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5000 teachers dare Udom, set to drag Governor to court

Governor Udom Emmanuel in a handshake Mrs. Ekerebong Akpan

Governor Udom Emmanuel has directed the cancellation of the recruitment of 5,000 teachers conducted by the State Secondary Education Board in 2015.

In a press release signed by the Head of Service, Mrs Ekereobong Akpan and made available to TheMail Newspaper, the government declared null and void all letters of appointment earlier issued to the affected persons by the State Secondary Education Board.

The release states further that the state government will make adequate arrangement for the engagement of qualified Akwa Ibom indigenes to teach in the state public secondary schools as soon as possible.

It could be recalled that the 5,000 teachers who were recruited under the administration of immediate past Governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio between February and April, 2015 were yet to be deployed to schools.

When the incumbent governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel came on board, he suspended the deployment of the teachers, stating that the recruitment process was faulty. He said there were irregularities in the recruitment process coupled with false certificate and credentials by those offered employment letters.

The announcement of the cancellation of the recruitment process had caused uproar in the state, as those affected and their relatives had no kind words for the governor and the PDP government in the state.

The affected persons took to different platforms, especially the online media to lambast the government for what they called insensitivity, saying that the action is unpopular and very harsh especially in these economically hard times.

Meanwhile, TheMail has gathered that the aggrieved teachers will seek redress in court. According to information on their Facebook page – Akwa Ibom Newly Recruited Teachers, the teachers may likely drag the governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel to court.

“The struggle now begins proper. We shall meet in the court and retrieve back our stolen rights. Udom Emmanuel is not above the law. Obviously, Mr. Udom Emmanuel is ill-advised. He doesn’t know the legal implications of his action towards the 5000 duly employed teachers. This madness must stop”, the teachers stated on their page.

Also, a young human rights activist, Barr. Inibehe Effiong has described the governor’s action as unconstitutional, ultra vires, illegal, insensitive and indefensible.

In a press release, the lawyer said Udom should immediately reverse his decision and regularise whatever irregularities that may have trailed the recruitment exercise in line with the principles of fair hearing and due process.

“The purported cancellation of the recent recruitment exercise of 5000 secondary school teachers in Akwa Ibom State who were employed by the erstwhile administration of Senator Godswill Akpabio is unconstitutional, ultra vires, illegal, insensitive and indefensible.

“Governor Udom Emmanuel’s unilateral decision to send back 5000 youths back to the labour market in this period of economic recession and mass unemployment is unacceptable. If the governor truly believed that there were irregularities in the manner his predecessor conducted the exercise, regularization of same would have been the sensible and logical action to take.

“The Akwa Ibom State Government cannot use illegality and impunity to correct alleged irregularities in the manner the recruitment exercise was conducted.

It is not in dispute that the 5000 newly recruited teachers were invited like other residents of the State by the government to apply for the available vacancies after which they underwent mandatory screening exercises. It is equally not in dispute that they were subsequently issued employment letters by the State Government which they duly accepted. In the process, the 5000 persons spent money and time to meet the requirements prescribed by their employer, the Akwa Ibom State Government.

Furthermore, the current government should note that the moment the teachers accepted the offer(s) of employment, a contract of employment (with statutory flavour) was created with terms and conditions, including the manner of disengagement, clearly regulated by statute. The law is firmly established that contracts of employment with statutory flavour cannot be terminated arbitrarily without strict compliance with the relevant statute, rules and regulations governing the contract.

“Where the provisions specified by the law were not adhered to, such termination (whether termed as cancellation or termination) is liable to be reviewed and set aside. See Olaniyan v. Unversity of Lagos, supra; Ogunke v. National Steel Development Authority (1974) NWLR 128; Fakuade v. O. A. U. T. H (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt. 291) 47; Ideh v. University of Ilorin (1994) 3 NWLR (Pt. 330) 81; Shitta-Bay v. Public Service Commission (1981) 1 S.C. 40; Imoloame v. WAEC (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt. 265) 303; and Udo v Cross River State Newspaper Corporation (2001) 14 NWLR (Pt. 732) 116.

“The law is trite that where an employment protected by statute is terminated unlawfully, the remedy is to declare such termination null and void and to reinstate the employee(s) to his former position. See Iderima v. R.S.C.S.C (2005) 16 NWLR (Pt. 951) 378 (SC).

“Supposing without conceding that the government has the right in law to terminate the contract because of alleged irregularities in the recruitment exercise, the manner in which it was done renders the purported cancellation unconstitutional owing to the failure of the government to accord the affected persons fair hearing as mandatorily required by Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). The failure to accord fair hearing to the affected teachers has rendered the purported cancellation a nullity and is liable to be set-aside. See. Garba vs. University of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt. 18) 550 and the Supreme Court decision in Federal Civil Service Commission & 2 Ors. vs. Laoye (1989) 2 NWLR (Pt. 106) 652.

“It is highly reprehensible for the Akwa Ibom State Government to trivialize the fate of 5000 citizens whose dreams of exiting the labour market had been actualized. Governor Udom Emmanuel downplayed the gravity of the psychological torture that the employed teachers went through while patiently waiting for the government to post/assign them to various secondary schools across the State for them to commence work like other civil servants in the state.

“In the light of the above, I condemn unequivocally, the unconstitutional, arbitrary and unlawful purported cancellation of the recruitment/termination of the employment of the 5000 affected teachers by the Akwa Ibom State Government.

“The government should immediately reverse the decision, regularise whatever irregularities that may have trailed the recruitment exercise in line with the principles of fair hearing and due process. In the event that the government fails, refuses or neglects to act as advised, the affected teachers have a cause of action to pursue at the National Industrial Court”, Barr. Effiong said in his press statement.

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