Abuja — The Ilorin zone of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has condemned media reports that four out of the five lecturers of the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), recently reinstated by the Supreme Court have refused to resume work.
Zonal Coordinator and Chairman of the union's media committee, Prof. Eddy Olanipekun, who made the union's position known, said "from available records, four of the reinstated lecturers had reported physically to their departments within a week of a letter being forwarded to their lawyer by the university."
"Within the past two weeks, the press had been flooded with negative statements about the reinstated lecturers by the university's spokesperson, Mr. M.A. Adedimeji and the external counsel of the university, Mallam Yusuf Alli. Whatever the hidden and not so hidden motive for this negative propaganda, the resort to distortion, half-truth and outright deceit in the statements is, to say the least, reprehensible", he said.
He alleged that the misinformation that was fed to the press was that the lecturers refused to report to work, describing it as "a clear and unbecoming distortion of the situation."
According to him, "the university lawyer can hardly claim not to know that the lecturers could not have walked back to the campus without the authorities writing to reinstate them as ordered by the court. Indeed, the first statement that came from the university after the judgment was that they were waiting for a copy of the judgment before compliance. This attempt by the lawyer to twist the situation to insinuate dereliction on the part of the lecturers is totally in bad faith."
Olanipekun said another newspaper quoted "a source close to the vice-chancellor" as saying that only one of the lecturers actually resumed and was coming to work only 'once in a while. This was within a few days of the lecturers reporting before they even had the time to conclude resumption formalities", he said.
He added that the university lawyer also curiously raised what he called "moral issues" in relation to some of the returning lecturers, who have exercised their right to claim the entitlements given by the Supreme Court, and thereafter indicated their intention to disengage voluntarily from the university. "If the issue of 'morality' is relevant here at all, the eminent lawyer is obviously taking it from a belated and self-serving perspective. The real immorality is making the lecturers to suffer illegally for more than eight years and then trying to deny them their entitlements after they have been vindicated by the Supreme Court. What moral issue is there in some of the lecturers choosing to claim their entitlements and choosing to leave after the eight-year ordeal that the same university has forced them to go through?"
He said the lawyer also went to town about the reinstated lecturer who opted to retire but asked for his outstanding promotions. He quoted the lawyer to have said that "a lecturer cannot just be promoted; papers have to be assessed, and all that", adding that the lecturer himself had said specifically in the same short letter that he should be assessed based on prevalent regulations. "The lawyer omitted this aspect, again apparently in a bid to make the lecturers appear unreasonable. It is precisely such underhand tactics that are immoral, in our view."
The chairman said the negative propaganda had been attributed to a number of possible objectives, saying that one objective may be to set the stage for upturning the judgment of the Supreme Court through the back door, by immediately setting up the returnees for "disciplinary action and proper fair hearing this time around", as had been threatened from within the university immediately after the judgment of the court.
"However, the obvious prejudicial environment of such a hypothetic course of action can still be problematic. The back door route may also be used to deny the returning lecturers some of their rights, if some of the lawyer's insinuations are interpreted correctly. He even went on to insinuate special assessment criteria and additional 'conditions' for the elevation of the returning lecturers."
Another prime target of this sudden media blitz, he said might be the outstanding case of the remaining 44 sacked lecturers. He said the thinking might be that, by continuing the negative branding of the lecturers, even after their reinstatement, it might be possible to prejudice the Supreme Court Justices against those who were yet to be reinstated. "Again, however, this can only be a futile effort too, as we do not believe that the eminent justices can be swayed by such skewed media propaganda."
Olanipekun accused the university of "showing its hand too soon in this prejudicial campaign." Although the institution's head had maintained a public silence on the issue he said, the spokesperson and lawyer have made public statements that were clearly prejudicial and were mutually reinforcing.
"For example", he said, the spokesperson was quoted as saying that 'the lawyer's statements remain the official position of the university', he said, the institution should give the rule of law a chance, as well as peace and reconciliation. The reinstated lecturers should promptly be given their monetary and non-monetary entitlements. Those who have opted to leave should be allowed to leave in peace, while those who choose to stay on at the university should be allowed to integrate smoothly and peacefully into the environment without any undue executive interference in the process or preemptive and prejudicial statements by the institution's spokesperson, its lawyers and 'sources close to the vice-chancellor."