-As Olu Owerri threatens protest,legal action

Concerned Imo Elders from the three senatorial zones of the State, have called on Governor Hope Uzodinma to shun and dissociate himself from any discussion, negotiation or compromise that will influence him to trade off or allow erstwhile governor of the state, Owelle Rochas Okorocha to take over Eastern Palm University that was, from all available records, entirely built with state funds, on land released by the owners to the state, because they were told that it was for public use.

They also wondered why Okorocha, who shortly after the emergence of Chief Emeka Ihedioha as governor, seemed to have given up his intention to take over the university by dismantling and evacuating all fittings and furniture in the institution, in addition to relieving lecturers and other staff of their duties, seems to have been suddenly emboldened upon the emergence of Governor Hope Uzodinma, to the extent of commencing renovation on the buildings in the institution and subsequently appointing one Prof Bande, as substantive Vice Chancellor.

When contacted on phone for comment on the issue, a distinguished Imo Elder, technocrat and cerebral politician, Chief (Sir) Ejike Uche (Dimkpasaa), expressed shock that Okorocha has the audacity to renew his ill-intentioned bid to take over the university that all discerning Imo people know was wholly built with the funds of Imo State.

According to him, “as the Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development in Okorocha’s government then, it was discussed that Imo State University was to be relocated to Orlu and Eastern Palm University was expected to be the new site. I am also aware that the institution was one hundred percent funded with the resources of the state government and the vast expense of land it occupies was also acquired through the instrumentality of the state government”.

He advised Governor Uzodinma not to under any circumstance trade the university for political gain. “Besides, the way and manner with which Okorocha has rushed back to take possession of the institution, indicates a sinister motive, that, aside being capable of breeding negative speculations and insinuations, is unacceptable to Imo people and elders, who are patiently watching to see the outcome of Okorocha’s shenanigans”. He advised the Governor to take a stand on the issue to dispel negative sentiments that may dent the image of government and further dwindle the goodwill of the people.

When also contacted, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, C.O.C Akaolisa said, he is aware of such development. He assured our reporter that he will make enquiries and get back to us.

Chief Barr Emeka Mgbewelu(Dumdum), Chairman of PDP Elders’ Council, expressed disappointment over the development and called on the Governor not to allow Okorocha to take over the institution. He, however said that he doubts the authenticity of the report. “I will verify the information. If it is true, I will take a stand on the issue and make it known”, he posited.

In the same vein, Chief Martin Opara, President General of Olu Owerre, the apex socio-cultural organization of the nine local government areas in Owerri zone, said, he read it on the pages of newspapers and reacted thus, “the Ihedioha led government on assumption of office, set up a panel headed by Prof Jude Njoku. The panel in it’s report made it clear that the school and all it’s appeturances belong to Imo state government. Okorocha and his family, having sensed that the government will take it over in line with the panel’s report, started evacuating some things”.

Continuing he said, “there are also reports that before Governor Hope Uzodinma assumed office, there were discussions, agreements were reached and some concessions made. But for goodness sake, let Eastern Palm University that was built with state funds that would have been used for the payment of salaries and pensions not be part of the concession. If it is, it will be a great disservice to Imo people who suffered lack and deprivation under Okorocha’s eight (8) year tenure”.

Responding to a question, Chief Opara stated that, if eventually the Hope Uzodinma led government allows Okorocha to take over the institution, socio-cultural organizations and civil society groups will first register their protests to the government, if that does not yield desired result, as corporate entities that can sue and be sued, we may take legal action to compel government to do the needful and/or stop Rochas Okorocha from taking over the school. It is a social responsibility we owe Imo people and we will not shy away from it”. 

A cross section of Imo Elders who commented on the development expressed reservation about Okorocha’s sudden boldness and courage, as the school has already released it’s 2020/2021 school fees schedule and mode of payment.

According to a release on the school’s online portal, “the Eastern Palm University (EPU) was established by law (Imo State of Nigeria law NO 13 of 2016) and was licensed by the Nigeria University Commission (NUC) in 2016 and is structured as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model university”.

The release also said that new intakes will pay acceptance fee of N50,000 yearly, tuition fee of N100,000, making it a total of N150,000 while only tuition fee of N100,000 will be paid for subsequent years, while old students are to pay only tuition fee of N100,000.

Those who live in hostels are to pay accommodation fees of N100,000 yearly both new and old students. Grand total of fees payable of N295,000 per annum.

Other fees payable are medical N20,000, library N15,000, sports N15,000, registration N25,000, ICT N20,000. All payments are to be made into EPU’s school fees Zenith Bank Account Number, 101550991 or Union Bank Account Number, 0083037378.