printed them, so we refused the Biafran note, but I laid down the principle that all those who had savings in the banks on the eve of the declaration of the Biafran war or Biafra, will get their money back if they could satisfy us that they had the savings there, or the money there. Unfortunately, all the banks's books had been burnt, and many of the people who had savings there didn't have their saving books or their last statement of account, so a panel had to be set up.

I didn't take part in setting up the panel, it was done by the Central Bank and the pertinent officials of the ministry of finance, to look into the matter, and they went carefully into the matter, they took some months to do so, and then make some recommendation which I approved. Go to the archives, all I did was approve, I didn't write anything more than that, I don't even remember the name of any of them who took part. So I did everything in this world to assist our Ibo brothers and sisters during and after the war."

So Mr Kadiri sir, the federal government DID NOT "offer £20 social grant to the liberated Biafrans who requested for it," as falsely claimed. Rather, ex-gratia payments were made ONLY TO those who were able to satisfly a mystery committee set up by the government that they had savings in Nigerian banks prior to the Civil War.

Should we blame Chief Awolowo for the fact that the bank books were burnt and that many of the returnee account holders had lost their savings passbooks? I should not think so. But we can ask questions about issues that remain unclear from his explanations above.

Was the burning of bank records of Biafran returnees a deliberate act? To understand the import of this question, here's another question: Why were ex-gratia payments made to those who had accounts in banks located in other parts of the country, outside the Eastern Region? Whle it is reasonable that bank records in the eastern region could be destroyed during the war, what about bank records in other parts of the country where they also maintained accounts - - in the midwest, west, and north - prior to the Civil War? If these category of bank customers were equally paid ex-gratia of 20 pounds in lieu of their bank savings, does this mean that their records in these places were also burnt? If so, who did the burning and why?

The work of the committee that recommended ex-gratia has continued to be shrouded in secrecy to this day, so much so that Awo had to confess that he could not recall who were its members, and how it determined the criteria used to pay claimants.

I thank Kadiri for trying on this one but he should know that it is not in any doubt that  ex-gratia payments (a) rightly neither contemplated nor accommodated account holders from defunct Biafran Banks, and (b) were not made as social grants to just any returnee Biafran who felt like showing up to ask for it.


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