The National Industrial Court of Nigeria sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state has ordered the reinstatement of four out of seven lecturers demoted by the management of the Federal University, Otuoke, in Ogbia local council area of the state and awarded N20 million fine to the school as damages to affected lecturers.
The University management had in 2018 demoted a Professor and 6 other lecturers with doctorate degrees over what it termed as “lack of requisite scholarship”
Those affected are; Dr. Steve Nwabuzor, who was downgraded from the rank of Professor to Lecturer 1; Dr. Leonard K Shilgba, downgraded from the rank of Professor to Senior Lecturer; Dr. Timothy Falade Obalade, downgraded from the rank of Associate Professor to Senior Lecturer; Dr. Felina Nwadike, downgraded from Associate Professor to Senior Lecturer.
Others were; Dr. Sepribo Lawson-Jack, downgraded from the rank of Associate Professor to Lecturer 1; Dr. Marcellina Offoha, downgraded from the rank of Associate Professor to Lecturer 1; and Dr. Evans Eze, downgraded from the rank of Associate Professor to Lecturer 2.
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Dissatisfied with the institution’s authority decision, four out of seven of the affected lecturers filed a suit at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria siting in Yenagoa on 2019, with a suit number; NICN/YEN01/2019.
Delivering the judgement on the dispute on Monday, the Presiding Judge, Justice Bashiru Alkali ruled that claimants be reinstated to their full status, privileges and entitlements by the institution.
Justice Alkali also mandated the institution management to pay each claimant N5 million for defamation and two hundred thousand each for cost of litigation.
Daily Trust gathered that all the litigants had returned from the Diaspora to serve in the institution upon the establishment of the Federal University, in 2011 by Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The University management had in 2018 offered reasons why the seven lecturers were demoted and six non-teaching staff sacked over “lack of requisite scholarship and absconding from the school.”
The Registrar, Mr. Iruo Yousuo, in a statement then, stated that the Governing Council of Federal University, Otuoke at its 10th meeting made key decisions involving appointments and discipline including the resolution to sanitise the system in order to take the university to the greater height.
According to him, “Consequently, the Governing Council of the Federal University Otuoke have re-classified some academic appointments by downgrading seven teaching staff appointments to lower ranks for lack of requisite scholarship.”
Reacting to the judgement, the counsel to the claimants, Barr Okoko Mark, expressed happiness that the justice has been done to the affected lecturers, noting that the court had granted all their relieves.
He said: “The judgement has been delivered in favour of the claimants, ordering for their reinstatement and awarded damages to them. The judgement is to be complied with within the next 30 days.”