During the war I saw to it that the revenue which was due to the Iboland – at that time…East Central State – I kept it, and I saved the money for them. And when the [state] was liberated I handed over the money to them – millions. If I’d decided to do so, I could have kept the money away from them. And then when they took over I saw to it that subvention was given to them at the rate of £990,000 every month. I didn’t go to the executive council to ask for support, or for approval because I knew if I went to the executive council at that time, the subvention would not be approved because there were more enemies in the executive council for the Ibos than friends. And since I wasn’t going to take a percentage from what I was going to give them, and I knew I was doing what was right, I wanted the state to survive, I kept on giving the subvention – £990,000, almost a million, every month – and I did that for other states of course – South Eastern State, North Central State, Kwara and so on.
But I did that for the Ibos, and when the war was over, I saw to it that the African Continental Bank, ACB, got three and a half million pounds to start with. This was distributed immediately and I gave another sum of money. The attitude of the experts, officials at the time of the ACB was that ACB should be closed down, and I held the view you couldn’t close the ACB down because that is the bank that gives finance to the Ibo traders, and if you close it down they’ll find it difficult to revive or to survive. So it was given. I did the same thing for the Cooperative Bank of Eastern Nigeria, to rehabilitate all these places, and I saw to it as commissioner for finance that no obstacle was placed in the way of the ministry of economic planning in planning for rehabilitation of the war affected areas.
TWENTY POUNDS POLICY
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 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 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’ books had been burnt, and many of the people who had savings there didn’t have their savings 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 recommendations 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.
And anyone who goes back to look at my broadcast in August 1967, which dealt with post-war reconstruction, would see what I said there.
– Excerpts from an interview Awo granted during a town hall meeting in Abeokuta, Ogun State, in 1983