Supreme Court Orders Reinstatement Of Five Unilorin Lecturers

2 Comments » June 13th, 2009 posted by // Categories: Higher Education in Nigeria



 

 

LEADERSHIP

Supreme Court Orders Reinstatement Of Five Unilorin Lecturers

 

Written by George Agba and Stella Eze, Abuja   
Saturday, 13 June 2009 03:11

 

That they should be paid all their salaries || We are vindicated-ASUU  || The Supreme Court yesterday ordered the immediate reinstatement of five out of the 49 lecturers of the University of Ilorin who were relieved of their jobs for participating in a strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on May 15, 2001.

The five lecturers who obtained favour in the verdict of the apex court are Dr. Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju, Dr A.S. Ajayi, Dr. Adeyinka Banwo, Dr.Sola Ademiluka and O.O.Olugbara.A five-member panel of the apex court led by Justice Aloysius Iyorgher Katsina-Alu, unanimously granted all the reliefs sought by the appellants and ordered that they should be immediately reinstated to their former positions, just as it  directed that they should be paid all their salaries and allowances from the day they were illegally  sacked till the day they are restored back to their offices.

Justice Olufumilayo Folasade Adekeye, who delivered the lead judgement, said, “We have considered the arguments of both sides alongside the Universities Act in respect of fair hearing, and there is no iota of truth in the contention that the sacked lecturers were given fair hearing. Although the Universities Act allows the institution to employ and discipline its staff, it must be done in conformity with the principle of fair hearing. “Accordingly, I grant all the reliefs as prayed by the appellants, and order that the appellants be reinstated to their offices with immediate effect. All their salaries and allowances should be paid to them from the date of their sack to the date they are reinstated to their offices.

The majority judgement of the Court of Appeal is hereby set aside and the judgement is hereby affirmed,” she added. Not satisfied, the judge further awarded the sum of N60,000 as costs to each of the appellants. The appellants had on May 15, 2001, dragged the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Shuaib Oba Abdul-Raheem, and three others namely: Tunde Balogun, registrar of the university, the university and its Governing Council before a Federal High Court, challenging their sack.

They contended before the Court that no reason was adduced for their sack, arguing that their appointment with the university was of permanent, pensionable and statutory nature and was governed by the Senior Staff Regulations of the university and the University of Ilorin Act Cap 455 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1990. They maintained that although no reason was adduced for their sack, the respondents made allegations of misconduct, particularly alleged disruption of examination at their council deliberations against them in the build-up, leading to their purported sack. The appellants stated that these weighty allegations which the respondents relied on without following due process as required by Chapter 8 and Section 15 of the University Acts, formed the basis for their sack. They further averred that they were victimised by the respondents  to stay away from the strike which members of their union in all Nigerian universities embarked on in 2001.

The respondents had denied that the lecturers were sacked for misconduct or for participating in strike action. Instead, they said their [respondents] action was an exercise of their purported right under the memorandum and the letters of appointment to effect their sack simply for the fact that their services were no longer required. In its judgement on July 27, 2005, the trial court held that by virtue of the provisions of the statute of the university, the respondents had no right to summarily terminate the appellants’ appointments. But in a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the trial court on the grounds that the Federal High Court was bereft of jurisdiction to entertain the case. Dissatisfied by the appellate court’s pronouncement, the appellants approached the apex court with an appeal praying it to determine whether the majority justices of the Court of Appeal were right in holding that the Federal High Court had no jurisdiction to entertain their case.

They also asked the apex court to determine whether the majority of the justices of the Court of Appeal were right in allowing the respondents’ appeal when it was apparent from the evidence on record that the respondents did not comply with the procedures laid down in section 15[1] of the Unilorin Act Cap 455 Laws of the Federation 1990 before terminating their appointments without any reason and without granting them fair hearing.

They prayed the Supreme Court for an order reinstating them to their positions and the payment of their salaries, allowances and all other entitlements from the date of their purported sack to the date of the reinstatement. Meanwhile, immediate past president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Abdullahi Sule-Kano, described the ruling of the Appeal Court on the sacked University of Ilorin (Unilorin) lecturers as a vindication of the union.Speaking to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND yesterday in Abuja, he said there was a glimpse of hope that ASUU would also win the legal battle for the remaining 44 members, since the five Supreme Court Justices unanimously ruled in favour of the five executive members out of the 49 sacked in 2001 for participating in the nationwide industrial action embarked upon by ASUU.He, however, regretted that the authorities of Unilorin had spread false rumours against their colleagues, three of whom have died in the cause of the struggle as a result of hardship and frustration.He said, “We are vindicated by the Supreme Court ruling today. But we have to keep our fingers crossed for the next judgement for the remaining 44 members coming up by September this year. We are hopeful to win again.”

THE NATION

Supreme Court reinstates five sacked UNILORIN lecturers

  • Yusuf Alli

THE Supreme Court yesterday declared the dismissal of five of the 49 lecturers of the University of Ilorin by the university management as illegal, null and void.

The court also ordered the immediate reinstatement of the sacked lecturers after a seven-year legal tussle.

The court asked the university management to also pay the salaries and allowances of the lecturers from 2001 to date.
The 49 lecturers, including the five that got justice yesterday, were dismissed by the management of UNILORIN in 2001 for participating in a nationwide strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The victorious UNILORIN ASUU leaders are Dr. Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju—Chairman;  Debo Ajayi – Secretary; Sola Ademiluka – Assistant Secretary; Adeyinka Bamiwo – Financial Secretary; and Olu Olugbara – Ex-officio member.

The five leaders and 44 others had at the Federal High Court, Ilorin, sued the then Vice-Chancellor of UNILORIN, Prof. Oba AbdulRaheem; the Governing Council of the University, headed by Gen. Salihu Ibrahim; the University of Ilorin and the then Registrar of the university, Tunde Balogun, for illegal termination of their appointments.

Through their counsel, Mr. John Bayeshea (SAN), they said their appointments were pensionable and statutory in nature and was governed by the Senior Staff Regulations of the University and the University of Ilorin Act Cap 455 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1990, and that they could not be dismissed without fair hearing in line with the extant law.

On November 2, 2005, Justice P. Olayiwola of the Federal High Court nullified the dismissal of the lecturers and ordered their reinstatement.

But the management of UNILORIN, through its counsel, Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN), however, went to the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, to challenge the judgment of the Federal High Court.

The appellate court, in a 2-1 split decision on July 12, 2006, held that the dismissal of the academic staff was legally effected by the university.

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the lecturers, in 2007, went to the Supreme Court, arguing that their sack was illegal, null and void.

They asked the Supreme Court to determine whether the justices of the Court of Appeal were right to conclude that the Federal High Court had no jurisdiction to entertain their case.

They also urged the court to determine whether the Court of Appeal was right in entertaining the respondents’ appeal when they did not comply with Section 15[1] of the Unilorin Act Cap 455 Laws of the Federation 1990 before terminating their appointments without fair hearing.

In a unanimous judgment read by Justice Olufumilayo Folasade Adekeye, the apex court upheld all the prayers of the lecturers, who were mostly leaders of the UNILORIN chapter of ASUU.

The court held that the UNILORIN management did not give the lecturers fair hearing before their dismissal.

The Supreme Court faulted the decision of the Court of Appeal of July 12, 2006 which had upheld the dismissal of the 49 lecturers.

Adekeye, who read the lead judgment, said: “We have considered the arguments of both sides alongside the Universities Act in respect of fair hearing and there is no iota of truth in the contention that the sacked lecturers were given fair hearing.

“Although the Universities Act allows the institution to employ and discipline its staff but it must be in conformity with the principle of fair hearing.

“Accordingly, I grant all the relieves as prayed by the appellants, and order that the appellants be re-instated to their offices with immediate effect, all their salaries and allowances should be paid to them from the date of their sack to the date they are re-instated to the offices.

“The majority judgment of the Court of Appeal is hereby set aside and the judgment is hereby affirmed.”

Justice Adekeye also awarded N60,000.00 against the respondents.

The five justices of the Supreme Court who decided the fate of the lecturers are Justices Dahiru Musdapher (Presiding); Mahmood Muhammed; Adekeye; Francis Tabai; and Ikechi Ogbuagbu.

The text of the judgment of the apex court was not immediately available as the court was still working on a neat copy following detection of typographical errors.

Although yesterday’s judgement was in favour of the five ASUU leaders, it might have a spiral effect on the hearing of the application of the 44 others by the Supreme Court on September 28, 2009.

Going by legal precedent, the decision of the application of the 44 lecturers might be a mere formality because their prayers are not substantially different from their leaders.

The appellants’ counsel, Bayeshea (SAN), who spoke through his representative, Mr. Wahab Ismail, yesterday said: “The judgement is purely in tenet with justice. It further reinforces the point that no matter how long it takes, justice will surely come. It is a victory for democracy and the rule of law.”

THE NATION

… it’s a hard-won battle

  • KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE
  • Published Today
  • News
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Yesterday’s Supreme Court judgment re-instating five of the 49 lecturers of the University of Ilorin sacked for refusing to return to work during a national strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in May 2001, was a hard-won battle.

While the leadership of the Union is happy that the five, who are ASUU executives (UNILORIN Chapter) have gotten justice and will be getting salaries and other benefits that have accumulated since their ousting, it equally wants justice expedited on the bulk of the lecturers when their case comes before the court on September 27.

Prof Ikachukwu Awuzie, ASUU National President told Saturday Nation on phone yesterday that only five of the lecturers were recalled because the case must have reached the Supreme Court in different batches, so were assigned differently.

“I think the case files reached the Supreme Court in different batches so they assigned them differently. All along, the two cases had been treated as one as it moved from court to court but at the Supreme Court, they were separated,” he said.

He expressed the Union’s desire that the same positive judgment will be given to the others.

The national body of the union has been up in arms against the Federal Government since 2001 when the then Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem disengaged them after an ultimatum for the lecturers to return to work expired.

At the head of the 49 who refused to sign a register opened by the management for lecturers willing to return to work was the local ASUU Chair, Dr Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju. He was joined by 48 others, including 15 professors – two of whom were former Vice-Chancellors of the university, Prof Adeoye Adeniyi (Paediatrics) and Prof J. O. Oyinloye (Physics), and the only professors in the departments of Pathology, Surgery, Linguistics, Performing Arts, Paediatrics and Electrical Engineering and the only orthopaedic surgeon, the only histopathologists, musicologists, at the time of sack.

A University of Ilorin graduate (names withheld) who was in 200 Level when the crisis happened, recalled that the affected lecturers regarded those who signed the register (numbering more than 500) as traitors and reacted by pouring invectives on them – some of whom had taught them while in school.

“There was bitter exchange between the 49 and some of the other lecturers – many of whom had taught them in their undergraduate years and they regarded as mentors. Those in favour of the strike went as far as poking their fingers in the faces of their former teachers. The older professors on the other hand cursed them out of bitterness,” he said.

He also recalled that the affected lecturers were ejected from their official quarters – with those who were too slow having their property thrown out. He said the embarrassment was such that the lecturers had to send their student friends to remove personal effects from their offices.

“Though they were not sent out of their offices, at a time, they were too ashamed to come around. They sent their friends who were students to pack their things for them,” he said.

For the duration of the struggle for reinstatement, Dr Oloruntoba-Oju said in an interview with The Nation last year that he and 15 others refused to seek other appointments, waiting for justice to be done. Today, he is one of the five who have their jobs back.

THE NATION

Court verdict has vindicated us –UNILORIN dons

  • Adekunle Jimoh
  • Published Today
  • News
  • Rating: Unrated

 

 

 

The sacked former Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), university of Ilorin branch, Dr Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju, has described yesterday’s victory at the Supreme Court as vindication for the five of them.

But he cautioned his group not to be over jubilant yet until the outcome of the litigation of other members of the group at the same court.

The Supreme Court ordered that the sacked ASUU boss and four others be reinstated by the university authorities.

Dr. Oloruntoba-Oju in a telephone interview, said he expected all parties in the matter to show maturity and join hands towards building once again, a university where justice and fairness will be the hallmark.

In his words: “We are happy that the Supreme Court has come out to vindicate us at last.  The case of the others is still pending and securing reprieve for them is our expectation as soon as possible. We can’t be fully expressive in our joy as of now but we expect that all parties concerned will join hands together to build the university to an enviable status while paying attention to issues of justice and fairness”.

The University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) branch of the association is officially recognized by authorities of the university but deemed a non-member by the ASUU national secretariat. Yesterday after news of the Supreme Court judgment filtered into town, the body reacted by issuing a circular to its members.

The circular was signed by the General Secretary of the Unilorin branch of the union, Dr. AbdulRasheed Adeoye, but its chairman, Dr. Saad Omo-Iya, only added that the circular was useful for media reactions too. Omo-Iya only added a few sentences to affirm what the memo said. .

The circular reads thus: “You will recall that some of our members who got dismissed on account of misconduct challenged this in court. Information reaching us through the press is that the Supreme Court ruled in their favour. Let us remember that ASUU members in this university have been known to be peace-loving and productive. Let us defend this tradition and do our duties without fear or molestation. Let us not build an aura of invincibility around individuals but to encourage intellectual debates and growth. We can no longer afford to go back to the trenches.

“We acknowledge the pronouncement of the court and as a law abiding organization, we are passing the information across to our people and the general pubic. They are our colleagues but it is only their attitude that has been the major problem.” 

Asked if the university union was ready to welcome the old teachers back, Omo-Iya said: “We shall see as things go but you know a judgment can be anything. We don’t know what will happen.”

Also reacting, the University of Port Harcourt ASUU Chairman, Dr. Andrew Efemini, described the judgment as a triumph of good over evil, saying it was a lesson to all dictators.

According to him, “we have struggled to the end. Goodness has overcome bad, that is why you can see that evil and dictatorship are not good. In fact, that is why we have won at last. This is a triumph of good over evil. It will teach not just Vice Chancellors of universities a lesson but all holders of office of trust and employers of labour a lesson that you do not treat employees unjustly.”

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2 Responses to “Supreme Court Orders Reinstatement Of Five Unilorin Lecturers”

  1. Dayo says:

    There areobviously residual issues in Ilorin involving the local ASUU and the university administration. The press release cum circular by the executives ofthe local ASUU and their comments are in bad taste. As a graduate of Ilorin’s medical school and a student of many of those sacked, I have been disheartened by the broken camaderie among the academic staff, the increasing engagement in pettiness and local politics by the new ASUU and in general by the news out of my school. I am not really optimistic about the prospects for progress and reconciliation.Things were done and words spoken that have caused near irredeemable damage to relations between academic staff at the University.Those affected suffered indignities, deprivation (both financial and psychologic), they were literarily tossed onto the streets and some even died from heartbreak. I just like other schoolmates just pray that things slowly mend and God provides the grace to forgive to all those that were so wronged.

  2. OA Fakinlede says:

    That the local unrecognised ASUU at Unilorin can still pour out such venom on the day of vindication and justice exposes the fraud all the sloganeering at Unilorin had been these eight years. What is unmistakable is that the cause of justice has had its last laugh. However, the price paid has been high. This victory should be dedicated to the ,memory of those three members who died in this process.

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