Amby Uneze in Owerri
A former governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha has said the Eastern Palm University, Ogboko, Imo State, was not established for profit making, but to provide knowledge for children from less-privileged families across African nations. He said he has nothing else to achieve in life than to see that most children do not miss education because of the circumstances of their birth.
Okorocha, who spoke at the third matriculation ceremony of the university, promised that the institution will be a centre for excellence in Africa.
He revealed that the university was established under the Private Public Partnership (PPP), with Rochas Foundation and Imo State Government, stating that while Rochas Foundation has 90 per cent in the equity investment, Imo State Government has only 10 per cent.
The university which was declared a campus of the Imo State University by a panel of investigation set up by former Governor Emeka Ihedioha’s administration as a wholly state-owned institution, is now under contest.
Okorocha stated that he has remained an ardent advocate of the PPP arrangement in the establishment of universities because it would enable universities skip certain challenges, adding that the state government also has the option of selling off its 10 per cent to Rochas Foundation so that the foundation can have 100 per cent ownership of the institution.
“The Rochas Foundation College, Ogboko was originally located in this premises and we had the plan to establish Rochas Foundation University. We had begun to do that before I became governor. When I became governor, the state government did some of the roads here. And considering what the foundation had done and what the state government contributed, the 90 per cent and 10 per cent ratio was arrived at.
“The university is for the highest academic standard. We shall do all within our reach to achieve that. Standard must not be compromised. It is going to be centre for excellence. One of the best universities in Africa. My prayer has been that education should be made affordable if not totally free, so that the children of the have-nots can also have the opportunity of going to school.
“That was the idea behind my establishing the Rochas Foundation Colleges in about 16 states in the country. And today, we have Rochas Foundation College for Africa. And we have more than 25,000 students in all these colleges. And we have in our record about 6,000 graduates the foundation had sponsored to graduate across universities in the country. So, the Eastern Palm University will help a lot in this regard.
“When I was governor, my government had established five other universities also under the PPP arrangement and they were all licensed by the NUC. But today, only the Eastern Palm University is functioning, the other five universities have been closed down including the University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Aboh/Ngor-Okpala, University of Arts and Sciences, Omuma Isiaku Nkwerre”, he said.
Okorocha also announced that former President of Liberia, Mrs. Sirleaf Johnson has been appointed the Chairman of the University Council, adding that the Eastern Palm University has become the first institution to be established under the PPP arrangement in the country.
“In the next academic session, the university will offer 190 deserving students, with 10 from each of the 19 northern states scholarship. And 250 opportunities will be given to the five south-east states, while Imo alone will have 100, then, the south-west and south-south states will have five students each.
“I am ready to sell my clothes to ensure that children who would not have gone to school as a result of the circumstances of their birth, would go to school. That is the major reason Eastern Palm University was established. And if the Imo State Government can take over the university and do what I am doing here, it will be accepted by me.”
He commended the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Tola Badejo, the Registrar, Mr. Ernest Onuoha and other principal officers for the wonderful job they have been doing in the university within its short period of existence, charging them to maintain the already existing high standard and to ensure that the institution is not all comers’ affair.
He also asked the university authorities to engage the students in other activities outside their major programmes.
In his remarks at the matriculation ceremony, the vice-chancellor stated that a total of 131 students were being matriculated for the session, and told the students that the only language known in the university is hard work, adding that anything short of that will not be tolerated.