Early years

Born in Lagos, 24th June 1966 to Major-General Eyo Okon Ekpo, GCON, of Diamond Hill Village, Calabar Municipality Local Government Area (of the Atogha Family of Big Qua, and Itak Mkpa Family of Obutong, both of Calabar) and Mrs. Sabina Yetunde Ekpo (of the Idowu Family of Owu, Abeokuta, Ogun State and Ajao Family of Ondo, Ondo State). Eyo is both paternally and maternally descended from an illustrious line of dedicated public servants, traders, clerics and teachers.

Paternally, his father was a former Federal Commissioner (Minister) for Agriculture, a former Commandant of the Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna, former Military Secretary of the Nigerian Army and former Chief of Staff (military Vice-President) in the administration of General Yakubu Gowon, who played a key role in the establishment of the former South-Eastern State in 1967. After retirement from the Army in 1975, he returned to Cross River State where he became a highly respected community leader and first Chairman of the State Local Government Service Commission who laid the foundations of the highly productive local government system for which the old Cross River State was well known. His grandfather was Reverend Eyo Okon Ekpo, a teacher and cleric of the Methodist Church who was also responsible for starting many primary and secondary schools in what are today’s Abia and Akwa-Ibom States and who went on to become the Church’s first Nigerian Superintendent of Schools. His great-grandfather was Mr. Moses Eyo Ekpo, an accomplished violist, engineer and community leader who worked as a marine engineer for Elder Dempster Lines but was also a leading member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and an active social worker in his community whose home at Diamond Hill, Calabar was a well-known meeting place for members of the Calabar community.

Maternally, Eyo’s mother was also a schoolteacher, one of Nigeria’s earliest formally trained in the Montessori system of teaching. His maternal grandfather was Chief Michael Olaosebikan Idowu, an illustrious cocoa trader, leader of the Agege and Ebute-Metta communities in Lagos and lifelong leader of the Catholic Men’s Society of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Ebute-Metta. His maternal grandmother was Alhaja Wulemotu Abeke Ajao, one of the most industrious and loving woman he ever met, who was an itinerant trader who later settled in Kano City where she became the proprietor of both the largest soft drinks distributorship and clothes making establishment in Kano. An interesting point to note here is that Alhaja Ajao’s grandfather was Alhaji Abubakar Ajao, himself an itinerant Islamic cleric/scholar from Oyo who brought Islam to Ondo in the mid-19th century and settled there.

Education

Eyo is entirely public school-educated in Nigeria. He attended Army Children’s School, An Barracks, Yaba, Lagos where he was in its first nursery school class in 1969, and obtained his First School Leaving Certificate in 1977. He passed the 1977 National Common Entrance examination with flying colours and was admitted to King’s College, Lagos but was almost immediately transferred to Federal Government College, Azare, which was one of the six (6) new FGCs established that year; and so, once again, became a member of yet another pioneering class of students. He passed out of FGC, Azare, again in flying colours with GCE O’ Levels of 6 Alphas and 1 Credit. He thereafter gained admission to the University of Calabar from which he graduated in 1986 with an LL.B. (Hons.) and was subsequently called to the Nigerian Bar on 22nd October 1987. While in practice in Lagos, he studied for and obtained a LL.M. (Hons.) degree of the University of Lagos in 1991. In the course of his extensive professional career as a commercial legal practitioner, energy sector player, public administrator and electricity regulator, Eyo has attended numerous continuing education programmes. In this vein, he is a graduate of the Lagos Business School Advance Management Programme, 2001. He also attended training programmes and received certificates in utilities regulation, strategic management of regulatory/enforcement agencies, international gas business management, international LNG management from the University of Florida Public Utilities Research Centre, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and IHRDC, Boston respectively. He has completed academic studies and is currently concluding writing a dissertation for the award of a second Master’s degree in War Studies (War in the Modern World) from King’s College, London.

Career

Eyo started his professional career at GCM Onyiuke’s Chambers, Lagos, in August 1988, where he specialised in private law litigation and arbitration and made many appearances in various Nigerian superior courts of record. In January 1995, after serving an extensive and very rich 7-year pupillage that saw him conducting numerous court trials and arguing 18 appeals before the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, he became a founding Partner at Coram (Solicitors). At Coram, he became a trailblazer once again and developed one of Nigeria’s earliest legal practices in infrastructure financing and telecommunications law. In February 1998, Coram merged with two other law firms to form The Law Union, which later became Nigeria’s largest partner-led law firm.
In October 2001, Eyo embarked on a career in public service, joining Nigeria’s privatisation agency, the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), as Team Leader, Power Sector Reform Team (PSRT) and later Team Leader, Gas and Petrochemicals. While at the BPE, he led the PSRT (2001 – 2003) in designing and starting the implementation of the electric power sector reform programme; and later laid the groundwork for the successful privatisation of Eleme Petrochemicals Limited.

In July 2003, he was called to serve his State by Governor Donald Duke and on 14th August 2003, was sworn-in as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. He stayed on to support the transition of Government and between July 2007 and May 2010 was Special Adviser, Special Projects of Cross River State between August 2003 and June 2010. In these positions, he led the modernisation and expansion of the State Ministry of Justice, growing it from 40 to 99 Law Officers within 3 years, established a Department of Citizens’ Rights and institutionalising both case and human management systems that saw discipline restored and case completion rates increase almost 70%.

Eyo regards the work of the Department of Citizen’s Rights as his biggest achievement as Attorney-General because of its deep and direct impact on the lives and well-being of Cross Riverians through its work in anticipating and resolving many communal disputes across the State, reforming the administration of estates system in the State and advancing the work of the State Council on the Prerogative of Mercy. In 2004, he was mandated by the State Governor to establish the State Reserve Fund, the first sub-national sovereign fund in Nigerian, at which time he established a formal legal and funds management system for the Reserve Fund and oversaw its growth within 3 years to a capital value of over =N=4bn with monthly contributions of just =N=50m during that time. In 2006-2007, he doubled as de facto Commissioner for Transport and supervised the establishment and development of the State mass transit system, the Calabar Monorail and the Calabar Energy City projects.

Eyo returned to the Federal Government in June 2010 to serve as Team Leader, Regulatory and Transactions Monitoring, Presidential Task Force on Power. While there, he was nominated by the President and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate as a Commissioner in the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). At NERC, he led the Market Competition and Rates Division from January 2011 until March 2015. During the period, he played a leading role in designing and implementing all of NERC’s key regulatory initiatives aimed at establishing efficient and competitive market structures and fair pricing in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry. These range across the re-setting of electricity tariffs (May 2012); support to the National Council on Privatisation in privatising the successor electricity distribution and generation companies (August 2013); successful transition of the Industry through a very turbulent Interim Rules Period (November 2013 to December 2014) to the commencement of the Transition Stage Electricity Market in January/February 2015.

Family and interests

Eyo has been married since 1993 to Dr. Oluranti Ekpo, M.D, Ph.D., a medical practitioner and public health specialist, and they have three children. He has an eclectic taste in music and is deeply interested in history/international relations, defence and national security affairs and working on improving his abysmal golf handicap. He is also active in deploying his extensive industry experience to thought leadership in infrastructure. Active on the social media circuit, he runs a blog called “Elecoblogs”, which has a modest but growing followership.