Imo State government yesterday, graphically painted a picture of how the former governor of the state, Owelle Rochas Okorocha attempted to dupe the people of their university after N20 billion of public funds had been invested in the institution by the state government.
In a world Press conference in Owerri, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy Hon Declan Emelumba said the current government moved to recover Eastern Palm University, Ogboko from Okorocha when it became obvious that the former governor wanted to fraudulently appropriate the institution to himself.
Displaying documents including approval from the National Universities Commission to authenticate the state ownership of the university, Chief Emelumba asked Okorocha to apologize to Imo people for attempting to steal their commonwealth.
According to him,”this is one of the most elaborate and devious scam to dupe an entire state of their patrimony using the instrumentality of state power”
He said that “from the acquisition of the 101 hectares of land where the said university is located,it was made clear that it was for the permanent site of Imo State University. The government subsequently paid N58 million as compensation to the owners of the land. The money was paid through Moneke and Legal Practitioners of No 5 Emeka Emebo close, Idado, Lekki Peninsula, Lagos”.
Chief Emelumba recalled that even the former governor told Imo people in 2012 that he was building a permanent site for Imo State University in Ogboko and that the land was being acquired to host the permanent site, only for him to turn around to try to convert it to his private university.
“The approval by NUC expressly stated that Eastern Palm University is the 42nd state university in Nigeria. No where was it designated as a private university’”, the commissioner clarified.
In the letter sighted by our correspondent with reference number NUC/ES/529/Vol103 dated 13th April,2016, the NUC confirmed that Eastern Palm University is a state university.
It read in part” this is to inform Your Excellency that with effect from 13th April 2016, Eastern Palm University in Ogboko Imo State is formally recognised as the 42nd state university and 143rd university in the Nigerian university system”
Chief Emelumba also disclosed that between 2013 and 2019, government funds totalling N20 billion had been expended in building the university.
” These were tax payers money and the records are there. How can anyone with conscience claim that the people funded a private university for him?”
The commissioner said government was shocked when Okorocha started laying claim to the university based on a fraudulent public private partnership arrangement.