…rushes to appeal against industrial Court ruling
From Kennis Bright
Strong indications have emerged that the Vice-chancellor (VC) of the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Prof. Edward Olanipekun, has allegedly went against the directive of the state governor and Visitor to the institution, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to reinstate some disengaged staff members in obedience to the order of immediate reinstatement issued by the Industrial Court, Akure division, Ondo State in its jugdement on December 8, 2020 after a trial presided over by Hon Justice K.D. Damulak.
This was just as sources from the institution have alleged that the Vice Chancellor has allegedly vowed to prevent the affected staff members from being reinstated so as to allegedly pave way for his cronies to fill the vacuum created by the disengagement saga. Those who made the allegations supported their claims with a copy of a Notice of Appeal filed against the ruling of the Industrial Court filed by the school Management at the Appeal Court sitting in Ado-Ekiti, state capital.
It would be recalled that some staff members of the University were disengaged by the Governing Council on December 5, 2019. Reasons such as irregular appointment, age discrepancies among others were initially given for the disengagement. While a few out of the disengaged were later reinstated, others not returned, particularly the Technologists had challenged their disengagement in court.
Having been dragged to court, the school authorities later claimed that the reason for the disengagement of the Technologists was as result of non-availability of funds to pay staff members recruited in 2016 when they realized that it would be difficult to convince the court on the earlier reasons given for the disengagement since the affected Technologists had written apititude tests, were duly interviewed and were later confirmed and promoted. Besides, a linked document from the Bursar’s officer of the school, a copy of which was made available to our Correspondent, had advised the Management against citing the earlier reasons to justify the disengagement before the Court, as doing so would be counter-productive.
However, the affected Technologists faulted the Management’s claims on non- availability of funds, raising questions on the authenticity of the claim that it couldn’t pay the wage bill of those recruited in 2016 when it allegedly kept staff members recruited in both 2017 and 2018 who allegedly included the VC’s wife, in the service of the University.
Our findings from reliable sources, also revealed that Prof. Olanipekun had allegedly held a meeting with Governor Fayemi on the ruling by the Industrial Court and the governor had allegedly instructed him to immediately effect the reinstatement of the disengaged staff in obedience to the Court’s reinstatement order. But Olanipekun, it was gathered, had already began the process of appealing the judgment before he had the meeting with the governor. The development was confirmed by a notice of appeal suit filed by the Management of EKSU on December 18, 2020 at the Appeal Court sitting in Ado Ekiti, copies of which were made available to our Correspondent.
In the appeal suit, dated December 18, 2020, EKSU Management argues that the learned trial Judge of the Industrial Court erred in law while stating the justification for issuing the order of reinstatement, when he states that “…By the authority of Daniel M. Ogbaje V. Abuja Investment and Property Development Company Limited ( 2007 LPELR-11855CCA) where , as in this case, an employee is qualified by his appointment to a permanent and pensionable position, the employee is not in a servant and Master relationship with the employer, it follows therefore that the determination of such appointment for “services no longer required” is not compatible with the status of the Claimants.”
The appeal therefore sought reliefs which included: “An Order allowing this Appeal and setting aside the decision of the lower Court. ii. An Order dismissing the case of the Respondents at the trial Court in its entirety.”
With the latest development, the hope of the disengaged staff of resuming duties at their posts in no distant future is being dashed and their joy and that of their dependants for regaining their means of livelihood is being shelved as another round of legal war has just began.
Concerned about the development, some staff members of the University, who spoke to our Correspondent on condition of anonymity, said that the VC was only interested in wasting resources of the institution by appealing the judgment of the Industrial Court. One of them said:
“The VC of EKSU and his Management team are only been arrogant as to eat the humble pie and rightly reinstate the illegally disengaged staff members. Instead of honourably doing this and allow justice to prevail, they want to waste the resources of the institution by paying huge money to their legal team to start another round of meaningless and fruitless legal battle that will, by God’s grace, end in futility. As we know that the unjustly disengaged staff will surely get justice. We have that confidence in the Nigerian judiciary.”
The affected Technologists said that they equally believe that the Visitor to the Institution and Executive Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Fayemi will use his good office to salvage the plight of the Technologists having promised that the decision of the court will be respected.