The University of Ilorin confirmed on 13 December that it is appealing a court judgment which reinstated two academics dismissed more than a year ago from the federal University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) for blowing the whistle on the alleged corrupt activities of two of the institution’s past vice-chancellors.
Gideon Lawson, assistant registrar (academic) at the university, told University World News in an email that the university administration had not complied with any court ruling.
“The two dismissed academics are yet to be written recall letters. As at today, the university is appealing the judgment. Except if something miraculous happens, the university administration shall surely go to the court of appeal because the university lawyer has been so directed. The tradition of the university in this situation has never been hidden,” he wrote.
At the time it was heard, the judgment of the Industrial Court in Akure was welcomed by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
According to Dr Ngozi Iloh, former national welfare officer of ASUU, the reinstatement of Dr Kayode Afolayan, an English lecturer and the union’s former chairman, and Dr Solomon Oyelekan, a lecturer in the department of education science and former ASUU secretary, constitutes a “restoration of hope in the Nigerian judiciary”.
“The court judgment delivered in favour of [the former] ASUU UNILORIN chairperson and the secretary is a restoration of hope in the Nigerian judiciary. People are tired of lies and injustice being meted out to their fellow homo sapiens, who really do not deserve to be treated with ignominy.”
She said the reinstatement was “a signal to any dictatorial administrator that justice still exists and may be delayed but cannot be denied at long last. ASUU is very patient. The university administration should stop deceiving itself and face reality.”
The duo was suspended by the university in February last year for blowing the whistle on the alleged corrupt activities of the institution’s immediate past vice-chancellor, Professor Abdulganiyu Ambali, involving the alleged subversion of due process in the employment and promotion of Ambali’s wife, among other irregularities. The pair were officially dismissed in September 2017.
At the time of their suspension, Ambali justified the actions as “normal” university regulations.
“The suspension of the two academic staff purporting to be factional leaders of UNILORIN ASUU is the normal university’s regulation. If somebody is trying to cause disaffection within the university system, he has to face the music,” he said.
In October, ASUU asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to make public its findings on its petition submitted in 2016 over allegations of corruption at UNILORIN involving the former vice-chancellors Is-haq Oloyede and Ambali, according to a local newspaper. The petition contained allegations of pension fraud, financial corruption, nepotism and other serious offences allegedly perpetrated by these actors at the University of Ilorin.
The union accused Ambali of promoting his wife without going through due process. The duo from the union was then summoned before the university’s senior staff disciplinary committee on charges of insubordination. The academics were suspended and then dismissed with the approval of the governing council.
In an interview with University World News, Afolayan reiterated the union’s contention that Mrs Maimuna Ambali, the wife of the former vice-chancellor, was promoted from support to academic staff in clear contravention of university rules. “Our union reacted to it. We circulated an official bulletin … and the university administration was displeased.” He said his plea that the union should be held responsible rather than individual members was rejected.
Following the academics’ dismissal last year, the union took the university to court. Passing judgment last month, Justice Abiola Adewemimo, according to media reports, criticised the institution for violating the rights of the respondent to a fair hearing, declaring the action of the university oppressive, dictatorial, tyrannical and a miscarriage of justice and ordered the immediate reinstatement of the sacked lecturers and the payment of their entitlements and other benefits.
The recent victory for UNILORIN ASUU members has echoes from the past.
In 2009, the Supreme Court of Nigeria reinstated 49 UNILORIN academic staff unilaterally sacked in 2001 for “illegally” taking part in a nation-wide ASUU strike aimed at pressing for adequate funding of universities.
Sahara Reporters reported at the time that “after eight years of protracted lawsuits, some of the dons have died”.
Since 2001, the university has been embroiled in a struggle between two conflicting principles: protection of the rights of academic staff through the union, and apparent attempts by the university administration to resist the legitimate interventions of the union.
Despite expressions of regret over the dismissal of the lecturers under his leadership by former vice-chancellor Professor Shuaib Abdul Raheem, the union believes subsequent administrators have continued to follow a hard-line approach.
“These two diametrically opposed views are yet to find a viable middle-of-the-road solution. Thus the climate of suspicion pervades campus,” said Dr Toyin Enikuomehin, a former student of the university and now a senior lecturer in computer science at Lagos State University. He said his alma mater has, for the past two decades, been engulfed in an ideological interpretation of the role and the limits of trade unionism in the university.
“Thus the court of justice intervenes in the resolution of the contradictions between the union and the university administration,” he said.
Source: University World News