By Eric Teniola
THESE days ESIALA and the Interim Common Services Agency mean nothing to many people. Yet, years ago, these two agencies dominated the headlines in this country. In a televised address to the nation on July 30, 1975, the then Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed (November 8,1938-February 13, 1976), said that “a panel will be set up to advise on the future of the Interim Common Services Agency, ICSA, and the Eastern States Interim Assets and Liabilities Agency, ESIALA”.
ESIALA was set up to take over the assets and liabilities of the old Eastern Region. The states created out of the region now comprise nine states, namely: Abia, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Imo, Anambra and Enugu states. At that time Eastern region was very rich in terms of mineral resources and industries.
They included the Nkalagu Cement Factory, the African Continental Bank, the Eastern Marketing Board, the Eastern Marketing Development Corporation, West African Institute for Oil Palm Research, Nigerian Breweries Stout Factory at Aba, Tobacco and Glass Making Plant at Port-Harcourt, Farm Settlements at Ohaji, Igbariam, Boki, Ulonna, Erei, Uzo-Uwani and Gbema; Nigerian Coal Corporation in Enugu, Rice Farms at Abakaliki and Ogoja and many other projects. Under Decree 39 promulgated by General Yakubu Gowon on June 24, 1970, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, established by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe but opened on October 7, 1960, was listed as part of the assets of the Eastern Interim Assets and Liability Agency.
At the time General Yakubu Gowon (86), split the Eastern Region, he also promulgated Decree Number 8 transferring the services of civil servants of the old Eastern Region into the Federal Public service. The decree empowered the Public Service Commission of the Federation to transfer, subject to certain terms and conditions, any officer from the public service of a former Region to the public service of the Federation.
By virtue of the decree any officer assigned to the Interim Common Services Agency shall be deemed to have transferred to the public service of the Federation, and on the expiration of the life of the Interim Common Services Agency, or the Eastern States Assets and Liabilities Agency, that Commission may terminate the appointment of an officer of such Agency or, where appropriate, retire him from the public service of the Federation.
The Decree provides that where the holder of a pensionable office in the public service of a former Region had been assigned to perform the duties of any office, other than public service or service with the Agencies aforesaid, the Commission may transfer the officer to that office, and thereupon the officer shall be deemed to have transferred to an “approved service” within the meaning of the Pensions Act. The Decree also provides that pension payable by the government of a former Region for any period of service commencing on or after October 1, 1954 and ending immediately before the appointment shall now become the liability of the Federal Government.
General Gowon created three states out of the whole Eastern Region. They were South Eastern State, East Central State and Rivers State. For the East Central State, he named Dr. Anthony Ukpabi Asika (1936-2004) as the administrator, Brigadier Udoakaha Jacob Esuene (1936-1993) as the governor of South Eastern State and Lieutenant Commander Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff (79) as the governor of Rivers State. Alfred Diete-Spiff is an Ijaw from Bayelsa State and the Amayanabo (King) of Twon-Brass, Bayelsa State. A stadium was named in honour of Brigadier Esuene in Calabar.
His wife, Helen Esuene was appointed Minister of State for Health in July 2005 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a close friend of the late Brigadier Esuene. In January 2006, former President Obasanjo also appointed Mrs. Esuene as Minister of Environment and later Minster of Environment and Housing. She was elected Senator in 2011. Brigadier Esuene and Mrs. Esuene are both from Eket in Akwa Ibom, my favourite city.
In 2004, my assistant, Mr. Seyi Olowookere, who recently retired as a director in the Civil Service and I accompanied my late boss, Chief Ufot Ekaettte, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for the burial of Dr. Ukpabi Asika in Onitsha. On May 27, 1967, General Gowon also promulgated Decree No 7.
It states that (1) All rights, interests, obligations and liabilities of any former Regional Government in any of the premises specified in the Schedule to this Decree shall be deemed, with effect from May 27, 1967, to have vested in and devolved upon the Federal Military Government. (2) The Higher Commissioner for Nigeria in London is hereby authorised as agent and representative of the Federal Military Government to take such action (whether by way of executing deeds or other documents or otherwise) as may in his opinion be necessary or expedient for the proper management or disposal of any of the said premises.
In this Decree, “former Regional Government” means the government of a former Region of Nigeria and includes, in relation to any such Region, the Governor, Military Governor, Agent-General or any other officer or person holding property in trust for or otherwise on behalf of the Region or its government.
This Decree may be cited as the Former Regional Governments (Disposal of Certain Properties) Decree 1971 and shall apply throughout the Federation and elsewhere to the extent necessary to give it proper effect. This Decree shall be deemed to have come into force on May 27, 1967. General Gowon took over the properties of the Eastern Region on behalf of the central government.