Tension is mounting between Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and his kinsmen from Orlu on the one hand, and between the Orlu people and the legislative arm in the state on the other, over the proposed law on the equity holding of Eastern Palm University (EPU) located in […]
Tension is mounting between Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and his kinsmen from Orlu on the one hand, and between the Orlu people and the legislative arm in the state on the other, over the proposed law on the equity holding of Eastern Pam University (EPU) located in Okorocha’s village of Ogboko in Orlu.
EPU was established by Law No. 13 of 2016 of Imo State and licensed by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in 2016. The university, a Public/Private Partnership (PPP) model, aims to be a world class university anchored on excellence and research needs of all relevant persons, irrespective of gender, nationality, religion or political inclination.
However, the concept of a private/public partnership in the law setting up the university is a subject of controversy. More controversial is a proposed law by the Imo State House of Assembly which tends to give 90 per cent equity holding to the governor of the state and 10 per cent to the state government.
At the centre of a looming legal battle is the Orlu Elders’ Council (OEC), where the governor hails from and the state legislature.
Secretary General of Orlu Elders Council, Professor Protus Nathan Uzoma, has given the two parties a 21-day ultimatum to name the owner of the university between the governor and the state. Uzoma, while speaking to our correspondent on the issue threatened that if after 21 days, they failed to name the owner, OEC will not hesitate to go to court.
Prof Uzoma said whereas the governor had said the university belonged to the state, the legislators surreptitiously, at the instigation of the governor, made him a major shareholder.
He said: “We have given the House of Assembly 21 days to explain in clear terms who actually owns Palm Beach University because it was built with the people’s money and if at the end of 21 days they fail to do so, we will not hesitate to file legal action against them and the state government to ascertain the real owners.
“There are three ways of owning a university in Nigeria – federal, state and private – and if for any reason Okorocha wants to establish a university, he should do so with his own money. Giving Okorocha 90 per cent shares of the university built with state funds is like robbing the people of the state and the law establishing a university in Nigeria does not make any provision for PPP.
“University is not for profit making, but centres of scholarship and excellence.”
Prof Uzoma added that, “The passage of that bill showed that we have no House of Assembly in a state like Imo that has a very high preponderance of educated people. Our silence should not be taken for granted.”
However, the Deputy Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Hon. Ugonna Ozuruigbo, disputed the claims. He told our correspondent that the proposed law didn’t make the governor a majority shareholder.
Hon. Ozuruigbo said what the law proposed was that being a PPP project, the governor, as the visitor to the university, will nominate who will have a controlling interest in the arrangement.
“The proposed law did not give the governor 90 per cent equity as alleged. However, what the law says is that the visitor to the university can nominate a person who will have a controlling interest since it is a PPP arrangement.”
Also speaking on the issue, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, said he has not seen the law, adding that he would rather prefer to avail his comments when the litigants go to court or when the law is officially passed.