Oji: Making ZESPRONET a Role Model in Nigeria’s Education System

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A non-governmental organisation, Zenith Environmental and Social Protection Network (ZESPRONET), was launched during a 2015 reunion by the Abia State University Alumni to address global warming issues in the South-East and seek ways of adding value to the alma mater, among other things. Leading US physician and president of the Abia State University Alumni, Emeka Boris Oji, and his colleagues recounted the journey so far after delivering an N80 million postgraduate hostel to the university. Nduka Nwosu reports

When Emeka Boris Oji, a 1999 optometry graduate of the Abia State University School of Medicine and his fellow alumni came together to form an association whose interest is to help one another while adding value to the university community and the larger society, that move attracted critical applause.

During a 2015 alumni reunion, the members agreed to form a non-governmental-organisation to address climate change, environmental cleanliness, and protection and seek ways of being useful to each other. Zenith Environmental and Social Protection Network (ZESPRONET) was formed.​

According to Oji, the idea is to protect the environment through constant sensitisation programmes involving the public and government on global warming, especially in the South-East battling the devastating effects of gully erosion. The non-governmental organisation will also interface with the group and the international community to bring about global best practices while providing solutions.

“We just completed an N80 million, 44-bed postgraduate hostel with each room being en-suite and with TV rooms and game rooms which were handed over to the Abia State University, Uturu, with no strings attached,” stated Oji.

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia lauded the initiative,​

While receiving an honorary doctorate from ABSU in 2019, he hinted the alumni group would deliver a hostel to the university in less than 15 months. In November 2021, they made good their promise.

“This is the most ultramodern hostel in the school. We believe both ABSU and other universities and the state governments can learn from this model and utilise it for what it is worth,” he stressed.

The group has had a fundraiser of about N67 million to provide medical and other assistance.​

“The value of ZESPRONET are its members and what they bring to the table. We are made up of heads of government parastatals, permanent secretaries, and heads of businesses as well as CEOs and lots of medical professionals, engineers, architects and sundry business owners and members of the clergy,” said Oji. According to Oji, the alumni had in the past supplied books and medical journals worth over $20,000 to the ABSU medical library and only recently completed a six-week radio campaign in the five eastern states. ZESPRONET has been at the forefront of non-violence confrontation and engagement, supporting the political ambitions of South-East citizens.

The education system in Nigeria today is ill-positioned for the challenges of the 21st century, while private education is almost out of the reach of most Nigerians, thus creating two parallel societies we may live to regret, according to Oji.

“All the powerful public schools: Harvard, Columbia, Oxford, etc., depend a lot on endowment funds donated by their alumni and families to make up for the difference government and tuition provide for them. This model also needs to be adopted and encouraged by the government,” he noted.​

He added, “We know this country will be better off because of organisations like ZESPRONET that believe there is joy in meaningful and impactful giving.”

ZESPRONET, he disclosed, was in conversation with Heifer International to see how “we can distribute high breed dwarf goats to widows in different communities as a means of wealth-building and the acquisition of financial independence.”​

The organisation also has plans to build a soup kitchen, the first of its kind in Owerri.​
“There will be a complex with an event centre where funds coming from the event centre are utilised in running a high-end restaurant where the less privileged can walk in and get fed for free without any questions asked,” Oji revealed.​

The alumni plan to plant trees in Lagos, in the five eastern states and ABSU, among projects to be delivered in the next two years.

“For our members, we are working out the details of a small business loans scheme that we hope will come on board through our cooperative society in 2022,” he added.