Credit: Enoch Darfar Frimpong
The Governing Council of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW) is insisting that “dismissed” Professor Mawutor Avoke cannot return to the university as its Vice-Chancellor as he is claiming.
According to the university, the latest move initiated by Prof Avoke by writing through his lawyer, requesting that the university prepare his office for his return as Vice-Chancellor on Monday, November 26, 2018, was “not only wrong in law but has no factual basis.”
In a reply letter dated Friday, November 23, 2018, and signed by Prof. Emmanuel Nicholas Abakah, Chairman of the Governing Council, the UEW said Prof Avoke would be declared “persona non-grata and dealt with in accordance with the law should he assemble on campus” for the purpose of following the “naïve” advice of his lawyer that he was “coming to re-occupy” the former office.
The estranged Vice-Chancellor of the UEW, Prof Mawutor Avoke on November 20, 2018, initiated fresh moves aimed at getting his position at the university back.
Together with Dr Theophilus Senyo Ackorlie, also an estranged Finance Officer of the UEW, and through their lawyer, Harold Tivah Atuguba of Atuguba and Associates, they asked the University to prepare their offices and make available to them the necessary tools and resources necessary for them to resume work not later than Monday, November 26, 2018.
They also asked the UEW to pay all the entitlements due them, which the university, “illegally and unreasonably withheld from them from the time of their illegal interdictions, through to their illegal dismissals, and to date.”
Prof Avoke and Dr Ackorlie are arguing that, since the Supreme Court on October 31, 2018, quashed the High Court in Winneba’s decision of May 2nd, 2018 that declared their appointments as “null and void”, they are entitled to return to their positions.
But in a reply signed by Prof. Emmanuel Nicholas Abakah, Chairman of the Governing Council, the UEW is insisting the dismissals were done by subjecting Prof Avoke and the others to due process.
According to the university, the High Court Judgment which the Supreme Court quashed was never a legal matter brought to the attention of the University nor the Council.
“Take note that the said judgment was not executable as they were only declaratory and, therefore, could not have been the basis of the dismissal of your clients.“
“Indeed, the said quashed judgment was delivered several months after your clients had been dismissed from the University on various grounds of gross misconduct and other serious breaches of rules and regulations governing their appointment as staff of the University.
“Secondly, the decision to dismiss your clients was the decision of the Governing Council of the University and not at the instance of any court decision, directive or consequential orders.
“Therefore, your warp interpretation of the Supreme Court Judgment delivered on the 31st October, 2018, that your clients be reinstated is not only wrong in law but has no factual basis,” by Prof. Emmanuel Nicholas Abakah wrote.
The UEW matter started with a lawsuit initiated in May 2017 by Supi Kofi Kwayera, a former Assembly Member for Donkoryiem, a suburb of Winneba, against the UEW.
Mr Kwayera, in his legal action, claimed that the tenure of the Governing Council of the UEW elapsed in November 2013 after its members had served two 2-year terms.
According to him, the Ministry of Education failed to constitute a new governing council and allowed the defunct council to continue to operate, contrary to Section 8 of the University of Education, Winneba Act (Act 672).
He also argued that the Governing Council of the UEW appointed certain officers of the university, such as the vice-chancellor [Mawutor Avoke], the registrar and the finance officer and also “approved academic board recommendations for the award of certificates and honorary degrees’’, although it had “no such mandate’’.
The applicant further claimed that the council awarded “contracts to several companies to undertake projects without recourse to the Procurement Act 663’’.
He therefore, sought reliefs such as a “declaration that the extension of the mandate of the governing council of the 1st respondent by the 2nd respondent to stay in office to perform such functions as a properly appointed council was in breach of Section 8 of Act 672 and a declaration that all decisions taken by the de facto body of persons who constituted themselves as the governing council are null and void and of no effect”.
He prayed the court to order the refund of all amounts expended by the university on any contract which “side-stepped the dictates of the Procurement Act’’.
In effect, his case was that Prof Avoke’s appointment was illegal.
Aside the court case, Professor Avoke and four principal officers of the UEW, including the Finance Officer, Dr Theophilus Senyo Ackorlie, Daniel Tetteh, Mary Dzimey and Frank Owusu Boateng, were interdicted by the university after it emerged that some vital documents at some offices at the centre of an ongoing investigation on procurement had disappeared.
They were found culpable for the loss of the vital documents and were subsequently found guilty of procurement and other financial irregularities.
The said irregularities had to do with the monies paid to the contractors of the North Campus roads project.
In August 2018, the UEW Governing Council dismissed the five principal officers of the university after a fact-finding committee had been set up to look into the matter.
Prof Avoke maintained his innocence and challenged his indictment in court.
He refused to appear before the disciplinary committee.
He later took the case to the Accra High Court (Labour Division), but it was beyond its jurisdiction, forcing him to take the matter to the Supreme Court.
In his latest move with Dr Ackorlie, Prof Avoke is arguing that since their appointments had been declared void by the High Court in Winneba, the university could no have subjected them, when they were technically no longer occupying their respective offices to disciplinary hearings and subsequently purportedly dismiss them from office.
“We wish to bring to your attention that immediately the High Court declared our Clients’ appointments as void by its Judgment dated 2nd May 2018, our Clients effectively ceased to be officers of the University.”
“Accordingly, no disciplinary proceedings could be instituted against them as they were no longer officers or appointees of the University,” they said.
They insisted they therefore refrained from attending the said “illegal disciplinary hearings” because of the High Court decision.
“It Is clear, therefore, that the purported disciplinary hearings carried out in respect of our Clients that directly resulted in their purported dismissals are void, as our Clients were no longer occupying their respective offices in the University at the time of the purported disciplinary hearings and their purported dismissals, since It is impossible and impracticable to dismiss persons who were not in office at the time of the said dismissal.”
Below is a full copy of the reply from the UEW Governing Council
Mr. Harold Tivah Atugubah Atugubah & Associates Accra
RE: RESUMPTION OF PROF. MAWUTOR AVOKE AND DR. SENYO ACKORLIE TO THEIR PREVIOUSLY HELD OFFICES IN THE UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION, WINNEBA; AND PAYMENT OF THEIR ENTITLEMENTS.
Your letter dated 20th November, 2018, addressed to me, which you widely shared on social media even before I received my copy, is acknowledged.
One would have thought that as a professional lawyer, you would respect the privacy of your clients and keep all legal matters confidential and within the confines of the law courts.
However, I have ubliciz that you have resorted to this style of grandstanding to court public sympathy.
I can assure you that this case shall not be decided in the court of public opinion but in the law courts.
It seems to me that in spite of being a legal practitioner, you do not seem to understand legal proceedings and so a little education here will help.
First of all, the High Court Judgment which the Supreme Court quashed was never a legal matter brought to the attention of the University nor the Council.
Take note that the said judgment was not executable as they were only declaratory and, therefore, could not have been the basis of the dismissal of your clients.
Indeed, the said quashed judgment was delivered several months after your clients had been dismissed from the University on various grounds of gross misconduct and other serious breaches of rules and regulations governing their appointment as staff of the University.
Your clients were, therefore, dismissed after they were subjected to due process.
Secondly, the decision to dismiss your clients was the decision of the Governing Council of the University and not at the instance of any court decision, directive or consequential orders.
Therefore, your warp interpretation of the Supreme Court Judgment delivered on the 31st October, 2018, that your clients be reinstated is not only wrong in law but has no factual basis.
It is quite interesting that barely 24 hours after you ublicized and circulated your letter on social media on 21st November, 2018, you were in the Cape Coast High Court seeking to overturn the decision of the Governing Council to dismiss your clients, which said suit is still pending in the same Cape Coast High Court.
Again, you would recall that your application of 20th September, 2018, that sought to put injunction on the investiture of Rev. Fr. Prof. Anthony Afful-Broni as Vice-Chancellor was dismissed as without merit, yet you still have the temerity to request me to prepare offices for your dismissed clients to resume duty.
Finally, I want to state for the avoidance of doubt that your clients still remain dismissed staff of the University and will be declared persona non-grata and dealt with in accordance with the law should they assemble on our campus for the purpose of following your naïve advice of coming to re-occupy their former offices.
Prof. Emmanuel Nicholas Abakah (Chairman of the Governing Council, UEW)