National Industrial Court rules Against Former Edo Education Commissioner Barr. Ijegbai Over His Interference In AAU

National Industrial Court rules Against Former Edo Education Commissioner Barr. Ijegbai Over His Interference In AAU

THE National Industrial Court of Nigeria, sitting in Benin City, Edo State, has unequivocally declared that the Edo State Commissioner for Education lacks the powers to alter and or change the decision of the Governing Council of the state-owned Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.
In the judgment on suit No: NICN/BEN/26/2020 in Asigene Peter against Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma and others, which included the Edo State Commissioner for Education as defendants, the Court presided over by His Lordship Hon. Justice A. A. Adewemimo, voided the dismissal of Mr. Asigene Peter from the services of the University as a result of the intervention and interference of the State Commissioner for Education in the disciplinary process of the University.
The Court specifically held that the Governing Council being the final organ on the discipline of staff of the University cannot be overruled by the State Commissioner for Education.
The Court, therefore, ordered that Mr. Peter Asigene should be reinstated into his former position before his dismissal with all his due entitlements and emoluments paid from the date of his purported dismissal till the time he is finally reinstated by the defendants (the University).
Barr. Jimoh Ejegbai had, as the State Commissioner for Education, overturned several decisions reached by the University’s Governing Council in a swoop, including the Governing Council’s approved punishment or decision on Mr. Asigene Peter, non-academic staff and Chairman of the University’s Non-Academic Staff Union of Education and Associated Institutions (NASU). Barr. Ejegbai’s interference, as the Commissioner for Education, led to the change of the Governing Council’s punishment from demotion to the dismissal of Mr. Asigene Peter.
Dissatisfied with his dismissal, Mr. Peter Asigene approached the Court and asked the Court to, among other things, declare that the State Commissioner for Education lacks the capacity, powers or vires to unilaterally alter and or change the decision of the Governing Council of the University.
The issues which the Court decided on were:
i. Whether it is not the Regulations and Scheme Governing the service of Senior Staff of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma (1st Defendant) dated 31st June, 2017 and the Ambrose Alli University Law 1999 that regulate the employment and discipline of its Staff.
ii. Whether by virtue of the provisions of the Regulations and Scheme Governing the service of Senior Staff of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma (1st Defendant) and the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma’s Law 1999 (As Amended), the Governing Council (3rd Defendant) is not the final organ of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma (1st Defendant) as far as employment and discipline of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma’s (1st Defendant’s) staff is concerned.
iii. Whether by virtue of the provisions of the Regulation and Scheme Governing the service of Senior Staff of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma (1st Defendant) 2017 and the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma’s (1st Defendant’s) Law, 1999, (As Amended) the Hon. Commissioner, Ministry of Education, Edo State (6th Defendant) can validly over rule the Governing Council (3rd Defendant) in relation to the employment and discipline of its staff.
In arriving at its decision, the Court held that the defendants failed woefully to prove that the intervention of the State Commissioner for Education is supported by the Rules, Regulations and Laws guiding the employment of staff in the University. The Court insisted that employment which was clothed with statutory flavor as in this case must be terminated in a way and manner prescribed by the relevant status and any other manner of termination which is inconsistent with the status will be null and void and of no effect.
Chairman of the University’s Branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Monday Igbafen hailed the judgment, saying that the said court judgment of March 25, 2021 is a vindication of the Union’s recent outcry against abuse of the University’s laws and due process.
It would be recalled that the Union had in its memo of 14th April, 2020 alerted the Visitor to the University and Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki of the grave danger posed to the University by Barr. Jimoh Ejegbai, the then Commissioner for Education, whose directive completely or conclusively upturned the several decisions reached by the University’s Governing Council in a swoop.
The Union viewed the commissioner for education’s directive as very dangerous and unacceptable. “It has never happened in the history of our university that a Commissioner for Education would reverse or superintend over decisions of Council.” ASUU insisted.
The Union then vowed to use all legitimate means to resist the Commissioner’s threats and ensure that all Council decisions are respected until otherwise appealed, challenged, and reversed in line with the University’s laws.

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