ASUU, UNILORIN 49+ FOUNDATION, OTHERS HAIL SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT IN OBAYAN VS UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN, CALL FOR JUDICIAL REFORM
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and other groups have hailed the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Aze Obayan, a professor, versus University of Ilorin which declared the termination of appointment of Ms. Obayan by the University of Ilorin authorities illegal and reinstated her to the University with all her salaries and perquisites.
According to ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, her reinstatement is also a vindication of the struggles of the union and a lesson for other university administrations.
Also hailing the judgment, the Chairman of the UNILORIN 49+ Foundation for Justice, Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju, who was the Chairman of ASUU UNILORIN at the time Ms. Obayan’s appointment was terminated, stated that the judgment must be a cause of joy for all lovers of justice. He also called for sober reflection on the part of UNILORIN and other institutions that tend to abuse their authority.
Ms. Obayan was a Reader (Associate Professor) in the University of Ilorin when her appointment was terminated by the university over an alleged overstay of her overseas leave.
She was later to become the Vice-Chancellor of two Universities, Covenant University, Ota, and Landmark University, Omuaran.
In her reaction over the telephone, Ms. Obayan said she was elated and vindicated by the judgment.
“All glory be to God. I was a victim of politics and acrimony in the University of Ilorin. I properly applied for extension for my leave in the UK and got information that it had been approved. I also found a file copy of the approval, but the University strangely denied issuing it and instead summarily terminated my appointment without any hearing.”
The two time Vice-Chancellor also thanked ASUU, the UNILORIN 49, the Chancellor of Covenant and Landmark Universities, David Oyedepo, her late husband, Tokunbo Obayan, her lawyer, her children and all those who had been supportive.
Corroborating her assertion, John Baiyeshea, who handled the case in court, said the case was bizarre and that the university appeared to be in a state of anomy at the time. He said even though there was a letter granting Ms. Obayan her leave, the university, through one Mrs. Ololade, came to the Federal High Court to deny it. Be that as it may, the fact that Ms. Obayan was not given any hearing before her termination was anomalous and the action a nullity, as the Supreme Court has now thankfully pronounced, he said.
Speaking further, ASUU President, Mr. Ogunyemi, observed that the University of Ilorin will now have to once again cough out millions of naira in judgment debt:
“Unfortunately, institutions of higher learning such as the University of Ilorin are having to pay dearly for the sins of despotic University Administrators such as Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem who do not follow due process because their actions are governed by personal vendetta and parochial interests rather than the general good of the university. Unfortunately, it is taxpayers’ money that is being wasted to service the personal and parochial interests of despotic Administrators. We therefore call on the government to move in to stop despotism in our institutions of higher learning.”
He called on university authorities nationwide to take a cue from the judgment and refrain from despotic acts that ultimately put them to shame.
Former ASUU President, Oladipo Fashina, who was the national President of ASUU at the time of the termination of the appointment of Ms. Obayan, also hailed the judgment, calling it “a tribute to courage and to a sense of dignity.” Academics must be courageous enough to insist on a conducive and non-tyrannical environment to conduct their teaching and research, he explained, noting that there is nothing dignified about academics succumbing to tyranny.
CALL FOR JUDICIAL REFORM …
On the background to the case, Mr. Oloruntoba-Oju recalled that Ms. Obayan’s matter was one of the issues in dispute between ASUU UNILORIN and the University of Ilorin, which later snowballed into the still unresolved UNILORIN crisis. It was also part of the chain of events that would eventually lead to the establishment of the UNILORIN 49+ FOUNDATION FOR JUSTICE, he said.
According to him, Ms. Obayan was sacked for allegedly overstaying her overseas leave by some weeks, when indeed there was a letter granting an extension.
“The Union fought tooth and nail for Prof Obayan’s reinstatement and eventually supported her to take judicial action. We therefore feel a sense of vindication that our struggle at the time was just.”
While thanking the Supreme Court for giving justice as appropriate, Mr. Oloruntoba-Oju however used the opportunity to call for a judicial reform that will hasten the resolution of such cases and discourage despots in positions of power from their oppressive stance.
“The truth is that many employers of labour exploit lapses in the judicial process to inflict injury on hapless victims, knowing full well that the route to obtaining justice is excruciatingly slow and painful for litigants in this country. They exploit every loophole in the judicial process to elongate the misery of their victims.
“Judicial reform is therefore required to discourage this sort of orientation. Administrators who abuse their office in this way should not only take part of the blame but also have to pay part of the judgment debt and litigation costs.”
AND SOBER REFLECTION
According to Mr. Oloruntoba-Oju, “The judgment also calls, once again, for sober reflection on the part of those who manage our Universities. The ivory tower in Nigeria must be accommodating of various shades of opinions and exigencies and should never turn into a citadel of oppression and tyranny. The enormous power and authority entrusted to Vice-Chancellors and Governing Councils should be seen as power to do good, to promote the core values of the academia and to promote justice, rather than to pursue personal vendetta or parochial interests.
“Sound academics are in short supply; therefore, the termination of appointment of an academic should never be a casual or carefree affair.
“The University of Ilorin should view this most recent judgment as a call to put its act together and resolve all outstanding cases of injustice involving the University today, of its own volition, rather than wait further for other publicly indicting episodes such as this.
Shuaibu Abdulraheem, under whose tenure Ms. Obayan’s appointment was terminated, has not been heard of in a long time and could not be reached for comments.
His tenure was widely known for the termination of appointment of scores of academics and non-academic staff and the rustication of vocal students and his actions have been repeatedly declared illegal by the Supreme Court.