After 14 years and a difficult legal battle, Edet Akpan, an associate professor of mathematics, with the University of Uyo (UNIUYO) has finally found justice. His appointment was unjustly terminated in 2004 for raising questions over the way the university was being run.
Mr Akpan has however been reinstated after he won his case against the school both at the Federal High Court, Uyo, and the Court of Appeal, Calabar. Dr Edet Akpan Dr Edet Akpan In 2002, he was the chairman of the university’s branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Mr Akpan Ekpo, a professor of economics, was the vice chancellor of the university. He reportedly criticized Mr Ekpo’s leadership style and that set the ball rolling for his termination.
According to Premium Times he was first queried in his personal capacity as a lecturer for speaking up against the university administration. Then the school acted on an anonymous letter which alleged that Mr Akpan forged his certificate, and suspended the lecturer in 2003 without giving him an opportunity to defend himself.
He was not given a chance to see a copy of the letter that was written against him and was barred from entering the school. This was despite a subsisting order from the Federal High Court, Uyo, restraining the school from taking any action against the lecturer. The police also reportedly investigated the forgery case and exonerated the lecturer. Mr Akpan, further obtained another order which restrained the school from acting further on the anonymous letter. However, despite all this, the school went ahead to terminate his appointment in March 2004. During that time, the National Universities Commission (NUC), withdrew accreditation for several courses in Uniuyo, including courses in the faculty of social sciences where the then vice chancellor, Mr Ekpo, came from.
This helped strengthen Mr Edet Akpan’s case in the suit challenging the termination of Mr. Akpan’s appointment. Justice E.S Chukwu of the federal high court, Uyo, said in his judgment in 2013: “Let me further observe here and hold that what the defendants termed insubordination and misconduct are constructive criticism of an inept administration that finished last in the accreditation exercise in all the universities in Nigeria.” He ordered the university to reinstate Mr Edet Akpan, saying that the university had become “a place where the truth will always be punished senselessly. “If there is any person that his appointment should be terminated, it is the Vice Chancellor; and his kangaroo panel (that) should be shown their way out. “If they had honour, they ought to have resigned and not witch-hunt innocent citizens like the plaintiff whose association (ASUU) cried foul or complained of gross incompetence in the university administration.”
However, Mr Ekpo who later became the Director General, West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management, Lagos, two other vice chancellors – Akaneren Essien and Comfort Ekpo – left without recalling Mr. Akpan. In February 2017, the university recalled Mr Akpan back to the classroom, after trying unsuccessfully to have the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court nullify the judgment of the trial court. While the Court of Appeal upheld the judgement of the High Court, the Supreme Court rejected a request for stay of execution by the university. The court also ordered Uniuyo to pay Mr. Akpan his emoluments for all the years he was kicked out of his job and N500, 000 to cover the cost of litigation. Mr Akpan said he should have been promoted to a full-fledged professor in 1998, and still hopes that that could be done before his retirement in June. “My belief is that you can suppress the truth only for some time. At the appropriate time, the truth will surface,” he said.