Court reinstates demoted FUO lecturers, awards N20m damages

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The National Industrial Court sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on Monday, ordered the reinstatement of seven demoted lecturers of the Federal University, Otuoke, in Ogbia Local Government Area of the state.
The court also awarded to the lecturers N20m as damages against the institution.
Presiding judge, Justice Bashiru Alkali, ruled that the claimants be reinstated to their full statuses, privileges and entitlements by the university.
Alkali ruled that the university pay each claimant N5m for defamation and N200, 000 each for cost of litigation.
All the litigants were from the Diaspora who returned to serve in the university.
The litigants are Leonard Shilgba, Department of Mathematics and Statistics; Prof Steve Nwabuzor, Department of Civil, Electrical and Electronics Engineering; and Dr. Sepribo Lawson-Jack, Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering.
Others are Dr Obalade Falade, Department of Banking and Finance; Dr Marcellina Offoha, Department of Sociology and Anthropology; Dr Evans Eze, Department of Sociology and Anthropology; and Dr Felina Nwadike, Department of English and Communication Studies.
Recall that the some aggrieved lecturers of FUO had dragged the Vice Chancellor of the Institution, Prof. Accra Jaja, and the Institution’s management to the Industrial Court of Nigeria over their demotion from rank of Professor to Lecturer 1.
The Governing Council of FUO had at its 10th meeting made key decisions involving appointments and discipline which led to the re-classification of some academic appointments by downgrading seven teaching staff appointments to lower ranks for alleged lack of requisite scholarships including Prof. Stephen Nwabuzor.
But the aggrieved lecturers in suit filed before the NICN, No. NICN/YEN01/2019, sought the order of the court “a declaration that the purported conversion of the claimants’ pensionable appointments to contract appointments is ultra vires, as the defendants having regard to the Federal University, Otuoke (Establishment ) Act, 2015, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and all known labour practices.
“A declaration that the purported reclassification of appointments of the claimants by the defendant from Professor to Lecturer 1 on the grounds that the claimants did not have the requisite scholarships at the point of entry without hearing the claimants is ultra-fire, unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect.
“An order of the honourable court setting aside the defendants’ letter of July 5, 2018 converting the claimants’ statutory appointments to mere contract employments.”

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