Industrial Court orders Kwara State University to reinstate Prof Innocent Okoye
The Presiding Judge, Benin Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Adunola Adewemimo has nullified the appointment termination of the Prof. Innocent Okoye from Kwara State University Malete, ordered reinstatement with payment of salaries and entitlements from the date of the unlawful termination 16th January, 2018 till finally reinstated.
The Court held that the procedure leading to the termination of the appointment of the Prof. Okoye did not follow the principles of fair hearing as provided in the Kwara State University Law, 2008 and Kwara State University Conditions of Service and Regulations.
The Claimant- Prof Okoye pleaded that while appearing before the Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee on 13/11/2017 many allegations were leveled against him but the names of the alleged complainants were not disclosed and none of them was present before the committee.
He stated that he did not hear of any further development on the matter, until the letter dated the 16th January, 2018 titled “Termination of Appointment” was served on him. He averred that the entire process leading to the termination of his appointment did not comply with the university condition of service and due process of law.
That he was traumatized by the consequential stigmatization which the process brought upon him, as the news went viral on social media as well as on the University Bulletin.
In reaction, the defendants pleaded that claimant was issued a query on allegation of misconduct but his response was found unsatisfactory and the language discourteous, which again constituted an act of gross misconduct against the university.
The defendants averred that the claimant did not dispute his knowledge of the allegation of misconduct but the Committee, after deliberating on the evidence presented before it, recommended the termination of the claimant’s employment, prayed the court to dismiss the case for being vexatious, that the Law was aptly and duly followed in terminating the claimant’s employment.
In his reply, claimant averred that his reaction/answer to the query was devoid of undignified, unguided and discourteous language and same does not amount to any gross misconduct.
Furthermore, Learned counsel to the defendants argued that the proceedings of SSD&SHPC which found the claimant liable for acts of misconduct cannot be a subject of an appeal before the court that, there is no cogent evidence before this court suggesting that the claimant is not guilty of the misconduct he was accused of.
The claimant’s counsel prayed the Court not only to discountenance the submissions of the Defendants but to also hold that the termination of the Claimant’s appointment cannot be justified in the circumstances of the case and same is liable to be declared null and void.
Delivering Judgment, the trial Judge, Justice Adewemimo held that the position that the court will not and should not interfere in the internal affairs of a University is not absolute that in order to successfully and effectively resist the interference by the court in its affairs, the institution must be seen to have acted within its powers.
“There is no dispute that the issuance of query initiated the disciplinary proceedings against the claimant. However, I find that the issuance of query is not in consonance with the provisions of the law, as there is no evidence that the Council delegated the power to issue same to the Registrar or any iota of evidence that the Council and Management are the same.
“It is in view of the non-compliance to the provisions of the statutes guiding the claimant’s employment that I find that the entire process leading to the termination of the claimant’s appointment, having been done in breach of laws regulating the employment relationship of the parties is fundamentally flawed and invalid.” Justice Adewemimo ruled.
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