ASUU’s Objections on State of FUOYE, Unethical Recruitment, Behind Our Unlawful Sack – Dr Akinyemi G. Omonijo

Dr Omonijo

IT’s been a prolonged battle between the authorities of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State (FUOYE) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) led by its chairperson, Dr Akinyemi Gabriel Omonijo. Typical of ASUU’s struggles, the disagreement began when the union’s chapter stood up to what it saw as unethical recruitment and promotion practices by the university management. What followed were the suspension and subsequent termination of the appointments of those suspected to be behind the ‘trouble’ on some unspecified allegations of ‘misconduct’.

In this interview with NATIONAL RECORD, Dr Omonijo, who is of FUOYE’s Department of Water Resources Management and Agrometeorology, Faculty of Agriculture, spoke on the genesis of the crisis that led to the prolonged litigations in which he and his colleague, Dr Adeyemi Ezekiel Oluwagbemiga, trumped the university, and even after their victories, they have still been refused reinstatement. Read the details in the excerpts below:

National Record (NR): We have noticed that since your victory at the National Industrial Court (NIC), the authorities of FUOYE have refused to obey the orders of the court; we would like to know the issues hindering the execution of the judgement?

Dr Akinyemi Omonijo: The management and authorities of the Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) have deliberately been delaying the implementation of the consent judgement of the National Industrial Court since 29th July, 2021 in my case. As a result of this inexplicable delay, Mr Taiwo Omidoyin, Esq. from Falana and Falana’s Chambers, my counsel in the litigation, wrote a letter to them. In the letter, dated 8th October, 2021, Falana demanded of FUOYE to implement the judgment.

While trying to implement the judgment, the university however introduced some caveats that are not in line with the consent judgment of the court. In a letter of reinstatement of my appointment written to me, dated 10th November, 2021, and signed by Ag. Registrar and Secretary to Council of FUOYE, Mr Ibrahim Mufutau, the university surprisingly stated that it may institute a criminal case against me and that further disciplinary actions would be taken against me irrespective of the outcome of the court.

The university further stated in the letter that I must sign an undertaking to be of good behaviour henceforth; and that a letter of advice be served on me to desist from any act of misconduct that could disrupt the current peace and tranquillity being enjoyed in the university.

My lawyers responded in a letter dated 14th December, 2021 in which they urged the Governing Council to comply with the consent judgement of the National Industrial Court. The letter noted specifically that the judgement of the court did not attach any condition for my reinstatement. On 23rd December, 2021, the university replied to reiterate its earlier position.

So, as at today, the university has not honoured the terms of the consent judgement to which the Vice Chancellor of FUOYE, Prof. Abayomi Sunday Fasina, is a signatory. That consent judgement was delivered by His Lordship, Hon. Justice K. D. Damulak on 29th July, 2021, and there was not a single precondition attached to my reinstatement.

NR: The court’s decisions, we observed, were based entirely on a mutual agreement between your side and FUOYE’s representatives; can you give us some background on the process that led to the consent judgement, how it started, who initiated it, and the people involved?

Dr Omonijo: The out-of-court settlement mentioned by FUOYE’s Media Team in its press statement reported by a number of newspapers was initiated by the university at the instance of Prof. Fasina who was then Vice-Chancellor designate. This was prior to his inauguration, and I assume that he initiated the peace process so that his inauguration as the fourth substantive Vice-Chancellor of the University on 11th February, 2021 could not be truncated due to many crises in the university at the time.

Dr Omonijo

This reconciliation meeting was convened by the duo of Prof. Adekunle Adegun, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti and Prof. Biyi Daramola, former Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Akure with the aim of resolving a crisis between ASUU-FUOYE and the then VC designate so that ASUU could stop escalating the news and petition against VC on the allegation of collection of double salaries both at the Ekiti State University and also at the FUOYE simultaneously, as well as negotiate out-of-court settlement in all the litigations at the court against the university.

The action of Prof. Fasina, that is, the collection of double salaries in two different institutions simultaneously constitutes criminal act and misconduct that is punishable under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 [As Amended; code of conduct for Public Officers, part 1 (2)] and the extant Public Service Rules, 2009 [PSR; Chapter 3, section 4, 030401 and 030402 (q)].

The reconciliation meeting was held at the Koltotel Hotel, Ado-Ekiti on Sunday, 31st January, 2021 between representatives of FUOYE which comprised Prof. Fasina, then VC designate, Prof. Adegun, and Prof. Biyi Daramola on the one hand, and on the other hand, and representatives of ASUU-FUOYE led by me as the Chairperson. There were two observers at the meeting and they include Hon. Ade Omonijo and Engr. Femi Aguda. This meeting was held with the full knowledge of ASUU President, ASUU Zonal Coordinator, Akure Zone and our Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN). At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that all cases should be resolved through out-of-court settlement.

Following this meeting, the VC set up a reconciliation committee under the chairmanship of Prof. Olugbenga Amu. Other members included Prof. Sola Omotola, who is now, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Administration; Prof. Segun Fakayode; Dr Chika Azokgwa; Dr Dayo Sobowale Senior Special Assistant to the VC on General Administration; and Mr Osamoka, who served as Secretary.

As Chairman of the Reconciliation Committee, Prof. Amu met with the leadership of Akure Zone of ASUU at the ASUU-EKSU Secretariat on Monday, 22nd February, 2021 for total reconciliation with the Union. All of us who were unjustly sacked; myself and in the capacity as chairperson of ASUU-FUOYE, Dr Oluwagbemiga Adeyemi and Dr Oniyide Akingbe, former Ag. Dean, Faculty of Art also appeared before the reconciliation committee on Tuesday, 23rd February, 2021. At that point, our cases were already in court. After the meeting, the Committee recommended out-of-court settlement for all cases.

Apart from this meeting, another one was held at the same Koltotel Hotel, Ado-Ekiti on Saturday, 15th May, 2021. This meeting was facilitated by Dr (Mrs) Akinola, Prof. Fasina’s sister-in-law. Present at the meeting were Prof. Fasina himself and his wife, Dr (Mrs) Bosede Fasina; myself and my wife, Mrs Temilola Omonijo; Dr Dayo Sobowale, a lecturer in FUOYE who is now a Senior Special Assistant to the VC on General Administration; and our lawyer, Mr Bayo Idowu who was handling the case of collection of double salaries by the VC.

At this meeting, Prof. Fasina confessed that he carried out all the actions on the directive of Prof. Kayode Soremekun, FUOYE’s former VC as a sign of his loyalty and precondition to succeed him as VC. He said he was just an extra-tyre in the administration of Prof. Kayode Soremekun. After his confession, both Prof. Fasina and his wife appealed to us and our lawyer to sheathe our sword.

NR: Comrade, let’s get something clear here; are you saying that this crisis began when the former VC was in office?

Dr Omonijo: The face-off between ASUU-FUOYE branch and FUOYE’s management started in 2018 when Prof. Kayode Soremekun was the VC and Prof. Fasina, the current VC, the DVC of the University. The face-off was due to illegal recruitment, appointment, promotion and abnormal placement.

As I was saying, after several meetings and discussions between the VC, myself and our respective counsel, we eventually agreed on terms of settlement which we all signed and presented to the court as consent judgement. Myself as claimant, my counsel, Mrs Funmi Falana Esq. from Falana & Falana Chambers, while the VC on behalf of FUOYE and Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN as the defence counsel; all signed the terms of settlement. This was filed on 26th July, 2021 at the court and consequently, a consent judgment was entered by His Lordship, Hon. Justice K. D. Damulak on 29th July, 2021 without any pre-condition attached.

NR: Why or how was it that only you reached the consent agreement with FUOYE, what happened to the other cases?

Dr Omonijo: I was aware that the University Reconciliation Committee headed by Prof. Olugbenga Amu recommended an out-of-court settlement for the three cases that involved ASUU members in the University. Why the University decided to reach an out-of-court settlement in my case alone is what I don’t know.

NR: How many of you, I mean lecturers, who are or were initially suspended and eventually sacked, and how many went to court?

Dr Omonijo: Three of us were involved; Dr Oniyide Akingbe was dismissed, appointment of Dr Oluwagbemiga Adeyemi was terminated while I was suspended without pay. All these happened in 2018 and 2019 and all of us went to court. Let me mention that Dr Oluwagbemiga Adeyemi has won his case at both the National Industrial Court of Nigeria and Appeal Court but the university has appealed the judgment to the Supreme Court in order to waste time unnecessarily because labour matters at NICN cannot get to the Supreme Court.

In my own case, I was not sacked but suspended without pay and there is no provision for such action in the Federal University Oye-Ekiti (Establishment) Act and the Conditions of Service.

NR: I am not a lawyer, but are you saying that a lecturer cannot be disciplined by the authorities of the university if he or she is deemed to have violated some established codes of conduct or misbehaved?

Dr Omonijo: A lecturer can be disciplined if he or she violated any of the regulations of the university. The management and authority of the University will state in clear term, the offense committed by the staff and due process of discipline must be followed according to the establishment Act of the university under “Part IV – Supervision and Discipline”, Section 17 (3 – 6).

NR: Why didn’t FUOYE settle out of court or decide on consent judgement the other case(s)? Was it that authorities of FUOYE are of the view that you’re the core person behind the litigation and by ending your matter, the other cases will also end?

Dr Omonijo: The university reconciliation committee, chaired by Prof. Amu recommended an out-of-court settlement for all the three cases. He had equally told the leadership of the Akure Zone of ASUU earlier during his meeting with the Zone that the University is committed to total and genuine reconciliation with the union. Why the university decided not to implement the recommendation of the committee in this matter is unknown to me. Even in my case that consent judgment was entered in the court; the authorities of FUOYE did not comply with the judgement.

NR: What is the response of your lawyers, vis-à-vis FUOYE’s lawyers, particularly those who were signatories to the consent judgement to the current position of FUOYE?

Dr Omonijo: Ordinarily, nobody would be happy after putting much energy into an exercise and at the end, it was aborted. My lawyers were not happy because it took them a lot of time to prepare the terms of settlement and finalised it for signatures before it was filed at the court and subsequently entered as a consent judgement of the court. To my lawyers, it was considered as a ploy to unnecessarily waste public fund and valuable time and continue with the litigation in order to delay justice. I am not in the position to speak for FUOYE’s counsel.

NR: Has there been any correspondence between Falana SAN and Adegboruwa SAN on the current standoff?

Dr Omonijo: The two counsel are Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and I believe they have many things to share professionally. I learnt that the two of them are close but the extent of their closeness is what I don’t know. However, during one of the court sessions in this case, the interaction between my counsel and Mr Adegboruwa SAN before and after the court session indicated that they are close. There were a lot of discussions between the two of them during the preparation of terms of agreement for an out-of-court settlement in this case, but I cannot say if maybe the two counsel discuss the current position of FUOYE on the matter.

NR: I noticed that FUOYE did not specifically state in its letters to you the reasons for your suspension, neither did it write any letter sacking you; we only got to know or read from the court papers that you were sacked. What are the issues, both real and imagined?

Dr Omonijo: This struggle started on 11th May, 2018 when the congress of ASUU-FUOYE took a resolution on how the university was being administered without recourse to law and regulations that established it.

The congress constituted a five-man committee chaired by Dr Oluwagbemiga Adeyemi to collate information on events and happenings in the university. For example, there were illegal recruitments and appointments, illegal promotions, fraud, official corruption, name them.

Typical examples of illegal recruitments include; one, an individual was recommended for the position of Lecturer I by the Department and Faculty but was appointed as Senior Lecturer by the Administration. Two, another person who was recommended for the position of Lecturer I was, on the contrary, appointed as Senior Lecturer by the administration, and in less than a week of his resumption in the university, he was promoted to the cadre of Associate Professor. That person is now a full professor.

Another issue was the collection of double salaries by the current VC at two different institutions at the same time. These are just to mention few of the infractions. It is important to let the government and general public know that situation in FUOYE is worse than what happened in MOUAU [Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudikwe] and what is currently ongoing in FUTO [Federal University of Technology, Owerri].

When the committee reported back to the congress on all these issues, the congress mandated it to develop into a detailed document titled “State of Federal University Oye-Ekiti: Matters Arising” for submission to the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of FUOYE.

The report was later submitted to the present Honourable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu by the Comrade President of ASUU in 2018 when the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of FUOYE did not do anything with the report.

After the submission of the report to the minister FUOYE’s Council invited me as ASUU Chairperson and others to an Investigation Panel for interaction. The invitation to me was contained in a letter dated 11th February, 2019. Further to my appearance before the panel on 13th February, 2019, two letters of suspension from the university without pay dated 14th and 15th February, 2019 and signed by Mrs Olayinka Adeniran-Ajayi, former Ag. Registrar, were issued to me. Regrettably, the Minister of Education did not follow up on the matter.

After my suspension, my counsel, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) wrote to FUOYE’s Council that their decision on the matter did not comply with the law and it should be reversed. The university refused to act according to the law on this matter. In view of this, we approached National Industrial Court for redress on 29th April, 2019.

Let me state categorically that I was never sacked, but suspended without pay. There was no letter to me from the university sacking me. The two letters written to me from the university only mentioned suspension without pay and none of these two letters mentioned my offence. I got to know about my purported sacking through the media and via a letter of reinstatement of appointment written to me by the university.

NR: We learnt that the crisis also has a link to the crisis surrounding Prof Fasina, the VC of FUOYE’s saga of collection of double salaries, one at the EKITI State University and another at FUOYE. Is that true?

Dr Omonijo: Yes, Prof. Fasina did collect double salaries both at the Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti and FUOYE under false pretence between year 2016 and 2017 with documentary evidences.

NR: How did it come to public notice that the VC actually collected double salaries, and was he indicted by any committee or panel set up by either FUOYE or the state university?

Dr Omonijo: The issue of collection of double salaries by Prof. Fasina at the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado-Ekiti and FUOYE between 2016 and 2017 came to the public knowledge when Dr Oluwagbemiga Adeyemi included it in the processes he filed in the court to challenge termination of his appointment by FUOYE in 2018.

As a follow-up to the above, the matter was published by an online medium [International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR]. Meanwhile, Prof. Fasina who was Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Federal University Oye-Ekiti then reacted through another online medium [Premium Times] and denied that he never collected double salaries at any time. However, in his reaction to ASUU publication in the main stream media in 2019, he confessed that he did collect double salaries in the above-mentioned two institutions and that he has started paying back.

In the year 2020, Mr Bayo Idowu, Esq an Ado-Ekiti based legal practitioner wrote a petition against Prof. Fasina to both EKSU and FUOYE on this allegation of collection of double salaries. Instead of FUOYE to investigate the petition, it hired a lawyer with public funds to defend him. In the case of petition submitted to EKSU, the state university investigated the petition and the report of their petition was sent to the above-mentioned legal practitioner. Prof. Fasina was indicted in the report of the committee constituted by EKSU.

In 2021, another committee was constituted by the Ekiti State University to review the report of the earlier committee on Prof. Fasina. The committee invited Mr Idowu to appear on 9th February, 2021 before it with his clients to defend their petition against Prof. Fasina. The committee also invited Prof. Fasina to appear before it. Prof Fasina did not appear before the committee on the same day with us, but we later heard that he promised to appear before the committee on 16th February, 2021 after his inauguration as the fourth substantive VC of FUOYE.

The report of the second committee to review the report of the earlier committee on Prof. Fasina was not released to Mr Idowu by EKSU management. However, a reliable source within the university said the report of the review committee on Prof. Fasina indicted him. The first and second committees constituted by EKSU management on collection of double salaries by Prof. Fasina both at the Ekiti State University, and FUOYE were chaired by Professors. L. K. Olofintoye, and S. O. Kolawole.

NR: Are the Ekiti State Government, the Federal Ministry of Education and the Ministers of Education officially aware of this double salary matter and what action has they taken?

Dr Omonijo: Petitions were submitted to the Ekiti State Government, the Federal Ministry of Education, Ministers of Education, Executive Secretary, National University Commission and FUOYE’s Governing Council by Hon. ‘Bayo Idowu, Esq. Despite several petitions against Prof. Fasina, he was still appointed as FUOYE VC contrary to the position of the Constition of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

NR: What is the position or intervention of ASUU on the litigation?

Dr Omonijo: In the beginning of this struggle, ASUU submitted a petition to the Minister of Education and Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission for their intervention in FUOYE. The union has held several press conferences on events and happenings in FUOYE with a view to letting the general public know the ongoing struggle in FUOYE and possibly to get the federal government’s intervention like that of UNILAG. In as much as we are convinced that our protests are not ignored, we are of the opinion that justice delayed, is justice denied. This is in conformity with the saying that “a stitch in time saves ninth”. Let me mention that our union is responsible for all our cases in the court.

NR: What is ASUU’s position on the double salary matter?

Dr Omonijo: Petition was written and submitted to the Honourable Minister of Education by ASUU on the collection of double salaries by Prof. Fasina, current FUOYE’s VC. It was even published in the main stream newspaper that Minister of Education demanded for the report of the committee on the matter from Ekiti State University, Vice-Chancellor and which was provided to him. Since then, no further information on the matter.

NR: With the issue still unresolved, how are you and others involved in this unending crisis surviving?

Dr Omonijo: You know it cannot be easy for someone with family not to receive salary for more than three years. However, we give thanks unto God for His faithfulness and mercy over our lives. We appreciate our Union (ASUU) and the general public for their support.


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