Falana Kicks as FUOYE Refuses Court-Ordered Reinstatement of Sacked ASUU Chairman

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FALANA & Falana Chambers has asked authorities of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) to comply with a consent judgment of the National Industrial Court (NIC) which ordered the reinstatement of suspended Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), FUOYE Chapter or face contempt proceedings.

In a letter to the Registrar (Ag.) and Secretary to Council of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State, dated December 14, 2021, entitled “Re: Letter of Reinstatement of Appointment”, Joshua T. Omidoyin, Esq on behalf of Falana & Falana Chambers, demanded the authorities of FUOYE to comply with the consent judgement of the Akure Division of the NIC which did not attach any precondition for the reinstatement of Dr Akinyemi Gabriel Omonijo, the Chairman of ASUU, FUOYE Chapter.

“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 behaviour on the part of our client is not part of the terms of the judgement. 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 client should reflect the terms of the enrolled judgment of the National Industrial Court,” the law firm demanded.

Genesis of litigation

The litigation between Dr Omonijo and the authorities of FUOYE began when the institution in a letter dated 14th February, 2019 sent the senior lecturer on suspension without pay on unspecified allegations.

In the suspension letter signed by the then Ag. Registrar and Secretary to Council, Mrs Olayinka Adeniran-Ajayi, Dr Omonijo of the Department of Water Resources Management and Agro-Meteorology, was suspended without pay following “findings” of “an investigation panel to investigate the allegations made in a petition by ASUU-FUOYE Chapter.”

The Registrar (Ag.), in the letter, entitled: “SUSPENSION WITHOUT PAY FROM THE UNIVERSITY,” stated: “You would recall that the University Management had earlier constituted an investigation Panel to investigate the allegations made in a petition by ASUU-FUOYE Chapter, Federal University Oye-Ekiti.

“Arising from the Panel’s findings; and in line with the University Regulations Governing the Conditions of Service of Senior Staff, the Vice-Chancellor, in consultation with the Chairman of Council, and on behalf of the Governing Council, has directed that your appointment in the University be suspended without pay with immediate effect, pending the final determination of the case by appropriate organs of the University.

“You are hereby directed to hand over all the University property in your possession to the Head of your Department immediately. Your Staff Identity Card should be submitted to the Personnel Affairs Division.

“You are also advised to stay away from the premises of the University except otherwise expressed in writing to you.”

The letter was silent on the circumstances that led to the setting up of an investigation panel, the composition of the panel, its findings, whether the ASUU Chairman was given fair hearing by the panel and alleged offences that might have been committed by Dr Omonijo which warranted his indefinite suspension without pay.

Lecturer Challenges Suspension

Omonijo challenged the suspension in a suit filed at the Akure Division of the NIC presided over by His Lordship, the Honourable Justice K.D. Damulak, on 29th April, 2019 against FUOYE praying for a declaration that his “purported suspension without pay” from the services of FUOYE via letters dated 14th and 15th February, 2019 “is null and void and of no effect;” a declaration that the suspension “on account of the petition sent to the Minister of Education” by FUOYE Chapter of ASUU “is illegal as it violates the provision of Trade Union Act,” and an order setting aside FUOYE’s letters of suspension without pay dated 14th and 15th February, 2019 as same is unknown to law.

The ASUU Chairman also prayed for an order directing FUOYE to reinstate him “to his status as Senior Lecturer and to pay his salaries, allowances and entitlements from February, 2019 till judgment is given in this suit,” and an order restraining FUOYE “from further interfering with his “rights, privilege and performance of his duties as the chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the Defendant’s chapter.”

The Settlement

The matter dragged on from April, 2019, up to 26th July, 2021 when Dr Omonijo and FUOYE reached an amicable settlement that resulted in a consent judgment, which was signed and sealed by Dr Omonijo as claimant, Prof Abayomi Fasina, Vice-Chancellor of FUOYE, Mrs Funmi Falana Esq., claimant’s counsel and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, defendant’s counsel.

Parties, in the consent judgment, agreed among other terms, 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; that Dr Omonijo “shall be re-instated by FUOYE “upon the Court entering these terms as its judgment in this case;” that Dr Omonijo “shall be paid his outstanding salaries and allowances from February 14, 2019 to June 1, 2021” and that Dr Omonijo shall permanently withdraw and discontinue “all his claims against FUOYE “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.”

The judgement also stated that “the effective date of this agreement shall be the day of entering of these terms as judgment of the court” and that “the parties to this suit hereby agree that terms herein contained shall be made judgment of this Honourable Court.”

FUOYE Insists on Conditions for Reinstatement

While responding to Falana and Falana Chamber’s letter requesting for the unconditional reinstatement of Dr Omonijo, current Registrar (Ag.) and Secretary to Council of FUOYE, Mufutau A. Ibrahim, in a letter dated 23rd December, 2021, insisted that the ASUU chairman must sign an undertaking to be of good conduct.

He also introduce a new allegation against Dr Omonijo stating that he was reinstated on compassionate grounds as he had “been previously dismissed from the services of the University” and that the earlier decision to reinstate him was on compassionate ground.

The letter reads: “I write to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated 15th December, 2021 on the above subject matter in favour of your client, Dr, Akinyemi G. Omonijo.

“You will recall that a letter dated 10th November, 2021 was written to Dr Akinyemi G. Omonijo for his reinstatement after the University Governing Council had considered the consent judgment obtained for out of Court settlement and all the conditions required for his reinstatement.

“Consequently, the Governing Council of the University at its 26th Statutory Meeting held on Thursday, 16th December, 2021 reiterated as follows:

“i. the earlier decision to reinstate Dr Akinyemi G. Omonijo was on compassionate grounds having been previously dismissed from the services of the University;

“ii. the demand to have Dr Akinyemi G. Omonijo sign and undertaking and henceforth be of good conduct does not in any way violate the consent judgment. As his employer, the University Governing Council reserves the right to give that condition for reinstatement in line with the extant regulations of Staff discipline;

“iii. the University as an institution is governed by Statutory Laws and Ordinances, which are also known to the Industrial Court; and,

“iv. please note that the consent judgment does not specify the procedure for the reinstatement of Dr Omonijo.

“v. Therefore, you are requested to advise Dr Akinyemi G. Omonijo to be of good conduct and moral behaviours as a University Lecturer, a policy matter which does not violate the content of the consent judgment.”

FOUYE Spokesperson Speaks

When contacted by National Record Tuesday afternoon and asked on the specific allegations against Dr Omonijo, Ag. Registrar, Mufutau A. Ibrahim said he doesn’t speak to the press and that he only carries out instructions of the University’s Council.

The Chairman of Council, Dr Muhammadu Yahuza, did not pick his call when contacted and text messages sent to him were not responded to as at press time.

However, FUOYE’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mr Foluso Ogunmodede, who was called earlier but didn’t pick, called back and when asked on the matter responded that he had issued a statement Tuesday on the issue and would therefore prefer to send it the National Record, which was promptly done.

The statement which he forwarded to National Record reinforced the decision of FUOYE Council stressing that the ASUU Chairman can only be reinstated upon signing an undertaking to be of good conduct. He said there were litigations involving another lecturer which he said had been appealed by the university after it lost at the NIC.

When asked the specific offence committed by Dr Omonijo as against the blanket allegation of “serious misconduct” and why the university has suddenly switched from the documented suspension to “dismissal for serious misconduct”, Mr Ogunmodede said: “My brother it’s a long story which I don’t intend to delve into. This statement is our position which you can work with alongside documents in your possession.”

Dr Omonijo speaks

When contacted and asked the specific offence he was alleged to have committed to warrant his suspension, Dr Omonijo said he had never been accused of any particular offence. Asked if he has issues with the authorities as Chairperson of FUOYE’s ASUU, he admitted that the branch as a whole has issues on the nature of recruitment of fresh lecturers who were given accelerated promotion above their more experienced colleagues.

“There was no crisis per se. What happened was that the former Vice-Chancellor and the current one, he was the DVC [Deputy Vice-Chancellor) Academic; they were just recruiting people without assessing them. It was such that somebody who is supposed to be Lecturer 1, they will just give the person Associate Professor and in a few days they will promote the person again. Meanwhile the person that will be recommended by the faculty to be lecturer 1, they will just place him on Senior lecturer. While others are there putting in their papers, they will tell them that it has not come, which means that they are disadvantaged.

“As a result of this, ASUU held a congress in 2018 and a committee was set up to develop a report called State of the Federal University Oye-Ekiti: Matters Arising. This report was given to the Vice-Chancellor to look at and see the complaints of staff. When he did not do anything, the report was given to the Council as directed by the congress, which also said a copy should be sent to the ASUU President, then, it was Prof Ogunyemi.”

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