The Presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court, Lagos Judicial division, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip has set aside the decision of the Lagos State University Governing Council that invalidated the professorial appointment of Professor Abanikannda Fazazi, that by virtue of the Conditions of Service Guiding Senior Staff in the University that LASU and its governing council have no power to invalidate the claimant’s appointment.
The court ordered LASU and its governing council to reinstate Prof. Abanikannda to his Professorial appointment forthwith and make payment of his entitlements from 14th July 2016 till date.
By the complaint and statement of facts, The claimant- Professor Abanikannda Fazazi sought against defendants among others; An order of this Honourable Court setting aside and or quashing the decision of the 2nd defendant dated 1st August 2016 that invalidated the professorial appointment of the claimant. An order of this Honourable Court directing the defendants to reinstate the claimant to his Professorial appointment forthwith and make payment of his entitlements from 14th July 2016 till date.
Likewise, An order of this Honourable Court that the sum of N100,000.000,00 (One Hundred Million Naira) only be paid jointly and severally by the defendants to the claimant as damages.
To the claimant, he was appointed as a Professor in the Department of Zoology of the LASU -1st defendant with effect from 28th September 2012 and the said appointment was approved by the LASU Governing Council -2nd defendant on 23rd October 2012 that the said appointment was done after the Appointment and Promotions (Academics) Committee (APC) of the 1st defendant followed all due process as laid down in the laws of the 1st defendant.
Sometime in 2015, the 2nd defendant received a petition against the claimant promotion and set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the petition against the claimant and revert to it. The said ad-hoc committee concluded its investigations and recommended that same be sent to the Appointment and Promotions (Academic) Committee for adjudication, which the latter then reaffirmed the appointment of the claimant.
The 2nd defendant, being dissatisfied with the report of the ad-hoc committee, constituted another committee and found that the appointment of the claimant was defective. However, based on the said report, the professorial appointment of the claimant was invalidated by a letter dated 1st August 2016.
The defendants maintained that due process was not followed in the appointment of the claimant as a Professor as laid down in the Conditions of Service Guiding Senior Staff of LASU that the claimant has not furnished the Court with any evidence that he was ever confirmed as an Associate Professor of the 1st defendant before he applied for the position of a Professor as provided for in the Conditions of Service Guiding Senior Staff of LASU and the provisions of the Senate Approved Minimum Standard for Appointments and Promotions of Academic Staff.
The claimant on his part submitted for determination whether an ad-hoc committee can usurp the powers of a statutory committee and whether the 2nd defendant without the recommendation of the Appointments and Promotions Committee can withdraw and/or invalidate the Professorial appointment of the claimant.
The claimant submitted that the proper body that ought to have made the recommendation for the withdrawal of the Professorial appointment is the Appointments and Promotions (Academics) Committee and not the ad-hoc Investigative Committee.
That the interview conducted for the claimant for promotion to the position of Associate Professor is totally different and independent from the interview conducted for an appointment and the latter culminated in his appointment as a Professor.
In reply on points of law, the defendants submitted that the argument of the claimant that an ad-hoc committee was established by the defendants to investigate his Professorial appointment resulting in same being invalidated falls flat on its face when the provisions of the handbook are reviewed urged the Court to dismiss this suit in its entirety.
The Presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Kanyip after careful evaluation of the submission of both counsel expressed thus; “A critical issue, not really addressed by the defendants, is whether the claimant has the qualification(s) needed to be a full Professor aside from the three years on a cadre requirement.
“The way clause 9.0(D) is couched, the three-year maturation period can be by-passed and a Senior Lecturer appointed to full Professor so long as other qualifications for being a full Professor are met. Where this is the case, such appointment cannot be invalidated on the sole ground of not complying with the maturation period of three years. I must point out that the claimant was appointed full Professor, not promoted to that rank.
“The talk of “apply and be promoted” only shows a gross misunderstanding of the true import of clause 9.0(D) by the defendants. In contrast to clause 9.0(D), clauses 8.8 and 10.0 of LASU Conditions of Service and the provisions of the Senate Approved Minimum Standard for Appointments and Promotions of Academic Staff make provision for appointment to Professorial cadre i.e. Associate Professor and Professor contrary to the thinking of the defendants."
The court held that by the intendment of the conditions of service with its Senate Approved Minimum Standards for Appointments and Promotions of Academic Staff in Lagos State University and Guidelines for Promotions of Academic Staff show that there are two routes through which a person can attain an academic position: (1) Appointment; (2) Promotion.
On the whole, the court declared that the Professorial Appointment of the claimant which followed due process, made by the Appointment and Promotions Committee of the 1st defendant and approved by the 2nd defendant on 23rd October 2012 remains valid and cannot be invalidated.