The National Industrial Court’s Owerri Judicial Division has declared the withdrawal of Professor Vincent Eleasor’s appointment from the rank of Professor of Mathematics to Senior Lecturer by Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, as ultra vires, null and void and ineffective.
The court also ordered that Eleasor University reinstate all rights and claims as a professor of mathematics and continue to pay its salaries, benefits, and allowances as a professor.
It was found that the alleged reversal did not meet the university’s terms of service for officers in 2017 and was not only wrong, it was also extremely depressing.
The Claimant – Professor Eleasor had submitted that he would be offered an appointment to the Department of Mathematics and requested that he be assigned to the position of Associate Professor until his appointment was regularized. By letter dated December 16, 2014, he was subsequently confirmed and his appointment approved as professor with effect from January 10, 2014. Continuation of an assessment by the institution.
However, by letter dated May 20, 2019, it was determined that his alleged downgrading from professor to lecturer, without giving him a fair hearing, was in violation of his fundamental rights, and while the lawsuit was pending, the institution continued despite his protest enforce a cut in his wages.
In defense, defendant attorney Emma Ukaegbu argued that the case was premature and incompetent, since the applicant had never used the machinery for internal settlement before filing the lawsuit that the accused had such powers to ensure that the claimant was correct In his rank and position as an employee of the institution, that the applicant had been mistakenly appointed associate professor in the past, subsequent administration had the authority to correct such errors by ordering the proper placement of its employees.
The lawyer argued that it was illegal and unjust for the Claimant to receive an appointment for which he was not qualified. Therefore, the accused must be considered acting in the best interest of the public and the institution that the Claimant was not fairly refused hearing, but refused to use the invitation sent to him to appear before the committee.
In contrast, the Claimant’s lawyer, Alex Eyong and Francis Eyong, argued that the accused’s act to “properly place” this Claimant constitutes a “downgrading” that, in the public service field, is a disciplinary measure tantamount to error in the case of employees of whom the Claimant is entitled to question whether he has been granted a fair hearing before determining his civil rights that the institution cannot rely on the provision of the FUA Act to avoid liability.
After carefully examining the statements and arguments of both lawyers, the presiding judge, Judge Ibrahim Galadima, decided that the composition of the lawsuit was competent and not premature.
“This court carefully examined the defendant’s entire statements and arguments to find out where he specifically cited or mentioned those provisions of the law that empower the defendant to properly staff its personnel where their appointments are considered irregular place.
“The conclusion of this court, and I have to be excused for this, is that the accused has a distorted idea that it is an inherent power of the Claimant’s employer to manipulate his rank or status in office as he pleases without sound or concrete legal support.
“Having been appointed in this way, it is tangible that if his appointment is to be changed or downgraded, he must at least be given a good reason for it and possibly be given a fair hearing. The fact is that the institution’s appointment and promotion committee approved it when it was appointed in 2014, and as such there is a presumption of regularity in its qualification for this position.
“On the whole and for all the reasons mentioned above, the defendant’s invalidation and withdrawal of the Claimant’s appointment as professor, see Annex C3 of 20 May 2019, is not only wrong, but also extremely depressing.”
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