Nigeria: Exclusive – Nigerian Lecturer Unjustly Sacked 20 Years Ago Wins At Appeal Court

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

Ailing Nigerian lecturer, Inih Ebong, who, for over two decades, has been in a legal battle over the unlawful termination of his appointment, has won at the Court of Appeal, Calabar, against the University of Uyo.

Mr Ebong 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 lecturer 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 to compound his woes, the University of Uyo published a disclaimer on him in some national dailies, shortly after his sack in 2002.

The Court of Appeal, Calabar, on 21 July 2023, dismissed an appeal filed by the University of Uyo against the January 2020 judgement of the National Industrial Court which ordered the university to reinstate Mr Ebong and pay him N10 million damages, in addition to his accumulated salaries and allowances, according to a court document exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.

The University of Uyo, which filed the appeal in 2022, requested an extension of time for it to file an appeal against the judgement of the industrial court.

The Court of Appeal had earlier, in 2022, struck out the university’s appeal after the university withdrew it having realised that it failed to obtain the leave of the appellate court as required by law, before filing it.

“Applicants are caught up by the provision of Order 11 Rule 6, which is to the effect that an appeal once withdrawn under this order, with or without the order of the court, shall be deemed to have been dismissed,” Justice Hamma Barka said in a judgement on the university’s application for extension of time, which he delivered on behalf of a three-man panel of judges.

“From my humble view, and from the foregoing, to grant a further extension of time to the Applicants will not only be tantamount to extending the frontiers of inadvertence of counsel but as held by the Supreme Court, a misconception of the law. I firmly believe that this application does not deserve the sympathy of this court, and accordingly refuse to exercise my discretion in his favour, and accordingly refuse to grant the application. It is hereby dismissed,” the judge ruled.

Apart from Mr Barka, other members of the panel were Justices Balkisu Aliyu and Folasade Ojo.

Fidelis Iteshi was the counsel to the University of Uyo in the case while the lecturer, Mr Ebong, was represented by Nse Williams.

Ebong’s sin?

Mr Ebong was an associate professor in the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Uyo, when his appointment was unlawfully terminated in 2002. Akpan Ekpo and Peter Effiong were the vice-chancellor and registrar of the institution respectively at the time.

Four successive vice-chancellors of the university have refused to reinstate him, 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.

The 73-year-old lecturer, weighed down by hardship, illness, and emotional trauma, appeared tired to continue with the battle against the University of Uyo, and has sought a peaceful settlement of the matter with the school. He wrote a letter twice to the university authorities who rebuffed him.

“The University’s position is that the matter is sub-judice and as such, it is advisable that parties await the decision of the court (of appeal),” Aniediabasi Udofia, the then registrar of the university, said in a 6 April 2021 letter to Mr Ebong.

Mr Williams, counsel to Mr Ebong, on 13 September 2023, a month after the judgement of the Court of Appeal, wrote a letter to the vice-chancellor of the university, demanding the implementation of the judgement of the National Industrial Court.

“The Court of Appeal has now decided, and it is final. All that we demand of you now is to within 14 days from today, make good your above-quoted words and position (stated by the then registrar, Udofia) by obeying and complying with every provision of the said judgement and order of the National Industrial Court, Uyo, dated 23 January 2020,” the lawyer wrote in the letter.

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.

‘My body is breaking down’

When PREMIUM TIMES spoke on the phone with Mr Ebong on Monday, he sounded weak and could barely speak. He wanted our reporter to speak with the wife, instead.

“I was at the hospital today,” he muttered. “My body is breaking down. I am weak.”


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