Controversy trails handing-over of King David varsity to Catholic Church

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The recent transfer of ownership of the King David University of Medical Sciences, Uburu, Ebonyi State to the Catholic Church has been followed by criticisms from indigenes who believe that it shouldn’t have happened.

They wondered by government would use public funds to embark on such project only to transfer its control to the church in mutlireligious Nigeria.

The Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in Diaspora (AESID) frowned at the donation

President of the AESID, Amb Paschal Oluchukwu, in a statement, described Governor Dave Umahi’s gesture as a Greek gift.

The handing over had happened at the Episcopal Ordination and installation of Rt. Reverend Peter Nworie Chukwu as the 3rd Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki last Thursday.

Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi announced the handing over of the King David University of Medical Sciences Uburu to the Catholic Bishops Conference.

The forum of Ebonyi Indigenes in Abuja however expressed concern that the state governor pronouncements could lead to animosity between the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, who had claimed ownership of the new varsity and the Catholic Church.

Ambassador Oluchukwu in the statement maintained that Governor Umahi’s declaration was ” 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 AESID, no law permits a Governor to build such a massive edifice with millions of public funds and hand the same over to a people of a particular faith in a multi-religious society.

“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, 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 years on the saddle as Ebonyi Governor.”

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“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.”

While condemning the governor’s action, the statement also faulted the recent increase in school fees regime between N1 to N3M as annual School fees for the institution following the approval of its courses by the National Universities Commission.

“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.”

Government reacts

On its part, the government has dismissed claims that the handing over would instigate religious animosity among Presbyterian church and Catholic church members.

The Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Governor David Nweze Umahi, Mr Francis Nwaze said this on Wednesday.

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Nwaze who described the group as “ghost group” said the King David University of Medical Sciences Uburu is a brand new one-of its kind University conceived and constructed by the administration of Engineer David Umahi.

He noted that the University in no way had link(s) with the Presbyterian Church or any other religious denomination before its handover to the Catholic Church.

Nwaze further said that if one can build, then he can hand over that which he has built to whoever he willingly chooses. Therefore, Governor Umahi is not by any means causing animosity between the Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church, rather it is the Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in Diaspora (AESID) if, at all it exists, that is trying to cause bad blood between the sister denominations.

The statement reads, “We have come across a publication in some parts of the media credited to an alleged group of Ebonyi State indigenes under the auspices of the Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in Diaspora (AESID) senselessly accusing Governor David Nweze Umahi of turning Presbyterians against the members of the Catholic Church in the State.”

“In the publication said to be authored by the Purported National President of the ghost group, Paschal Oluchukwu, accused the Governor of illegally donating King David University of Medical Sciences Uburu to the Catholic Church.”

“The publication read in part “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.”

“From the foregoing, we have decided to make few clarifications to guide some rational readers to understand the kindergarten state of minds of the perennial accusers of the Governor.”

“First, the King David University of Medical Sciences Uburu is a brand new one-of its kind University conceived and constructed by the administration of Engineer David Umahi.”

“Second, the University in no way had link(s) with the Presbyterian Church or any other religious denomination before its handover to the Catholic Church.”

“Third, if one can build, then he can hand over that which he has built to whoever he willingly chooses. Therefore, Governor Umahi is not by any means causing animosity between the Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church, rather it is the Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in Diaspora (AESID) if, at all it exists, that is trying to cause bad blood between the sister denominations.”

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“However, what Governor Umahi deserves for this bold step is plaudit and not sarcasm knowing that the decision was taken to Fastrack educational Development of the State.”

“This can be seen in the Governor’s speech while announcing the handover during 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 “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.”

“This, the Governor clarified was to enhance academic excellence and effective management as evidenced in other Institutions already being managed by the Catholic Church like the Technical Schools which have turned to centres of excellence.”

“If the group hiding under the cloak of Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in Diaspora are not up for mischief, they should have at least commended the Governor for proving wrong the naysayers who had speculated that the Governor will privatize the institution to himself.”

“This shows that the Governor is truly sincere in his quest to ensure effective management of the Institution.”

“Let it be known by the general public that the procedure for official handover of the institution will be followed, which include acceptance by the church, coming to terms and conditions of the handover which is between the state government and the Church and approval of the State House of Assembly.”

“The General Public are advised to disregard the allegations by the ghost Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in Diaspora which only exist in the mindset of never do wells whose stock-in-trade is unjustifiable and serial accusations of Ebonyi State Government.”

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