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Raji vs. University of Ilorin

DR. AJEWUMI BILI RAJI

V

UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN

& 4 OTHERS

COURT OF APPEAL

( ILORIN DIVISION )

ABOYI JOHN IKONGBEH JCA ( Presided )

TIJJANI ABDULLAHI JCA

HELEN MORONKEJI OGUNWUMIJU JCA ( Read the Lead Judgment )

CA/IL/53/2005

WEDNESDAY, 31 MAY 2006

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW - Delegation - Delegated office or duty - When can be devolved upon another

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW - Investigation Panel - Power of employer to set up same to probe allegation of misconduct made against an employee

CONTRACT - Contract of service under section 15 of the University of Ilorin Act - Termination of - How done

MASTER AND SERVANT - Employer - Power of to set up Investigation Panel to probe allegation of misconduct made against an employee

MASTER AND SERVANT - Termination - Employment with statutory flavour - Termination of - How done

MASTER AND SERVANT - Termination - Termination of appellant’s employment by the respondents in the instant case - Whether appellant has any moral justification to challenge same

STATUTE - Statutory provisions - Whether can be waived

STATUTE - University of Ilorin Act, section 15(1)(b) and (c) - Whether the respondent in the instant case afforded the appellant the opportunity of being heard in accordance with

STATUTE - University of Ilorin Act, section 15 - Contract of service under - Termination of - How done

UNIVERSITY - Officers of the University - Where performed the functions of the University - Propriety of

UNIVERSITY - University of Ilorin - Disciplinary power of the Governing Council of - Whether can be delegated - Whether same has been delegated in the instant case WAIVER - Statutory provisions - Whether can be waived

Issue:

Whether the trial Judge was right to have held that neither the provisions of the University of Ilorin Act relating to disciplinary procedure nor the provisions of the 1999 Constitution relating to fair hearing were breached by the respondents in terminating the appointment of the appellant.

Facts:

The appellant herein joined the service of the 1st respondent in 1991 and became in year 2000 a senior lecturer in English in the Department of Modern European Languages, Faculty of Arts of the University of Ilorin. He was thus, a Senior Academic Staff of the University. Sometime in February 2000, he was awarded the Alexander Von Humboldt Research Fellowship by Western Germany. The appellant thereafter, applied for study leave from the authorities of the University. He was supposed to resume in Germany by 29 March 2000. As a result of time constraint, he left the country for the fellowship programme before and without approval from the 1st or 4th respondent but later sought executive approval from the 4th respondent. The 1st respondent promptly stopped his salary and issued on him a query; which query was replied by the appellant on 8 May 2000. The Governing Council later invited the appellant to appear before the 2nd respondent but the appellant wrote back from Germany giving reasons why he could not return back to Nigeria within the time stipulated to appear physically before the 4th respondent. The 2nd respondent instructed the appellant to report back at the University not later than 21 December 2000 or regard his appointment as having been terminated. In view of the fact that the appellant was unable to return as requested, his appointment with 1 st respondent was terminated via a termination letter written by the 2nd respondent.

The appellant consequently filed a suit at the Federal High Court Ilorin by way of originating summons on 25 September 2001 challenging his said purported termination.

In a considered judgment, the learned trial Judge found from the affidavit evidence before him, that the plaintiff was not denied fair hearing under section 5 of the University of Ilorin Act or under section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. He then dismissed the appellant’s claims.

Dissatisfied, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal considered the provisions of section 15 of the University of Ilorin Act which provides as follows:

“15(1) If it appears to the Council that there are reasons for believing that any person employed as a member of the academic or administrative or professional staff of the University, other than the Vice-Chancellor, should be removed from his office or employment on the grounds of misconduct or, of inability to perform the functions of his office or employment, the Council shall:

(a)           give notice of those reasons to the person in question;

(b)           afford him an opportunity of making representations in person on the matter to the Council; and

(c)           if he or any three members of the Council so request within the period of one month beginning with the date of the notice, make arrangements:

(i)             for a joint committee of the Council and the Senate to investigate the matter and to report on it to the Council; and

(ii)           for the person in question to be afforded an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by the investigating committee with respect to the matter, and if Council, after considering the report of the investigating committee, is satisfied that the person in question should be removed as aforesaid, the Council may so remove him by an instrument in writing signed on the directions of the Council”.