By Ngozi Njoku
The National Industrial Court in Lagos on Thursday ordered the Lagos State University (LASU) and its governing council to reinstate a lecturer, Dr Udegbe Ebarefimia to the post of Senior Lecturer in the Department of Marketing, Faculty of Management Science.
In a ruling by Justice Maureen Esowe, the court also ordered that Udegbe be paid her salary differential with effect from the period of her demotion to the position of Lecturer I to the effective date of her dismissal as well as all her salaries and entitlements from September 2017 when she was dismissed unlawfully on allegations, which turned out to be false.
Justice Esowe’s orders were sequel to the terms of settlement by the parties in the suit No. NICN/LA/435/2021 and Suit No. NICN/LA/685/2016.
The orders also by implication set aside the judgment in the suit marked NICN/LA/597/2017.
The claimant, Dr. Udegbe, had instituted a suit marked No NICN/LA/685/2016 against the Lagos State University (LASU) and the Lagos State University governing council, Ojo, as first and second respondents respectively.
She filed the suits to challenge her demotion and wrongful termination of her employment on unproven allegation.
In her originating motion, dated November 17, 2021, filed by her counsel, Mr. Jeff Kadiri of Penache Legal Practitioners and Mr. Tope David, had prayed the court to declare null and void the illegal dismissal of the senior lecturer over unproven allegation.
The institution had alleged her of alteration of marks and manipulating of result as a result, her appointment as senior lecturer was vindictively withdrawn by the respondents, which form prompted her to file a suit against the respondents, challenging the wrongful withdrawal of her hard-earned appointment before Justice Obaseki in suit No. NICN/LA/686/16.
Whilst the case before Justice Obaseki was still pending, on April 5, 2017, she was issued a query, titled, ‘Allegation of Alteration of Marks,’ accusing her of manipulating result.
The allegation of manipulation of student’s result levelled against her was never proved as the purported student whose result was said to have been manipulated did not appear before the respondents’ disciplinary committee and nobody came up to testify against the claimant hence the panel recommended that she should be placed on suspension for three months.
However, rather than follow the recommendations of the joint Council/Senate (academic) disciplinary committee, the respondents whimsically decided to dismiss her against the disciplinary committee’s recommendations.
The respondents suppressed material facts before Hon. Justice N.C.S Ogbuanya, which led to the judgment dated the July 29, 2021, affirming her dismissal. The respondents misled the Judge to believe that she had altered results of students based on false evidences presented by the respondents.
Justice Ogbuanya held that the said altered results existed, made a consequential order dated July 29, 2021, directed the respondents to recall the results/certificates of the affected students for re-computation and reissue to reflect the correct Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) and class of degree, compliance to be published in a National newspaper within (2) months of the judgement and evidence of compliance to be filed in the case file.
However, the respondents disobeyed the order made by Justice Ogbuanya directing them to recall the results/certificates of the affected students for re-computation and reissue to reflect the correct Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) and class of degree, compliance to be published in a National newspaper within (2) months of the judgment and evidence of compliance to be filed in the case file.
The respondents’ failure to obey the court order led the claimant to file a new suit marked NICN/LA/435/2021 before Justice Esowe where she prayed the court for an order setting aside the judgment of Justice Ogbuanya, dated July 29, 2021, in suit No NICN/LA/596/2017 same having been obtained by fraud, misrepresentation and deceit.
During proceeding, the respondents called for an amicable settlement of the matter, culminating in the agreement, which terms of settlement was adopted by Justice Esowe on 8th of November, 2023.
The parties therefore agreed thus, “the reinstatement of the claimant to the post of Senior Lecturer in the Department of Marketing, Faculty of Management Sciences of the 1st defendant (LASU).
“That the claimant shall be paid her salary differential with effect from the period of her demotion to the position of Lecturer I to the effective date of her dismissal, and the process of the claimant’s promotion from Senior Lecturer to Associate Professor in the university shall be concluded and same be made effective from the relevant assessment year with payment of three months’ arrears in line with the defendants’ extant rules on outstanding accrued salaries.
The Claimant shall be promoted to the position of an Associate Professor.”
“That the claimant shall be paid the sum of N5million as out of pocket settlement for expenses incurred and the terms of settlement by parties will not constitute or be construed as an admission of any wrongdoing or liability whatsoever by the parties in the subject suit.”
Justice Esowe, however, thanked the Claimant’s counsel, Mr Jeff Kadiri and Tope David, also respondents’ counsel, Miss Abisoye Ajide as well as Mrs M. A Oyeweso, the legal representative of the respondents and the parties for the amicable settlement, adding that there must be an end to litigation.
“The court have carefully looked into the terms, which were duly signed by the parties. The court therefore adopted the same as the judgment of the court,” Esowe stated.