The National Industrial Court sitting in Akure, Ondo State, recently reinstated Drs. Kayode Afolayan and Solomon Oyelekan, who were illegally dismissed over a year ago by the authorities of the University of Ilorin. The ruling was generally adjudged as a victory for due process. Afolayan and Oyelekan, who were Chairman and Secretary respectively of the Ilorin branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), were sacked by the authorities of the University of Ilorin on September 19, 2017. In her ruling, Justice Abiola Adewemimo, among others, awarded a cost of N500,000 against the university.
The judge also ordered that the salaries and allowances of the two lecturers be paid from the time of their suspension till date. Justice Adewemimo awarded 20 per cent interest on the amount payable to them from the day of the judgment until the order is complied with by the university.
The judge also scolded the authorities of the University of Ilorin for recklessly violating its own laws and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the ASUU leaders’ fundamental human rights to fair hearing. The court equally awarded a cost of N100,000 against the Unilorin administration as legal costs.
We recall that the two lecturers were dismissed by the varsity for their whistle-blowing roles over alleged corrupt activities of past leadership of the institution bordering on subversion of due process in employment and promotion matters, among others. Also, the Ibadan Zone of ASUU has hailed the judgment of NIC, which nullified the sack of the two lecturers and described it as a victory over tyranny.
We hail the judgment which has given succour to the dismissed ASUU leaders and condemn the abuse of due process by the University of Ilorin in handling the case of the lecturers. The University of Ilorin and indeed all varsities in the country should be wary of illegal dismissal of their staff.
As citadels of higher learning, they should be in the forefront of the crusade for due process. They should avoid malice and oppression in dealing with their workers. It is important that before any lecturer is dismissed from the university, his case must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. The affected staff must be given fair hearing. If a case involving a staff of a varsity is not criminal, the affected staff can be queried or warned by the institution instead of outright dismissal as was the case in Unilorin.
But if a matter must involve dismissal, the case should be taken to court and proved beyond reasonable doubt. The varsities must follow due process in dismissing lecturers. Universities should understand that fair hearing is central to the nation’s criminal justice system. Now that all the accumulated emoluments of the affected lecturers must be paid from the time they were dismissed to the day of the judgment, the University of Ilorin should obey the ruling or appeal against it if it wants to do so.
We, therefore, commend the two lecturers and ASUU for challenging the dismissal in the court. Although the legal battle lasted for over one year, the victory in the court has justified the efforts put by the duo and ASUU to get justice. It is good that they have been reinstated by the NIC. There is no doubt that the ruling is victory for due process and the rule of law.
The judiciary should always serve as the last hope of the common man. And for it to do this effectively, cases must be handled expeditiously because justice delayed is akin to justice denied. We call on other lecturers and staff of varsities who were illegally dismissed to seek redress in the law courts. It is though this avenue that they can get justice over wrongful dismissal.