Two lecturers of the Federal University Oye-Ekiti, FUOYE, Dr. Akinyemi Omonijo and Professor, Adeyemi Oluwagbemiga have accused the management of the university of flagrant disobedience to valid court orders.
According to the lecturers, the management of the university refused to obey two separate judgements of the National Industrial Court, sitting in Akure and Abuja respectively that ordered their immediate reinstatement.
However, in a swift reaction, the school authorities have debunked the claim of the lecturers saying that Omonijo had been asked to return to work contrary to his claim.
According to the Public Relations Officer of the university, Mr. Foluso Ogunmodede, the lecturer had only refused to comply with the directive of the institution to sign an undertaking.
In the case of Dr. Omonijo, the current Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU of the university, he was placed on an indefinite suspension by the university in 2019, via two separate letters dated February 14 and 15, 2019, signed by the then Acting Registrar of the institution, Mrs. Olayinka Adeniran-Ajayi.
Aggrieved, Dr. Omonijo through his lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN in suit number NICN/AK/21/2019 filed before the National Industrial Court, Akure Division, urged the court to declare his indefinite suspension without pay illegal, unconstitutional, and a violation of the provisions of the Trade Union Act.
Falana had argued that the letters of suspension without pay dated 14 and 15 February 2019 were unknown to law.
However, during the pendency of the suit, both parties reached an amicable settlement of their disputes and requested that judgment of the court be entered based on the agreement.
Consequently, Justice Kiyersohot Damulak in a consent judgement set aside Dr. Omonijo’s suspension and ordered the university to reinstate him to his status as Senior Lecturer and to pay his salaries, allowances, and entitlements from February 2019.
Justice Damulak further held that the letters dated 14 and 15 February 2019 regarding his suspension should be withdrawn along with the withdrawal of the claimant’s claims in the suit.
Subsequently, the university in a letter dated November 10, 2021, signed by the Acting Registrar and Secretary to the Governing Council, Mufutau Ibrahim, acknowledged the receipt of the consent judgment.
The letter stated that the Governing Council of the University, at its sixth Extraordinary Meeting held on Wednesday, 3 November 2021, directed that, he should be reinstated to the service of the university with immediate effect.
The letter however added that considering the nature of the offence allegedly committed, further disciplinary action would be taken irrespective of the outcome of the criminal proceedings, in deference to the court.
But, Falana in a letter written to the university, urged the Governing Council to comply with the consent judgement of the National Industrial Court, pointing out that the court did not attach any precondition in the judgement.
He warned that attaching a precondition would be in contempt of the court.
Similarly, in suit number NICN/AK/64/2018 filed by Professor Adeyemi against the institution, Justice Oyejoju Oyewumi of the National Industrial Court, Abuja Division had in her judgement delivered on November 12, 2019 declared his letter of termination dated October 31, 2018 null and void.
Justice Oyewumi held that Professor Adeyemi is still in the employment of the university and should be reinstated back to his erstwhile position without any loss of seniority, rank and entitlement whatsoever.
The court also restrained the management of the university from further interfering with his rights, privileges and performance of his duties as an Associate Professor in the University.
Rather than complying with the court order, the university approached the Court of Appeal, Akure Division to challenge the judgement.
However, the appellate court in a ruling delivered on October 6, 2021 , by Justice Rita Pemu dismissed the appeal for want of diligent prosecution.
Justice Pemu observed that counsel for the appellant (University) was absent after having been duly served with hearing notice.
Dissatisfied, the university again appealed to the Supreme Court praying the Apex Court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgement of the lower court.
The appellant argued that the lower court erred in law when it struck out its Motion on Notice filed on October 14, 2020, insisting that the appellant was present in court and was represented by the Head, Legal Unit, Mr. Lawrence Eni.
Dismayed, Professor Adeyemi accused the university of using delay tactics stressing that appeal from decisions of the NICN ends at the Court of Appeal.
He added that the NICN had exclusive original jurisdiction over employment-related complaints and cases, stressing that appeals from decisions of the NICN go to the Court of Appeal and the decision of the Court of Appeal, on any appeal arising from any civil jurisdiction of the NICN, is final.
He argued that only appeals from decisions of the NICN in respect of criminal cases could be made to the apex court of Nigeria.