The Indispensible Economist Prof Uka Ezenwe

Prof Uka Ezenwe

By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

While going through a WhatsApp group recently I beheld the icon: Emeritus Professor Uka Ezenwe, the venerated dean of legions of economists who has over the years taught great captains of industry and distinguished leaders across the globe but genially retains the common touch.

Professor Uka  Iwuchukwu  Ezenwe remains a very rare gem who is equally at home with the high and mighty as well as the lowly in society. He gives his all in rendering help to humanity, and you can never ever see him hugging the klieg lights. He is a great advertisement of the genius of Nigeria.

He is an illustrious Consultant and Chairman on the board of e-Barcs Microfinance Bank Plc, Abuja.

A uniquely goal-oriented don and dean, he had been engaged in teaching, research and consultancy services in the last fifty years in the areas of International Trade and Cooperation, Finance and Development Policy.  A former Head of Department of Economics at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, he set up the Ph.D (Economics) programme in 1984 and restructured the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences when he became the Dean in 1993.

The Department of Economics, University of Abuja, also mined his profound mind.

An esteemed world-class economist in high demand, Prof Uka Ezenwe has been a consultant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, the African Development Bank (ADB), the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), UNCTAD, ITC, UNIDO, ECOWAS, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Born in the town of Umuchu, Anambra State on September 29, 1942, Prof Ezenwe was educated at the University of Ghana, Legon where he took B.Sc. (Hons) and M.Sc. in Economics. He then upped the ante of his studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland where he earned M. Litt. (Econs) and Ph.D Econs.

He had the distinction of excelling in the highly coveted World Bank Development Banking Course, Abidjan in 1981.

Prof Uka Ezenwe served as the President of the Nigerian Economic Society between 1995 and 1996.

He was Director, Research & Market Development at the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), Abuja between 2002 and 2004 and again in 2007.

His lectureship career started at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1973, and he became a professor in 1984. But for a one-year stint as Development Economist, ECOWAS Fund, Lome in 1980-1981, he remained in ABU until 2002.

Then he took his services to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Abuja before settling into the Economics professorial chair at the University of Abuja in 2008.

An astute administrator, he was  Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria,  1992-1995; Head, Department of Economics, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1983-1986 and  91-93; Deputy Director of Research, ECOWAS Fund, Lome, 1981; Executive Director, Nigeria Capital Market Institute (NCMI), Abuja 2004 – 2007; Chairman, Board of Directors e-Barclays Microfinance Bank, Utako, Abuja.

Prof Ezenwe served as a member of the Central Working Group on Nigeria’s Vision 2020 in 2009.

Prof Ezenwe’s technocratic oeuvre is indeed diverse, notably as: Co-Author, Report of “An Evaluation of UNDP’s Assistance to African Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs)”, prepared for UNDP and financed by UNDP Headquarters, New York, November 1990; Co-Author, Report on the “Relationship between the African Economic Community and the Regional Economic Communities”, prepared for OAU and funded by UNDP, Addis Ababa, 19991; Author, “Study of Selected Economic Integration Instruments, Sectorial Transformation and Restructuring in West Africa”, prepared for UNECA and funded by UNDP, May 199;.  Author, “An Assessment of ECOWAS Experience in Economic Integration”, 1988, a report prepared for African Development Bank, Abidjan, 1988; Author, “Evaluating the Performance of West African Integration Movements (ECOWAS, CEAO, MRU and Others), 1988, a paper prepared for the World Bank, Washington; “External Debt: The West African experience”, commissioned by the Society for International Development, Rome, 1985; “ECOWAS and the Theory of Integration”, a paper prepared for the ECOWAS Secretariat, Lagos, 1981; Programme Document for External Trade Promotion for Nigeria, September 15, 1993, funded by UNDP.

He is the acclaimed Author, “Implications of Uruguay Round Agreements for the Nigerian Industry: Trade Prospects and Challenges”, a report prepared for UNIDO, November 1997; Author, “Trade Information and Export Development and Promotion”, interim report prepared for ITC, UNCTAD/WTO, January 1998; Author, An Evaluation of the Southern Africa RECs (SADC) for ARIA Report prepared for the UNECA, Ethiopia, April – July, 2001 (UNA – 0704); Author, Assessment of Current ECOWAS Trade Facilitation Needs, Report prepared for UNIDO, Vienna, April, 2002; Member, Central Working Group on Nigeria Vision 2020, Abuja, August, 2009; Member, Team of Experts to draw up Implementation Roadmap for West African Poverty Reduction Strategy, Accra, Jan 2010.

In the course of his international engagements, Prof Ezenwe has travelled, worked or lived in Ghana, Togo, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gabon, Gambia, Liberia, Botswana, Bahrain, South Africa, Ethiopia, India, Qatar, Lesotho, Malawi, Kenya, Britain, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, United States, Japan, Jordan, Angola, Namibia, Mexico, Lesotho, India, Swaziland, Zimbabwe,  Hong Kong, Israel and of course his native Nigeria.

Call the self-effacing professor a world-beater and he would only smile back humbly at you.

He has published well over 60 articles in learned journals all over the world. He is the author of the books ECOWAS and the Economic Integration of West Africa, published by C. Hurst and Co. Publishers (38, King Street, London), 1983, also co-published in Nigeria by West Books Publishers, Ibadan, and in the USA by St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1984; Regional Dimensions of Structural Adjustment in West Africa, a Presidential address published as a booklet by the Nigerian Economic Society, Ibadan, August, 1996; and Industrialization Strategies in Nigeria: Some Lessons from the East Asian Economic Miracle, an Inaugural Lecture published as a booklet by Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, 1998.

He has published many others in league with other economists and writers.

Married with four children, Prof Ezenwe is a firm believer in strong family values who in the doting company of his beautiful and personable wife has accommodated many under his roof.

A community leader of high repute, he is a much sought after inspiration in his native Umuchu in Aguata LGA, Anambra State.

Professor Uka Iwuchukwu Ezenwe is an evergreen economist who still has the presence of mind to rescue Nigeria from her economic woes. He remains indispensible to the cause of Nigeria.

-Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, poet, journalist, and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.