In a rare move, 49 University of Ilorin, UNILORIN lecturers whose appointments were terminated but were later reinstated by the Supreme Court have established a foundation.
The Supreme Court in December, 2009 ordered the reinstatement of the remainder of the 49 lecturers following an earlier reinstatement of five of them earlier in June 2009. The university dons were sacked for engaging in union activities of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in 2001. Some of the lecturers lost their lives during their battle for reinstatment.
Tagged the UNILORIN 49+ Foundation for Justice, the founders explain that the ‘+’ stands for other victims of justice at UNILORIN who collaborated with them to establish the Foundation.
This, they added, also included “the few just men and women in the Nigerian society and elsewhere, including the courageous and conscientious men and women of the judiciary and the fourth estate of the realm who support the struggle against injustice.”
Its objective, the said is “to assist in drawing attention to the plight of individuals or groups who may also be victims of oppression and injustice, thereby serving as an additional voice for the voiceless.”
The launch of the foundation which was first reported in The Nation newspaper on January 4, was marked with two lectures delivered by Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) and Omotoye Olorode, an erudite scholar and social activist.
Speaking at the occasion of the launch of the Foundation, its Chairman, Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju, explained the rationale behind the move.
“The net effect of the problem of injustice in the country may not be generally appreciated. In our view, justice is also the first condition for peace and development. No country can be at peace or succeed in an atmosphere of oppression and injustice. No such country can foster a true sense of belonging.
“The so called war against corruption in the country cannot succeed in an atmosphere of social and economic injustice, of jobless and unpaid citizens, of unpaid and oppressed workers and journalists, of uneducated and oppressed women and children; or of a marginalised and dehumanised citizenry.
“The war against injustice requires a civil army comprising the entire populace; but a demoralised army is always a losing army – oppressed women, men and youths cannot help with the fight against corruption.”
In his lecture titled, ‘The Problem of Justice in Nigeria: A Legal Perspective’, Mr. Akinlaja noted that although there are provisions for the execution of justice in Nigerian laws, these provisions are frequently frustrated by the powers that be.
“Let it be mentioned posthaste that the discomfiting issue of disobedience to court orders has never been frighteningly chronic or pronounced with ordinary individuals and persons in the society… The debacle has always been more tellingly and disquietingly visible in the quarters of the government, its institutions and functionaries. Whilst under military rule, disobedience to court orders was more of the norm and it was done with unmitigated impunity, the approach in our democracy has usually been to somewhat deviously find a way to stultify or circumvent whatever order(s) the powers that be are not minded to obey for reasons of self preservation or whatever exigencies,” he said.
However, Mr. Olorode in his own lecture titled, ‘Nigeria: Law, Society, Ideology and Justice under Neoliberalism,’ asserted that “when a society is fundamentally unjust then, the judiciary and other apparatuses of justice cannot dispense justice no matter what the laws prescribe or what the procedures for their administration stipulate.”
He noted that, “in the circumstance, the laws, the courts and the precepts they proclaim become mere facades for perpetrating injustice.”
In Mr. Olorode’s conclusion “victims of the hegemonic class that run institutions are thoroughly handicapped because the processes of seeking justice are tortuous, unaffordable and tardy. Consequently, justice is virtually inaccessible.”
Speaking at the occasion, the Governor of Kwara State, Abdulfatah Ahmed, commended the UNILORIN 49+ for the initiative in establishing the foundation and for their resilience in standing against injustice in the society commitment to issues of justice.
“As we all know, justice is an essential instrument for the protection of human rights … A strong and reliable justice system ensures that society is secure and enhances the growth of the economy. No doubt the success of society relies largely on the trust that is placed on the rule of law.”
The governor said Kwara State under his governorship has always striven and will continue to strive for justice.
Meanwhile, the president of ASUU, Biodun Ogunyemi, observed that the formation of a foundation by the UNILORIN 49 victims of injustice and the erection of a monument to their monumental struggle, was a unique day in the history of ASUU.
He described it as “a first in the annals of labour struggles in the country.”
He also noted that the struggle of ASUU for justice in University of Ilorin has turned out to be one of the most protracted struggles in the history of the Union but that “the Union will never give up its own noble objectives of protecting the legitimate rights of its members and defending them against oppression and injustice.”
Noting that University governance and scholarship is never about razzmatazz, he called on the new Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin to redirect the University towards the path of legality and avoidance of acts of victimisation of workers.
Poet laureate and scholar, Niyi Osundare, sent a solidarity message.
He described the resilience of the UNILORIN 49 as a great example of how the oppressed masses can stand firm to resist injustice.
He described the justice scenario in Nigeria as appalling, while he also called on UNILORIN authorities to embrace the clarion call for justice.
The event, which took place at the UNILORIN 49+ Foundation House situated at No 1, UNILORIN 49+ Street, near the University of Ilorin campus gate was attended by among others, the Governor of Kwara State, who was represented by the Commissioner for Water Resources, AbdulRazak Akorede, Matron of the Foundation, Bolanle Awe, represented by D.I. Jimoh, (ASUU), Trustees and Past Presidents of ASUU, Assisi Asobie and Dipo Fasina, other Principal officers of ASUU such as S. Ighalo, Musa Abdullahi and Charles Onanuju including a host of other academics and activists.