EASTERN PALM UNIVERSITY: Ownership battle imminent as Okorocha’s stranglehold on Imo weakens
The centre is no longer holding firm at the Eastern Palm University, Ogboko, in Imo state as staff have become jittery in fear of what becomes of their fate when Governor Rochas Okorocha eventually leaves office without his preferred successor.
The University, built next to Okorocha’s country home in his village, has been subject of controversy over its actual ownership.
While Gov. Okorocha claims that the university is the outcome of a joint venture between Rochas Foundation and Imo state, stakeholders of the state insist that the university, clandestinely built with Imo state funds, belongs fully to the state.
Okorocha had told some journalists that Imo State government’s holding in the university is “infinitesimal” while, according to him, the land upon which the university was built, was property of Rochas Foundation where he actually intended to build his own private university.
He has however refused to disclose how much of Imo state funds went into the construction and funding of the university.
Ripplesnigeria gathered during a recent visit to the University that communities which lands were grabbed for the project are waiting in the wings to begin battle with the state government over compensatory rights.
Sources familiar with the development told our Reporter that Okorocha only paid N30,000 per plot to some families he was able to convince to accept the amount with further promises that their children will be given automatic employments at the university.
It was said that those who were desperate for money accepted the N30,000 bait.
However, those who were said to know the value of their lands refused the bait and told Okorocha openly that they do not intend to deal. He was said to have ignored them and gone ahead to suppress their dissentions.
With the outcome of the ward and local government congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which had seen a boastful Okorocha struggling to remain relevant in what would happen with leadership of the state in 2019 and onwards, staff of the university are now at odd over what becomes of their future.
According to our findings at the university, the few lecturers already employed at EPU are looking elsewhere for sustainable jobs. Even the academic staff are on the lookout for secured jobs.
Even the university’s registrar, we gathered, has been forced by circumstances to take to add himself to the teaching staff list.
“The situation is disturbing. We have always believed that the University is owned by Imo state, but with time, we are beginning to see the reality and it doesn’t look good unless the people of Imo decide to allow him keep the school”, a jittery academic staff who did not want to be identified, told Ripplesnigeria.
Read Also: How Okorocha lost his groove in APC
The development may have led to load-shedding as social media handles of the university are all down with no support staff. Even the university’s page on Wikipedia still has Prof. Linus Osuagwu as Vice Chancellor despite having left the EPU more than three months ago with Prof. Otobo from the University of Lagos appointed in his stead.
Sources told Ripplenigeria that the university has been at loggerheads with the IT managers because of lack of funds as the authorities have refused to offset all debts owed the company managing its online presence. This, it was said, has led to a suspension of the accounts though the university is working hard to bypass the accounts and seek to create a new online presence despite working hard to ensure that all staff recruited by the former Vice Chancellor, are shown the way out.
Indeed, EPU is listed by the National Universities Commission (NUC) as a state-owned university. The Joint admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB), also identifies it as such. But there are insinuations that despite being licensed as a state owned university, its documents have been clandestinely changed to read a private university belonging to Rochas Foundation.
This has led to fears that all those involved with the university, including in doctoring its establishment laws, would have explanations to make as to how the university changed hands.
“This is one of the reasons he wants Uche Nwosu to succeed him. He believes that with Uche, his boy-boy, all his impunity against Imo state will be covered. But he failed to realize that there are many stubborn politicians in Imo who won’t be intimidated by Rochas”, a source at the university said.
Prior to the APC ward and local government congresses, many in Imo state reckoned that unless concerted and collaborative efforts were made by the party’s henchmen in the State, Rochas would brush his way through and install his son-in-law as governor.
There is uncertainty at EPU while on the streets of Imo state the people are in ecstasy as they see the regime of Okorocha unbundling itself and falling like a pack of badly arranged cards.
By Femi Qudus…
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