May 21, 2024

The impact of the exit of National Economic Intelligence Committee, by Eric Teniola

Who else but Professor Benjamin Nwabueze (2), by Eric Teniola

DURING the era of General Sani Abacha(September 20, 1943 – June 8, 1998), there was the National Economic Intelligence Committee, NEIC. The committee had its office at the seventh floor of the Federal Secretariat, Abuja. The committee was a co-pilot in the execution of economic policies for the country. The committee’s work was later inherited by General Abdusalam Abubakar (81) following the death of General Abacha and then by President Olusegun Obasanjo (87) in May 1999.  

The committee was established by Decree 17 of February 1994. It was headed by Professor Samuel Adepoju Aluko (August 18, 1929 – February 7, 2012) from Ode in Ekiti State. Professor Aluko played advisory role to Chief Obafemi Awolowo (March 6, 1909-May 9,1987), Chief Adekunle Ajasin (November 28, 1908 – October 3, 1997), General Yakubu Gowon (89) and General Sani Abacha (September 20, 1943 – June 8, 1998). He was very close to Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu (November 4, 1933 – November 26, 2011), before, during and after the civil war.

The first military coup and the events that led to the civil war met him in Eastern Nigeria and it was at that time that he formed a personal friendship with the secessionist leader, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu. 

 In fact, he advised Chief Ojukwu to go into exile to Cote d’Ivoire instead of Togo or Tanzania or France. 

In one of his interviews with The Sun Newspaper before he died, Professor Aluko explained that Chief Ojukwu did not fully understand the average Igbo mind since he did not visit the Old Eastern Region until General Aguisi Ironsi (March 3, 1924–July 29, 1966)appointed him the Military Governor of the Eastern Region in January 1966. 

Those within government will attest that the bond between Professor Aluko and General Sani Abacha helped tremendously in the creation of Ekiti State on October 1, 1996. Instead of flying to Abuja via Akure or Ibadan or Lagos while serving as NEIC Chairman, Professor Aluko would drive in his Peugeot 504 station wagon car from Ode in Ekiti State most often carrying plantain from his farm during weekends.

Alhaji Lawal Garuba, a friend, the son of a Muslim scholar in Kano and a businessman, is never tired of telling anyone how Professor Aluko took him to General Sani Abacha to seek for a favour even at the detriment of General Sani Abacha’s close friend, Alhaji Dan Kabo. 

He was a down to earth man, who practised what he preached. He never spared anyone if you are on the wrong route no matter who you are, even if you are his first son, Professor Mobolaji Ebenezer Aluko (69), the pioneer Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Otueke, Bayelsa State from 2011 to 2016. 

Professor Aluko’s brand of economic policy was critical of ostentatious government spending. When he returned from London, he became an informal adviser to the Action Group. He was appointed to head its austerity committee which was set up to find ways to save money. The committee recommended the slashing of allowances provided to ministers and political office holders, an idea that was not well supported by some members of the political class within the party.

 In 1962, Professor Aluko was approached to serve as the regional economic adviser of the Western Region. His salary was to be £2,942; at that time, he was a lecturer at University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University earning an annual wage of £1000. He accepted the offer on the condition that his new salary be reduced to the level he was paid at Ife, stating that he will not be more productive at the new job than what he was doing at Ife. But this condition was rejected by the government. 

While Professor Aluko was at Ile-Ife, he was a member of an informal advisory committee of AG, along with Professor Wole Soyinka (89), Professor Victor Oyenuga  (April 9, 1917 – April 10, 2010), Dr Odumosu and a couple of other lecturers. This group was strongly in favour of an idealistic party, a democratic socialist party that believed in curbing executive excesses, the advisory group also split with some members of the political class in terms how to engage with the national government and branching out of the Western region. 

Chief Obafemi Awolowo positively received some of the recommendations of this group but his deputy, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola who was now premier of the region did not like most of the recommended policies.

To be concluded