In a swift move over the weekend, Senator Rochas Okorocha asserted his influence, authority and connections over and above that of incumbent Governor Hope Uzodinma, when he reordered the reopening of the controversial Eastern Palm University, Ogboko.
Okorocha’s order came barely 24 hours after the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, had ordered the university closed through his Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ikegwuoha.
Sources at government House Owerri, had informed Nigeria Watchdog Newspaper that Governor Uzodinma, acting on the findings and recommendations of a Panel of Enquiry into the ownership of the Ogboko University, anchored by Prof. Jude Njoku, had ordered the institution under lock and key but the former governor who is now a senator, Owelle Rochas Okorocha visibly angered by the development could not have any of such orders on closure of the institution. Rather than dialoguing with the state actors,Okorocha was reported as having embarked on superiority war fare by petitioning against Governor Hope Uzodinma to the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the IGP, Ibrahim Mohammed and some powerful emirs in the North who Nigeria Watchdog learnt immediately called Governor Hope Uzodinma to rescind his order with immediate effect.
Not waiting for any official pronouncement from government House Owerri, Okorocha rushed down to Ogboko sameday and ordered the University reopened. He also personally conducted the previously aborted matriculation ceremony for fresh intakes which was suspended by Uzodinma.
As a result, on Monday December 7, 2020, the Eastern Palm University which has been fighting a battle of legitimacy, successfully held its matriculation ceremony, with Okorocha present at the occasion. This has raised some concerns over Hope Uzodinma’s sincerity and capacity to recover university said to be built on a land acquired by the Imo State government and with funds from the public treasury.
When Okorocha’s decision to relocate Imo State University to the present Ogboko site as permanent was mooted and vehemently opposed and objected by a cross-section of Imolites he went ahead with development of the university. Upon completion Okorocha sent a bill to the House of Assembly praying it to convert the former Imo European to Eastern Palm University, under PPP.
In his petition to the IGP and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Okorocha had accused Uzodinma of frustrating matriculating students who have since paid their school fees, settled down with their studies and rehearsed exercises for the orientation and matriculation.
Meanwhile,Orlu Elders Council led by Prof. Francis Dike,SAN yesterday December 6, threw their weight behind the efforts by Governor Uzodinma to recover Eastern Palm for Imo State while warning that such moves should not be sabotaged for partisan sentiment or pecuniary benefit.
Prof. Dike, who as Attorney General and commissioner for justice of Imo State had perfected a fresh law to relocate Imo State University from Abia State University Uturu at the creation of Abia out of old Imo State in 1992 threw more light on how Univeristies are established, saying that NUC can’t register a State University on PPP arrangement as claimed by Okorocha.
He explained that having been conversant with NUC and other extant laws, Eastern Palm University is first and foremost the property of Imo State.
He urged the governor to go ahead and recover the university for the benefit of Imo people, adding that on no account should he hesitate or renege in any efforts that will restore the ownership of the University to Imo State.
He said: “Okorocha should know that Eastern Palm University belongs to Imo State and recogniz as such as Imo-people, we must rally round Hope Uzodinma to recover this property and anyone who enters the Eastern Palm University land or offices should be charged to court for trespass both in civil and criminal”.Prof Dike called on the current Attorney-General and commissioner for justice, Barr COC Akaolisa to take charge and deal decisively with anyone who does otherwise.
Similarly, the Secretary-General of the Orlu Elders Council, Prof Protus Uzoma in his reaction said he was aware that a panel on the recovery of the university was set up with Prof. Jude Njoku as chairman and their findings proved that the university is owned 100% by Imo State government. “I have always maintained that the school was built by the Imo government. Okorocha should therefore make public proof of the equity shares he claims if any.
He said:“You don’t build University with public funds only to appropriate it for yourself and family. Besides as a sitting governor it is criminal to develop a university from your private funds or resources until you leave office. This is exactly what the law says hence any attempt at appropriating to claiming Eastern Palm University by any individual is criminal and must be treated as such”, he fumed.