The Presiding Judge, Rivers Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere has set aside the purported withdrawal of Rank of Professor of Pharmaceutics from Prof. Sinyeofori Brown, ordered University of Portharcourt to restore the Rank and all entitlements with effect from when he was stripped of the rank within sixty days.
The Court held that the University of Portharcourt acted outside the provision of its Act in withdrawing the rank of a professor of the Sinyeofori, that the institution promotion guidelines diligently was followed in awarding the rank of professor to the Sinyeofori in the year 2014.
From facts, the claimant- Prof. Sinyeofori stated that he was employed by the University of PH on a renewable Contract Appointment in 2008, that sometime in the year 2011 he applied for the elevation of his academic status to the rank of Professor which was considered after subjected to the well-established procedure and rigours of internal and external assessment interviews.
That years after, without any justification, the defendants purportedly withdrew the claimant’s professorship claimed it was made in error.
On the other hand, defendant submitted that the claimant was promoted to the rank of Professor by the University while he was a contract staff in error that the withdrawal of the Professorship was proper because as a contract staff, the terms of employment of the claimant do not entitle him to such promotion.
Counsel to the defendants submitted further that the suit was outside the subject matter of the Court jurisdiction that the claimant claims fall squarely within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.
And further that the claim is caught by the Public Officers Protection Act, Laws of the Federation which stipulates a limitation period of 3 months for wrongs allegedly done by public officers in the course of the discharge of their duties.
In reply, Counsel to the claimant contended the National Industrial Court Act, 2006 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, give exclusive jurisdiction to the National Industrial Court to hear and determine disputes arising from, connected to or related to employment urged the court to affirm jurisdiction.
In addition, counsel submitted that the action of the defendants in unilaterally withdrawing the claimant’s well-earned and deserved professorship without any form of hearing by his accusers and based on which he was denied post-service opportunities as a professor, discloses flagrant disregard to the Rule of law urged the Court to so hold.
Delivering Judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Kola-Olalere affirmed Court Jurisdiction and held that the provision of the Public Officers’ Protection Act no longer applies to employment matters.
“Consequently, I hold that the defendant has not discharged the burden of proving to the satisfaction of the Court that the elevation of the claimant to the Rank of a Professor was made in error based on the University stated reasons.
“The Law requires that whoever desires any court to give him judgment on any legal right or liability dependent on the existence of facts which he asserts, shall prove that those facts exist.
“And from the evidence before the court, the defendant has not shown the Court anything to the contrary. In my considered view, the only ground under which the award or elevation can be withdrawn after being granted as provided in Section 7 (6) of the University of Port Harcourt Act is if the claimant was or has been found guilty of dishonourable or scandalous conducts in obtaining that award or elevation and I so hold.” Justice Kola-Olalere ruled.
The Court also struck out the reliefs on alleged defamed for lack of jurisdiction.