Daily Champion (Lagos)

Nigeria: VC Tussle - Petition Stalls Suit

Jos — A petition against Justice Ambrose Alagoa of the federal high court, Jos, Plateau state has stalled a suit instituted by Prof. Innocent Ujah and the Incorporated Trustees of the Nigerian Medical Association on one hand and the governing council of the University of Jos and the new Vice Chacellor, Professor Hayward Mafuyai on the other.

The Nigerian Medical Association has petitioned the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, asking him to disqualify justice Ambrose Allagoa of the Jos Division of the court from handling a case between it and the University of Jos.

The judge announced this at the resumed hearing of the suit filed, that since he was in receipt of a petitioned to the CJ and a copy made available to him, it will not be wise to continue withe case without the case being disposed of.

He therefore adjourned the case indefinitely until justice Auta would have determined the petition.

According to him, since the plaintiffs did not ask him to disqualify himself, which they have the right to so, by had gone ahead to petition the CJ, he ha no alternative than to discontinue with the case until the resolution of the petition.

He said, "Since I am aware that there is a petition to the CJ by the plaintiffs in this matter that they have lost confidence in this court to hear the matter, it is better to stay action on the hearing. It will not be proper for me to continue with the case while the petition to transfer the case is still pending. I therefore adjourn this case sine die".

Counsel to Ujah and NMA, Mr. Yakubu Pam, who spoke to newsmen at the end of the sitting, said that it a right procedure in law that a party is given the latitude to apply for transfer when he feels that there is a likelihood of bias and he cannot get justice. This is what we have done in this case and it is not an indictment on the judge

He said, "Our clients feel strongly that because of the manner the case was going, there is the likelihood of bias which will not be in their best interest and it is better to have the case transferred to another judge. In doing so, we have not indicted the judge in any way, but what we want is justice and where see that that cause cannot be served, it is better to raise an objection and have the case transferred.

It was gathered that the medical doctors were aggrieved because the judge did not grant them an injunction restraining the new VC fro assuming office , but had gone to give an injunction in a similar circumstance.

The judge was also said to have ruled on a motion which the positives had not argued, but without giving a mention on a motion before him.

Ujah and NMA had dragged the university court over the modalities for the seletion and appointment of Mafuyai as the VC of Unijos. The plaintiffs had complained that the advertisement calling for applicants had deliberately excluded them by asking that only applicants with Ph. D and must have been a professor of five years standing need to apply.

The petitioners had complained of two clauses in the advertisement which they alleged were discriminatory and prejudicial to professors of medicine and dentistry.

The two clauses, according them, are the ones that stipulated that an applicant must be a scholar of the rank of professor with no less than five years standing and must be a Ph. D holder whereas their qualifications as fellows of the Nigerian Medical PostGraduate College and Nigerian College of Surgeons and Physicians are higher than a doctorate.

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