ABAKALIKI/Nigeria: The gesture of the governor of Ebonyi State to handover the newly built King David Medical University, has drew opposition from the Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in Diaspora (AESID), describing it as “Greek offer” by Dave Nweze Umahi, to the Catholic Church.
The group in a statement said that, said if the situation is not properly managed it could lead to animosity between the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, who had claimed ownership of the new varsity and the Catholic Church.
At the Episcopal Ordination and installation of Rt. Rev. Msgr. Peter Nworie Chukwu as the 3rd Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki on Thursday, August 19, 2021, Ebonyi State Governor, Engr. David Nweze Umahi, announced the handing over of the King David University of Medical Sciences Uburu to the Catholic Bishops Conference for what he termed “optimum management and academic excellence.”
As reported via a statement made available through his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Francis Nwaze, the Governor declared; “The contributions of the church to the Educational Development of Nigeria is unparalleled and for this, I, on-behalf of the State wish to give the King David University of Medical Sciences Uburu to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria to own and run.
Reacting through a statement signed by its President, Amb. Paschal Oluchukwu, on Sunday, the Ebonyi indigenes wondered how a governor such pronouncement “which is capable of not only pitching the mother church against her sister Presbyterian Church which has been in court challenging the forceful takeover of the said property but also further negate the provisions of our extant Laws, create chaos and confusion and deepen animosity between the Christian faith even as we yet see Ebonyi as a secular State only dominated by the Christian religion.”
According to the statement, in public’s best interest, no law permits a Governor to build such a massive edifice with millions of unaccounted public funds and hand same over to a people of a particular faith in a multi-religious society like ours.
“Apart from the severe breaches of the law typified by the non-passage of any Law enabling the donation of the said institution which was built with public funds, unaudited and unaccounted for by the Ebonyi State’s House of Assembly- an ordinarily third arm of government that has been serially amputated and utterly neglected by the Governor, Umahi has by this pronouncement shown that he’s merely a desperate dealer trying to cover-up his suspected dirty tracks by currying the favour of the largest and most populous Catholic Church.
“No one, we repeat, no church or organisation for that matter therefore should accept any such compromised dealings from a Governor like Umahi. For we are certain that his motives on this particular offer are as ulterior as the majority of his dealings with Ebonyi people in his past six year’s on the saddle as Ebonyi Governor.”
Stating the controversies on the said Uburu varsity, the statement said: “First, the Presbyterian Church had alerted the general public that, on Friday, the 12th of July, 2019, it received a hint that the Ebonyi State exco approved Government takeover of the Presbyterian Joint Hospital, Uburu. Also announced on the same day on the State broadcast network, was the award of contracts for the construction of several blocks of buildings for the Ebonyi State Teaching Hospital on property the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria holds on lease and has developed over 107 years as the Presbyterian Joint Hospital, Uburu.
“We are aware that Umahi had sent a letter asking for approval to the State’s House of Assembly asking for the State’s takeover and acquisition of the oldest Hospital founded by a Missionary, Dr. John Hitchcock which his lackeys in the said arm of government readily granted without any due diligence or investigation, the head of Information Department and Public Affairs of the Presbyterian Church, Rt. Rev. Nnoke Ibe had in a detailed Press release accused the State Governor of forcefully taking over the hospital for which it still paid rents to the family and village donors of the land upon which it is situated.
“The release, made since July 2020 had asserted without a counter-claim from the Umahi-led government that, ‘The Church is also aware that the Government’s power of eminent domain confers a power to take land it requires for public purposes; but that power is made constitutionally subject to procedures which guarantee the rights, privileges and entitlements of occupiers and holders.
The Presbyterian Church release also stated ‘That now that Government is aware that the Hospital is a property of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, the Government should act in line with constitutional provisions to ensure that persons entitled to occupation of the property are given their legal entitlements; That though we are aware of our constitutional rights as a Church on this issue, the long-standing good relationship between the Church and Government, compel the Church to implore Ebonyi State Government to create a conducive platform for amicable resolution of the issues involved.’
While condemning the governor’s “insensitive act” further, the statement said: “we haven’t also forgotten that the plan was actually to acquire and build the said institution as the new State’s University medical school. We are also knowledgeable about the fact that the Ebonyi State government recently released an outrageous fee regime of between N1 to N3M as annual School fees for the institution following the approval of it’s courses by the NUC and even announcements for job recruitments. From where and how then can the Catholic community fund, maintain and sustain such academic institution which could become a monumental waste if not properly-funded?
“If truly Umahi loves and wants academic excellence, why has he proposed the above monumental fee regime in a poor state like ours? Why has he also totally neglected the public education sector in Ebonyi without reasonable grants to the existing state-owned Primary, Secondary and especially, tertiary institutions in the State?
“Finally, AESID joins the rest of saner Ebonyians to kindly reject the offer and focus on fulfilling its spiritual and religious goals for the Church even as we wish the newly-ordained Bishop a successful Episcopal reign filled with great wisdom to handle the affairs of the mother church.
“And for Umahi, he should await his days of reckoning with the antitrust agencies for all his lawless actions, misconducts and unaccountability in governance which has made Ebonyi remain the poverty capital of the entire Southern Nigeria.”