Archbishop Sam Zuga is a man of many interests and disciplines, most recent of which is founding Zuga Coin, a monetary venture developed with an altruistic perspective to enabling the fortunes of Nigerians and truly driving inclusion in the country. Sunday Vanguard sat with him where he had the chance to expatiate on his motivations and ambitions.
Aside the work you do as a cleric, you are into so many other things. Can you tell us about yourself and your other interests?
My life has been a life of service to humanity and worship to the Almighty God. I take pleasure in serving people, providing solutions, so for that I got involved in a lot of things and this has its roots all the way to my childhood. We experienced hardship and poverty as a family growing up, a particular incident led me to God at age 14 and He heard my call to take humiliation away from our family. And He came to make me distributor of whatever we lacked as a family.
Hardship story extends beyond what you may imagine; I ate rice at age 14 for the first time! Once a year in fact, I worked tirelessly to ensure we were fed, worked on others farms for a fee when the rains came in addition to toiling on my own farm – all to support my younger ones. That money is what we used for school fees, and to take care of my younger ones.
So people know me as somebody who helps. When the time came and I left the village for the city and God helped me so that I began making money, the first thing I committed to was to establish a secondary school in my village, so that the children in my village will not suffer like I did. Because due to the major distance between our village and the school, many of them were not going to school, so I built the first secondary school in my village.
It is now called Government Day Secondary School, Abako. That is the only government institution in my community. In the course of enterprise, I engaged myself in manufacturing and studied soap and cosmetics and established the first soap and cosmetic company in Tiv land. I am a Tiv man from Benue State.
I produced ‘Sa Tiv Soap’ meaning ‘We Tiv Soap’ to give my people a sense of belonging and encouragement; this company gave a lot of youth jobs and again made me a provider of that which was lacking for my family and others. I also began to explore how to supply food to the community and started providing dry cassava chips, garri and guinea corn to them with a sustainable plan to ensure there is no scarcity at key time of the year.
Another thing I have done is provide free medical treatment. Whilst producing soap, I decided to set aside a portion of my monthly profits to settle hospital bills for my people. I would choose any hospital I want and engage them. On one occasion, there was an old lady whom was financially distressed and I had committed all my resources. But her situation was dire, it dawned on me we had to make this more robust; so we gathered some doctors who advised us on structure & drugs supply, equipment purchase and we started giving free medical treatment across villages in the vicinity.
Further along, I had a revelation where God would use me to heal people suffering from illness. My mother being the first person, then my sister and that is how the gift continued to impact lives around me. As this manifestation grew, it was not something you can hide so I became mobile and began to travel from place to place across Africa from 2003 till today.
I use food stuff as directed and provide medical treatment with these materials. I couldn’t use orthodox medicine as God has given me a solution to answer challenges. Now over 20 million people in Africa have benefitted from that free medical treatment. Then I relocated to Dubai, got a resident permit and started my business there, I got involved with humanitarian activities too.
My experiences with other Africans and Nigerians whom were lacking and impoverished led me to develop a free coffee center where we could support persons who need food, shelter and the likes. The number we were supporting continued to grow.
An encounter with an extremely distressed young Nigerian man who came in contemplating suicide arrested me to the point that I saw that Dubai was temporary base for all the work we had been doing. It was time to return to Nigeria and focus on building a new Nigeria within Nigeria. Some persons chose to come along with me and relocated towards this project.
Initially my plan was to give loans to people; when they repay, I give others the chance to also get support. So, a company was registered and, before disbursement, we travelled across parts of Nigeria and met people. We then reassessed our position on the basis of attitudes in general, concerned about our ability to recoup funds. The idea of a democratized and inclusive system of finance and funding came to us in the guise of crypto-currency; as it is in the new world movement.
This brings me to the next question which is about Zuga coin. What is Zuga Coin and how did it come about? What brought the inspiration?
A lot of analysis and time has gone into developing our position in crypto-currency. And it is time for Africa to lead as opposed to follow which it has conventionally done. Akon of Senegal started his own crypto-currency with errors here and there though.
We have ensured we will not make the same mistakes. Zuga Coin is one of the first African crypto-currencies to be tracked on the global market. Zuga Coin is a crypto-currency. A crypto-currency is digital money founded on block-chain technology which is currently the most secure, accountable system.
The mechanisms to developing a coin are established in that; you conclude building before it is hooked up. The block-chains offer tokens, including Ethyrium, Binance and more. Upon achieving this you will send links to exchanges and trackers. The trackers study it and if it meets global standards, those trackers will begin to track your coin. Zuga Coin met global standards in December 2020. That’s when it went to the global market.
For ordinary Nigerians who want to get involved, what should they do?
I started Zuga Coin because of charity. The first thing I started, I didn’t sell it. I gave it out free of charge. People who registered as members of my NGO have benefited from those loans. If you register with N500 we multiply it by 20 and give it to you.
So, instead of carrying money to buy, I gave them free of charge. Many people that have Zuga Coins got it free. After giving them, I said “okay, go and sell”, so, as they are selling, the money is going to their pocket, it’s no longer to the company, so many people who are selling are making their money; that is how I started.
Right now, anybody who wants to participate is welcome; we don’t give you exactly how much we pay you, like any other crypto-currency. Like now, if you give N100, 000, we will give you double the amount, so right there, you will be having N200, 000. We will make it in such a way that it can be a business for you.
The internet is technology based and we know how it works in this part of the world. What were the challenges you faced when you were starting out?
The challenges were mainly because of the ugly experiences that people have when they are using crypto. You know anything that has advantages has disadvantages as well. Compliance and fraud have been issues plaguing the adoption of crypto-currency here.
Thus a feature was introduced where transactions that are not desired or done erroneously can be cancelled, i.e. transactions can be reversed. It is the first crypto-currency that can reverse transactions. Secondly, we introduced KYC. We are the first crypto-currency to introduce Know Your Customer.
So when you upload your information, we will be dealing with somebody whom we know. Your name must be the one on your means of identification, and you are going to upload that means of identification, and after uploading it, we have developed a technology that you must have that identity card put on your face, so the computer may scan, and see that face, that is the one that is actually doing the transaction.
So, you upload this information, human beings need to check this thing and approve it before jumping into a decision. So, that aspect of money laundering has been taken care of and, if you do anything that is fishy, there is a way we can trace you, we can track you.
And, then we have what is called an explorer, that explorer is the one that records every transaction that takes place all over the world. Whatever happens, as we are talking now, what is happening there is being recorded, so you can track.
For Nigerians who may not have heard anything about crypto-currency, what kind of benefits can they get by getting involved?
The first thing is on normal ground, you work for money but when you get into crypto, money works for you. You know, in Zuga Coin, you sell when the market is up. You are watching the market, when the market is up, you sell and make profit, but we don’t want people to go through that stress.
Here, we make everything at a standard level. So, a fixed profit margin is already there. The moment you step in, first and foremost, you put your money, after that we are going to give you double of that money. Right there, you make a profit, just immediately.
It is double because we are stopping money laundering. You are not going to use it immediately, you still have to go and look for more money because this one is going to be growing. You have 200, 000 and the market is growing, so, maybe you come the next day and discover that it has gone up to about 300, 000 or 350, 000 Naira. If we allow you to use it like that, you will abuse it, so you have to labour for it. Therefore, of this amount, you are only allowed to get 30% of it a day.
People are generally skeptical about going into this kind of investment because they don’t want to be involved in Ponzi scheme or 419 kind of venture. What makes Zuga Coin different from the other crypto-currencies that people lost their money to?
The first thing is that crypto-currency is an anonymous project; you just face the computer, do business with the computer and go. Whatever happens you do not know where to run to. But with Zuga Coin, the first difference is that it has a face.
There is somebody who puts his name and face as collateral. Zuga is my surname. My name is Sam Zuga, that is the first thing and, if you look at the logo, what is on that logo is my face. I gave my only face and name as collateral. I’m telling you that I’ll be held accountable when something is wrong.
Secondly, we have offices. In crypto-currency you don’t know anybody’s offices to go to when something goes wrong but we have offices and any time you have a challenge you can walk to an office close to you. We are working to extend the offices to council and ward levels.
You are able to know the people that you are dealing with. We made it a community crypto-currency but we are operating internationally. We made it in such a way that we disabuse the minds of the people, don’t do this transaction in Zuga Coin on the internet, do it with someone that you know. If you know that you are not a thief, walk to somebody and talk to that person, if anything happens, the person will hold you accountable.