The Deputy Director, Finance, in the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Hamza Adamu Buwai spoke to newsmen in Abuja on how he saved the federal government over ten billion naira by taking resolute decisions for government in financial matters relating to banks. Excerpts;
Introduce yourself sir.
I am Hamza Adamu Buwai, Deputy Director, finance Federal Ministry Industry Trade and Investment.
The story has been making round that you saved the country huge sums of money. How did it happen?
In 2004, the then Society General Chairman, Dr. Olusola Saraki wrote to president Olusegun Obasanjo to request for an agency of government that is about to receive money from government to deposit that money into society Generale Bank. Societe Generale Bank at the time has a liability of nine hundred and fifty million naira. That was in 2004. And the capital base of all the banks as at that time was two hundred and fifty million. But they were allowed to withdraw up to nine hundred and fifty million naira, which is almost four times their capital base.
So, Boundary Commission at the time had approval at the Ministry of Finance, because government that time had option to fight war with Cameroon or peacefully resolve the issues; about ICC judgement against Nigeria.
So, the government chose the option of dialogue. So, they provided two point five billion naqira for Boundary Commission, for first of all prosecuting the case through the Hague; paid about five million dollars to UN for the demarcation of judgement; and for practicalizing the judgement as provided in the judgement by coordinates.
So, that money we were asked to put in Societe Generale Bank, and we were supposed to go to Hague for the case. That time Prof. Bola Ajibola, Abdullahi Ibrahim and others were representing Nigeria. So, at the airport my boss, the DG said young man, we are not going with you. You have to go back and pursue this money. So, they linked me up with Jubril Mathin Kuye who was the Minister of State for Finance.
So, I came back to him, he processed the payment for us through the Accountant General. And by that time the Accountant General made a policy that on no account should money for MDA be sent to a bank without their consent.
So, when I went, they said go and bring the account you want us to put this money. Now in front of me was a file approved by President Obasanjo to put the money there, but from Accountant General’s office to Central Bank is just a walking distance.
So, I crossed over and met a senor bank manager, Alhaji Kabir, I said I come to investigate the health of society General Bank. He said, don’t put your money there, they owe us nine hundred and fifty million naira. He doesn’t know the magnitude of money we have. So, I went back to the office I wrote a letter and say, put the money in Trade Bank.
This is the Judgement I did by myself because I had no contact with anybody that is my senior.
That was on a Thursday, by Thursday evening, the Societe Generale Bank and the Minister of Finance got to know that I did that. They waited for the alert they didn’t see it. It went to Trade Bank and Trade Bank people are shouting, because they were not even consulted that the money is going to them.
So, they got to know that I did not put the money in Societe Generale Bank and they were looking for me. So, I took refuge in a hotel for Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
By Saturday one of them traced me and say, if I can remove that money to them, they will give me fifty million naira.
I said, I cannot do it because my bosses that will give me approval are not around.
By Monday, the newspapers were all carrying it that Societe Generale Bank was suspended from clearing house and my bosses that returned were in the office for two hours. They could not call me, because they know that they asked me to put the money there. So, when they called me, I said I didn’t put the money there because I know that this is what is going to happen today. I have a friend that I relate with in Central Bank that told me that they are going to suspend them.
But let me tell you the truth, if I had put the two point five billion naira there, they would not have suspended them, because two point one billion naira is more than nine hundred and fifty million naira. But it would have been our money that would go; anybody who has his money in Societe Generale Bank will go and take his money. They will be taking from our money in the end we will try to pay the five-billion-naira international obligation from other sources. I said there is the need for us to go and tell the president what happened.
So, we went to the Vice President who was my Vice Chairman, Atiku Abubakar. He walked to Obasanjo – because we went with the papers. I said this place you said we should put the money is not healthy. The President then said go ahead and don’t put your money there.
So that was how that money survived. Now in 2015 I was in Ministry of Defense. I was made the chairman of handover committee for liabilities and there were these liabilities of up to twelve point eight billion naira. When we came to compile the list, we referred to 2010. You know by that time government made a policy of e-payment. So, everything has gone electronically. By 2009, 2010; they were done by cheques.
So, we referred to the cashable and discovered that contractors owed seven point nine billion naira were paid and they were still on our list. So, I removed them from the list. And there was no amount of pressure they didn’t put. I was waiting for only the permanent secretary who was retiring at the time who supported me. So, we removed them.
They went to the committee that investigated the Airforce. They called me and asked why did I remove their names? I said sir, I have evidence. Whoever come to complain that I remove his name, I have evidence that he was paid. So, call him and call me I will show the evidence because I have the bank statement. Unfortunately, all the banks that were used had gone down.
Oceanic Bank no more, Intercontinental Bank no more. So, these were the banks that were used. So, they think that nobody will trace it.
Unknowingly to them I made copies of the banks statements many copies and kept them somewhere. So, when they went for the ministry copy somebody destroyed it. They don’t know I have copies. So, I told them to call them and call me let us face each other.
Nobody came so that was when ICPC got to know that I saved government another seven point nine billion-naira and the other two point five billion naira.