Friday, 01 September 2017 01:48

The Nigerian Twenty Pounds Policy of the Seventies’ Implementation

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The twenty pound policy was an attempt by Nigeria to wriggle out of a messy situation it had in its hand because of failed governance; man’s inhumanity to man that resulted in genocidal behaviors, which led to a war and loss of millions of lives; and economic misery for what was/is known as Biafra. The policy was not intended to be fair or it would have been propounded differently; it was intended to be just or it could have been implemented differently; It was not intended to rehabilitate the Biafrans who had been defeated in the field of war and in spirit or it could had been implemented humanely. 

The intention was to teach Biafrans a lesson and to punish, especially those believed to have financed the rebellion and to ensure that they will never be able to do so in future. What could be another minor objective was to ensure that Nigerian economy did not collapse as Biafrans were being “helped out.” 

First the background.(a) In 1966-1967 a pogrom was visited on Easterners by vandals in various parts of Nigeria. The easterners (Biafrans henceforth) fled in droves from North and West of Nigeria and returned to Biafra. Those who had the presence of mind and time grabbed the most important things they had that can be carried including their bank passbooks. Others who did not have time or the presence of mind left everything behind including their passbooks. Those whose banks were in Biafra started operating their accounts as usual. Most transferred their accounts to ACB which was everywhere and started operating their accounts as usual also. 

First the background. (b). In Biafra of 1960’s only the rich and middle to senior civil servants had bank accounts. Banks were located only in the urban areas of Enugu, Onitsha, Aba, PH, Owerri, Umuahia, and Calabar (and Nsukka ACB because of the university). The only other financial institution was the post Office, but most people did no patronize them as financial institution. Most people kept their money under their mats and mattresses. 

During the war economic activities went on as normal as possible. The government printed paper money as needed which led to hyperinflation. Biafrans saved their money in their bank accounts sometimes and most often in boxes, cartons or in other storage places. There was plenty of paper money available to hustlers. The people who did not have them were soldiers, civil servants and old folks. The vast majority of male citizens were soldiers almost anyone from 13-60 years. 

One bright and sunny day in January 1970, the war ended. If you can conceive it, the real suffering then began. There was no effective government in Biafra. Nigerian Battalion commanders (in my village Major Dinka of Coup fame [Jet 22nd battalion Div. 1, NA]{he had an eye on my girlfriend}) became administrators. We officers surrendered to him/them. 

Post War. Nigerian money was illegal in Biafra and Biafran money was illegal in Nigeria; any Biafra caught with the wrong currency in either side was an enemy saboteur and the punishment was summary execution by the officer who caught the villain. Immediately after the war, NFG reiterated the illegal nature of Biafran money which was all everybody had. Commerce stopped. Or rather trade by batter was reinvented. But what do you trade for a gallon of gas assuming that you had a vehicle? What do your potential passengers trade for a ride in your vehicle? Biafrans figured out how to do these businesses. 

The Twenty Pound Policy. (a) The announcement was that all who had Biafran money should pay them into their accounts, But as there were no banks except in urban areas it was modified to paying them either into your bank accounts or to go to the Divisional offices and deposit them with the treasury. It was chaotic. Imagine 30 Million people trying to make deposits at one time. In what is now Enugu State the divisional offices were in Enugu, Nsukka, Awgu, and Udi. That is it. There were no roads or vehicles to move people around, and no money to patronize the vehicles that were available. Families and friends came together to sponsor a person to go make deposits. The combined pounds were deposited on one account and one receipt. The Aduba-Okorohugwo family for example, numbering hundreds had a mere four of us who had accounts. and we collected from our family and in laws and deposited millions of pounds in our accounts. It was the same in every family. I was connected so I could deposit portions of my collections in two treasuries. I therefore had two receipts and my account. There was no directive other than to make the deposits. I kept a record of who gave me what. Most people did the same thing. 

The implementation. Once all the money were in the banks and treasuries the plan was revealed. There will be two situations (1) Accounts that were not operated in Biafra and (2) Accounts that were operated in Biafra including the deposits in treasuries. Accounts that were not operated at all in Biafra would receive the full balance on the accounts in Nigerian pounds. The accounts that were operated in Biafra and those new treasury deposits will receive twenty pounds per account or receipt. 

The accounts that were NOT operated in Biafra. The holders of these accounts suffered the most in Biafra. They returned with no money in their hands and had to start all over with nothing. It would be good that they be fully compensated for their suffering. The reality was that many no longer knew where the passbooks were, since their houses had been vandalized; the passbooks stolen or eaten by termites; they no longer knew the account numbers or the balance in their accounts. Even those who were facially recognized by bank officials must provide documents as facial recognition was not what the banks home offices needed. It was anguish on anguish. Some did it the Nigerian way. They asked their friends in the bank to discreetly find out for them their account numbers and other information. They were the lucky ones. But many could not get their information. I do not know how their cases were finally resolved. 

The accounts that were operated in Biafra. This was where man’s inhumanity to man was best displayed. The total account was valued at twenty ponds. Were fairness the intent; a line could have been drawn on May 29, 1967. This would be the date before Biafran secession. All transaction from this date forward would be events in Biafra and could be valued at twenty pounds. All the transaction from that date back would be legitimate Nigerian activities and would be valued at face value. But the motive was robbery and punishment. For those who transferred the money from nonresident Biafran Banks, the balance on the transfer date would establish Nigerian transactions. But nay, everything became valued at twenty pounds. Punishment, punishment, punishment. 

The collection Announcement. One will have to assume that the total policy was thought through before the announcement. Why was the method of paying out kept secret? If people knew that each account would be worth just twenty pounds each person would have opened an account in his/her name. This Aduba would not have comingled other people’s money and would have received the twenty pounds on his own for his account and twenty pounds each for the two receipts for a total of sixty pounds. What he got was eleven shillings and change after twenty pounds were shared with the other people whose money were deposited together in his bank account; eight shillings from one receipt and another thirteen shillings from the second receipt for a little over one pound for all his monies and of course some peace of mind because he agreed to share equally with friends and family. Those who refused to share started fighting, some of the fighting’s are still going on in 2017and resulted in a divided family or divided friendships. The government could have sent treasury collectors to every village of say 10,000 to locally collect their Biafran pounds thus making it easier for individuals to deposit their collections especially because the government knew that transportation was a huge problem. This was how it collected taxes. But rehabilitating Biafrans was not the goal. 

Nigeria does not keep statistics. But if she did, it would show an outstanding number of deaths by suicide in 1970. Rich people who could not collect their life savings and earnings from banks, went back only to find that their properties have been considered abandoned by the people who drove them out and pursued them to their villages to kill them and have starved their grandparents to death and killed their sons in battle field could not take it anymore and they took their lives. Life was not worth living. 

Conclusion. I was an adult throughout this period, I had a Grade one Teachers’ Certificate, a higher school certificate (GCE A/L) and had a job. I therefore am in a position to tell this story of what happened. These incidents are carved in my memory and I am sure that those who lived in those times can confirm my story. There is no need to rewrite history for those who forget it are apt to repeat it. 

 

Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba 

Boston, Massachusetts 

August 31, 2017

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Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba

Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba  currently lives in Medfield, Massachusetts.