Nigeria: Exclusive – ‘Bring My Misery to End,’ Victimised Nigerian Lecturer Begs University Authorities

The University of Uyo had, last year, filed yet another appeal at the Court of Appeal, Calabar, against the judgement of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria which ordered the reinstatement of the ailing lecturer.

Inih Ebong, the ailing lecturer who for over two decades has been battling the University of Uyo over the unlawful termination of his appointment, has appealed to the university authorities to obey the judgement of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria which ordered his reinstatement and compensation.

Mr Ebong’s appeal is contained in a 16 January 2021 letter he wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Nyaudoh Ndaeyo, shortly after his appointment to the office in October 2020.

PREMIUM TIMES exclusively obtained the letter and other documents relating to Mr Ebong’s travails.

“Today, I am virtually bedridden at home while I await the inevitable to happen! May it not be said that the University was awaiting to resolve this matter posthumously.

“I am, therefore, appealing to you to bring my uncertainty and misery to an end by complying with the judgment and order of the National Industrial Court,” Mr Ebong said in the letter to Mr Ndaeyo, a professor.

The 73-year-old lecturer had been diagnosed with cardiac failure in October 2020 and was dying before a Nigerian billionaire, Femi Otedola, stepped in to take care of his medical treatment, following a PREMIUM TIMES report.

Being out of a job for several years, the associate professor of theatre arts could hardly feed himself and his family, let alone take care of his medical treatment.

Apparently to get other potential employers to avoid Mr Ebong, the University of Uyo published a disclaimer on him in Punch newspaper, shortly after his sack in 2002.

Weighed down by hardship, illness, and emotional trauma, Mr Ebong, in the 16 January 2021 letter to Prof Ndaeyo, the vice-chancellor of the university, chronicled his travails and informed him that he was open to a peaceful resolution of the matter.

“Contrary to the impression that I am not amenable to dialogue with the University, I wish to put it on record that successive administration of the University had shut the door at me, making it difficult for me to make any progress in this regard.

“On 31 January 2020, I wrote to your predecessor and forwarded a copy of the aforesaid judgment (of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria) for his perusal and necessary action, but there was no response. Also on 21 May 2020, I wrote to the pro-chancellor, and I am still awaiting his response.

“It is my belief that we can dialogue and bring this saga of injustice to a neat and tidy end, without any further recourse to litigation.

“I am again taking the initiative to reach out to the administration for dialogue, and look forward to your kind reciprocation of this gesture,” Mr Ebong said to the vice-chancellor.

The vice-chancellor, through the then Registrar of the University of Uyo, Aniediabasi Udofia, on 12 March 2021, replied to Mr Ebong’s letter. He told the lecturer that the university was dissatisfied with the judgement of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, and had, therefore, appealed against it.

“It is advisable for parties to await the decision of the court (of appeal),” the university said.

The university had also rebuffed a similar letter from Mr Ebong’s lawyer, Nse Williams.

Ebong’s legal victories

Mr Ebong, since 2002 when his appointment was terminated, has won several court cases against the University of Uyo, but the outstanding victories appear to be the January 2020 judgement of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria which ordered the university to re-instate the lecturer and pay him compensation.

“The stoppage of the Claimant’s salary, the indefinite suspension of him from duties, and the purported termination of his appointment by the Defendants without due process were malicious, ultra vires, and unlawful, and therefore null, void and of no effect whatsoever,” Justice M. A. Namtari declared in his judgment in the case instituted by Mr Ebong in 2017.

The court ordered the University of Uyo to withdraw the termination letter, reinstate Mr Ebong, and pay all his salaries, allowances, and entitlements that would have accrued to him since 1 August 2001, when his salary was stopped, and from 28 March 2002, when his appointment was wrongfully and unlawfully terminated.

The court also ordered the university to pay Mr Ebong the equivalent of his full annual salaries and allowances for the 2001/2002, 2007/2008, and 2014/2015 academic years the lecturer should have gone on sabbatical leave in accordance with the terms and conditions of his employment if his appointment had not been unlawfully suspended and later terminated.

The university, in addition, was ordered to pay Mr Ebong N10 million as damages.

Another major legal victory for Mr Ebong occurred on 21 July 2023 when the Court of Appeal, Calabar, dismissed the University of Uyo’s application for an extension of time for it to file an appeal against the judgment of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the University of Uyo, last year, had filed yet another appeal at the Court of Appeal, Calabar, requesting the court to give an order for a stay of action on the judgement of the National Industrial Court.

The matter could not be heard on a scheduled date – 28 October 2023 – because the court did not sit. Since then the court has yet to give a new date for it.

How Ebong was sacked

The then registrar of the University of Uyo, Peter Effiong, in 2001, had falsely accused Mr Ebong of abandoning his duty while the lecturer was on an annual leave which was authorised and approved by Mr Effiong himself – the lecturer has had to tender in courts the ‘Leave Certificate’ which the then registrar issued to him.

The then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Akpan Ekpo, based on the registrar’s accusation, directed the bursar to stop Mr Ebong’s salary.

Mr Ekpo, a professor, set up a panel to investigate Mr Ebong, but the panel found the lecturer not guilty of the allegation of abandonment of duty and recommended that the university should reverse whatever punishment it had meted out to him. The university ignored the panel’s recommendation.

The University of Uyo, on 18 December 2001, suspended Mr Ebong indefinitely and placed him on half pay after the lecturer sued the authorities over the matter. The university, on 27 March 2002, terminated Mr Ebong’s appointment, after 25 years of service in the Nigerian university system.

Four successive vice-chancellors of the university have refused to reinstate Mr Ebong, despite an unbroken string of legal victories.

Mr Ebong, before his sack, had a running battle with Messrs Ekpo and Effiong who saw him as a thorn in their flesh for speaking up regularly against alleged maladministration and corruption in the school.

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