The National Industrial Court (NIC) has dismissed the suit filed by a former lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU), Dr. Scholastica Ebarefimia Udegbe, challenging her dismissal from the institution.
The ruling was presided over by Justice Nelson Ogbuanya in Lagos.
Udegbe, who was a lecturer, and a one-time acting H.O.D in the marketing department, Faculty of Management Sciences, was dismissed by the LASU Governing Council in 2017, based on gross misconduct, precisely alteration of students’ results.
Before her dismissal, Udegbe who was appointed in 2001 as lecturer 1 and promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2012, saw a reversal of her promotion in 2016. The reversal was on grounds of alleged non-compliance with the advertised requirement.
After her demotion, Udegbe sued the University in the suit marked NICN/LA/685/16, challenging the action. She was queried for allegedly altering students’ results. Subsequently, she faced a disciplinary panel which indicted her and demanded that a 3-month suspension without pay as well as, barring her from holding any administrative post in the University for 3 years should be an appropriate punishment.
Then, the University governing council, in its consideration of the panel report instead dismissed her from the University for gross misconduct bordering on alteration of results.
In her reaction to the dismissal, she approached the NIC, beseeching the court to declare that the purported dismissal was illegal, null and void. According to her, it was not part of the recommendations of the disciplinary panel and due process was not followed.
Dr. Udegbe was named the 1st defendant with her counsel, J. Kadiri (who argued on her behalf) while the governing council was named the 2nd defendant in the suit filed.
During the suit, Udegbe asked the court to declare that her appointment with the 1st defendant subsists, same having not been properly determined. Also, the claimant (Dr. Udegbe) pled before the court to make an order, mandating the defendants to reinstate her employment including all renumerations and entitlements owed her from September 2017 when she was “dismissed unlawfully”, till judgment is delivered with interest at 21% yearly.
The claimant proceeded to ask for the sum of N50 million which covers general damages for unlawful dismissal, which caused her psychological trauma, shock, mental agony, depression, embarrassment, inconveniences and financial impecuniosity, among others.
On the other hand, the defendants, through their counsel, Mr. Norrison Quakers (SAN), argued that the 2nd defendant (Governing Council) as the final authority of the 1st defendant’s University has the right and ability to take decision to dismiss the claimant as the appropriate disciplinary measure, as long as the alleged infraction against the claimant is established; which is tantamount to gross misconduct and attracts punishment of dismissal.
The defendants’ counsel urged the court to dismiss the suit and uphold the claimant (Dr. Udegbe Scholastica)’s dismissal from the service of the 1st defendant’s University.
However, Justice Ogbuanya, in his decision on July 29, 2021 dismissed the suit and held that the dismissal was valid. He held that the disciplinary panel that sat over the matter acted beyond its authority when it diverted the original allegation of infraction of ‘gross misconduct’, which it investigated and made findings in its report.
The judge, then, recommended a lesser punishment under a different offence of ‘breach of laid down operational procedure’.
In Judge Nelson’s words: “The said recommendation of suspension and administrative sanctions is perverse, and is hereby set aside. I so hold. On a final analysis, I have come to an irresistible view, that the 2nd defendant, (the Governing Council), acting as the final authority, rightly and validly took the decision to enter a dismissal as against suspension and other administrative sanctions recommended by the Joint Senate/Council Disciplinary (Academic) Committee in respect of the claimant’s infraction bordering on alteration of students’ results, which amounts to gross misconduct, punishable by dismissal, in line with extant law and condition of service guiding their employment relationship.”
“The said dismissal of the claimant is hereby upheld. In this circumstance, I find no merit in this suit. Same is hereby dismissed in its entirety along with the reliefs thereto, since success of the reliefs sought depends on the favourable outcome of the legal issues underpinning the dispute. I so hold,” he added.
The judge faulted the University for not reversing the manipulated scores unlawfully awarded to the benefitted students as recommended by the Council; and so, ordered the University to do so.
The order reads: “The Results/Certificates of the affected students should be re-called for re-computation and re-issue to reflect the correct Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) and Class of Degree.”
“Compliance shall be published in a National Newspaper within two months of this Judgment, and the defendants’ counsel shall file evidence of such compliance in the case file. I so hold and order. Judgment is entered accordingly and I make no order as to cost,” he held.
Source: The Guardian.ng