The crisis rocking the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State, over the dismissal of the chairperson of the institution’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Akinyemi Omonijo, and another leader of the union, Oluwagbemiga Adeyemi, a professor, is yet to abate.
Six months after an industrial court sitting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, granted an out-of-court settlement terms freely entered into by both the university’s counsels and those representing Mr Omonijo, the university is yet to reinstate the latter.
On the part of Mr Adeyemi, the November 2019 judgement of the industrial court, also in Akure, which upturned his dismissal, was also upheld by an appellate court, aslo sitting in Akure, on October 6, 2021.
But rather than give in, the university on October 15, 2021, filed a notice of appeal at the Supreme Court, challenging the decision of the lower courts to reinstate Mr Adeyemi.
Omonijo versus FUOYE
Following his dismissal in 2019, Mr Omonijo approached the industrial court in Akure where he was represented by the law chambers of Nigeria’s rights activist, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, while the university was represented by Mr Ebunolu Adegboruwa, another rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
However, after many months of legal representations in court, in the case with Suit number; NICN/AK/21/2019 Between OMONIJO Akinyemi Gabriel -vs- Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), both the plaintiff and the defendant agreed to settle out of court.
On July 29, 2021, Kiyersohot Damulak, of the industrial court, sat via zoom for the adoption of the report of the terms of settlement in the matter.
Sources confirmed that Taiwo Omidoyin from Falana and Falana’s Chambers appeared for the claimant while the the Chairperson of the university’s reconciliation committee, Olugbenga Amu, a professor, and Tosin Adesioye from the Chambers of Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa and Company appeared for the defendant.
“Counsels of both parties adopted the terms of settlement and urged the court to enter it as judgment of the Court. After the submission of counsels of both parties, His Lordship pronounced the terms of settlement as consent judgment and judgment of the court on July 29, 2021,” a source at the university who does not want to be named for possessing no authority to speak on the matter, told PREMIUM TIMES.
Terms of settlement
According to the documents from the court containing the terms of settlement, and which were obtained by this newspaper, the parties agreed that; “That the letters dated 14th and 15th February, 2019 regarding the suspension of the claimant are withdrawn along with the withdrawal of the claimant’s claims in this suit; the claimant shall be reinstated by the defendant upon the court entering these terms as its judgment in this case; that the claimant shall be paid his outstanding salaries and allowances from February 14, 2019 to June 1, 2021 upon the court entering these terms as judgment of the Court in this suit.
“Pursuant to and in consideration of the foregoing, the claimant hereby permanently withdraws and discontinues all his claims against the defendant as contained in his Form of Complaint and Statement of Fact both dated 29th April, 2019 or any claim whatsoever arising from the circumstances that led to this action; that the claimant shall also discontinue the instant suit and further drop all claims against the defendant; that the effective date of this agreement shall be the day of entering of these terms as judgment of the court; that the parties to this suit hereby agree that terms herein contained shall be made the Judgment of This Honourable Court; that each party shall bear its own cost in this suit, and that the parties have further agreed that the above Terms of Settlement shall form the Judgment of This Honourable Court.”
However, in November 2021, four months after the settlement terms had been entered, the university wrote Mr Omonijo a letter of reinstatement, but with an additional caveat.
Signed by the university’s acting registrar, who doubles as the secretary to the institution’s governing council, Mufutau Ibrahim, the reinstatement letter read in part; “I am directed to inform you that the university is in respect of a court judgment in your favour regarding the case you instituted against it, following your dismissal from the services of the university for serious misconduct. Accordingly, the governing council of the university at its 6th extraordinary meeting held on Wednesday, 3rd November, 2021, directed that you be reinstated to the services of the university with immediate effect.
“However, considering the nature of the offence you committed which comes under serious misconduct in the PSR 3(030411) and could result in the institution of a criminal case against you, in which case a further disciplinary action would be taken irrespective of the outcome of the criminal proceedings, in deference to the court, Council further directed as follows: you should sign an undertaking to be of good behavior henceforth; and a letter of advice be served on you to desist from any act of misconduct that could disrupt the current peace and tranquility that is being enjoyed in the university.
“Accordingly, you are hereby reinstated with immediate effect and advised to desist from any act that can disrupt the peace and stability in the University.”
Worried by the condition attached to his reinstatement by the university, Mr Omonijo kicked against what he described as a contempt of court, saying the university’s demand for an undertaking was a ploy to “tighten another noose on his neck.”
In response to the condition, the claimant’s lawyer on December 14, 2021, via a letter signed by a counsel, Joshua Omidoyin, said while appreciating the university for the efforts, it should obey the court judgement without setting another fresh condition.
The lawyer’s letter read in part; “While appreciating the decision of the University to end the litigation pertaining to the suspension of our Client from duty, we urge the Council to comply with the consent judgment of the National Industrial Court on the matter in every material particular. It is pertinent to note that the Court did not attach any precondition for the reinstatement of our Client.
“Thus, the demand for a letter of good behavior on the part of our Client is not part of the terms of the judgment. In order not to be accused of engaging in contempt of Court, we are therefore compelled to request the Council to ensure that the letter for the reinstatement of our Client should reflect the terms of the enrolled judgment of the National Industrial Court.”
University defends action
In its response sent to this newspaper by the public relations officer, Foluso Ogunmodede, the university accused both Messrs Omonijo and Adeyemi of misinforming the public, threatening to deal with such conducts appropriately.
The response, which is titled; “Reinstatement: FUOYE tackles sacked lecturers for misleading public over court’s order,” the university accused the duo of being recalcitrant in their conducts.
The university said while Mr Omonijo had failed to honour the terms of settlement provided by its governing council as a precondition for his full reinstatement, the court’s ruling in favour of Mr Adeyemi was already being challenged at the Supreme Court and that the claimant was aware of that.
The university’s statement read in part; “It would be recalled that this was part of the infractions against the University and the local branch of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) committed by Omonijo and his co-travellers in 2018 which led to the disintegration of the Union in FUOYE and other unpalatable developments that culminated in the indefinite suspension of the duo by the Management to allow peace to reign, and their eventual dismissal and termination of appointment respectively.
“We, therefore, advise Omonijo and his co-travellers to stop rushing to the media to misinform and mislead the public as they are the ones trying to be clever by half by evading proper reconciliation terms of settlement as spelt out by the University Regulations.”
It further added that it is only rational for the university’s council “to ask Omonijo to assure the system that he would henceforth, adhere to the Rules and Regulations of the University before his reinstatement fully, with a view to forestalling a repeat of the unfortunate incidents orchestrated by Omonijo and his co-travellers from 2018 which gave the immediate past administration unnecessary headaches and hiccups.”
“What is expected of Omonijo in accordance to the Rules of Engagement of the University, FUOYE Governing Council directed Omonijo to append his signature to the terms of reference which would ensure that he puts up good behaviour and remain law-abiding before he is fully reinstated,” the statement added.
The university insisted that it is not asking for too much by requesting the lecturer to sign an undertaking that he would not cause disruption of the peace on the campus.
In 2018, ASUU, under the leadership of Mr Omonijo, wrote President Muhammadu Buhari through the minister of education, Adamu Adamu, on certain allegations against the university management.
In the 16-page report titled; “The State of Federal University, Oye-Ekiti: Matters Arising,” the union under the leadership of Mr Omonijo wrote about the sorry state of activities at the institution; a development that prompted Mr Adamu to order the university’s governing council to investigate and submit a report on the allegations contained in the document.
In the report, ASUU-FUOYE lamented the inadequacy of lecture theatres for students and office accommodation for academic staff, lack of standard laboratories, bad road network within the campus, compromised admission process and arbitrary appointment and promotion of staff.
Following the development, Mr Omonijo, a lecturer at the department of water resources management and agrometeorology, was suspended and later dismissed by the university, and was asked “to stay away from the premises of the university except otherwise expressed in writing to you.”
Meanwhile, as of the time of filing this report, the university had yet to reply to Mr Omonijo’s lawyer’s letter, seeking the reversal of the condition attached to the reinstatement offer.
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