By Martin Opara

The ownership of Eastern Palm University (EPU), Ogboko in Ideato North L.G.A, that has generated heated argument, controversy and litigations seems to have gradually come to an end, as the state government has finally bowed to the wish of the people by sealing off the institution with executive fiat.

The closure of the university that held it’s matriculation ceremony on Saturday December, 2020, despite the state government’s directive that the event be kept in abeyance has reportedly prompted former Governor Rochas Okorocha who claims to own the institution that was built with public fund on land donated by the landlords for public use, to run from pillar to post, seeking the assistance of those he wants to intervene on his behalf.

The Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ikegwuoha, in a chat with Nigeria Watchdog, said, “though they claim to have done the matriculation ceremony, the fact is that the school remains closed. As far as the state government is concerned, there is no going back on the decision because Eastern Palm University, from all available records, belongs to the state government. Senator Okorocha’s shenanigans and grandstanding will definitely not change anything because the institution rightfully belongs to the state government”.

He urged Imo people to disregard speculations by fifth columnists who thrive on propaganda and misinformation that the school has been reopened, as such development, exists only in the warped minds and imaginations of it’s peddlers.

A reliable government house source who does not want his name in print, revealed that Senator Okorocha, obviously disturbed and rattled by government’s move to take over the institution went to Abuja on Tuesday with three of his sons to parley with some influential people including the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, and some emirs who he had already briefed about the developments, to prevail on Governor Uzodinma to soft pedal.

“According to the source, “the outcome of Okorocha’s Abuja meeting with Prof. Osibanjo and others on how to resolve the issue of Eastern Palm University in his favour is still unknown”.

Meanwhile, a cross section of Imo people have expressed delight at Governor Uzodinma’s moves to recover the institution for the people. A public affairs analyst, Irobi Darlington in a post on his Facebook platform said, “I will not speak less, but give my total support to the move by Gov. Uzodinma to recover Eastern Palm University. It is a state owned school. Let no one be deceived. I also urge him to make other recoveries like the Imo Broadcasting Company (IBC) complex, Orji, that was converted to Rochas Foundation College, the land earmarked for new Government House at New Owerri that he parcellated and shared among his siblings, friends and associates. We can’t be better until we recover Imo State from where it was plummed by past administrations. We must find a way to end impunity”.

Others who spoke on the development commended the governor for the move which they said is decisive and timely.  “Governor Uzodinma’s bold steps to recover Eastern Palm University from Senator Okorocha’s strangle hold will earn him the goodwill of Imo people whose expectations in this regard would have been met. It will also make others with gluttonous acquisition tendency to know, that there will always be a day of reckoning”.

The Prof. Dike led Orlu Elders Council, had supported Gov. Uzodinma’s move to recover the university from Okorocha.

According to Prof. Dike a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Eastern Palm University belongs wholly and entirely to the Imo State government and is recognized as such.

All well meaning Imo people should support the governor in his effort to recover the property and anyone who trespasses on the land for any reason, should be prosecuted accordingly”. 

Speaking in the same vein, Prof. Protus Uzorma, Secretary General of Orlu Elders’ Council said, the Prof. Jude Njoku Panel of Enquiry confirmed that the university is 100% owned by the Imo State government. Besides, as a sitting governor, it is criminal to build a university with private funds until you leave office. Okorocha should equity make public proof of the equity share he claims to have, if any”.

Recall, that former Governor Emeka Ihedioha, while in office, set up a Commission of Enquiry on the Eastern Palm University. The panel submitted a report which the Uzodinma administration is acting on its recommendations. 

However, Okorocha in his usual style of bulldozing his way even in the face of overwhelming odds, sought the assistance of the Vice President, Prof. Osibanjo, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Mohammed and some influential Northern emirs, hence the purported matriculation ceremony held last Saturday, as reported in the December 8, 2020 edition of Nigeria Watchdog Newspaper.