The decision of the Governing Council of Lagos State University, Ojo, which demoted Dr Olatunji Tajudeen Fazazi Abanikanda from the rank of Professor to Senior Lecturer in July 2016 based on the report of an ad hoc investigative committee has been quashed by the National Industrial Court and pronounced null and void. The judgment was delivered in Lagos on June 18, 2019.
Dr Abanikanda studied animal science at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria between 1983 and 1995 culminating in Doctor of Philosophy in Animal Breeding and Genetics. He joined the Department of Zoology, Lagos State University in December 1998 as Lecturer II, becoming Lecturer I, Senior Lecturer and Professor in 2001, 2004 and 2012, respectively. He is also a Registered Animal Scientist with the Nigerian Institute of Animal Science.
However in December 2015 some ASUU members of LASU alleged through a petition to the school Governing Council, that Abanikanda’s appointment to the rank of full professor did not follow due process. They alleged that there was no advertisement regarding the appointment and he skipped the rank of Associate Professor (Reader). The university then set up an investigative committee to look into the case, which later referred the matter to the University Appointments and Promotion Committee (A & PC). The A & PC in its recommendation upheld his professorship but the Council objected to the A & PC stance and consequently set up another ad hoc committee. This second committee recommended Abanikanda’s demotion to senior lecturer, a recommendation that was upheld by the University Council in August 2016. This forced Dr Abanikanda to approach the National Industrial Court in Lagos to reclaim his professorship.
Justice Benedict Kanyib in his ruling (copy obtained at http://nicn.gov.ng/judgment/pdf.php?case_id=1854) faulted LASU authority on two grounds; that the case was not referred to the University Appointment and Promotion Committee which has the statutory authority on such matters; and the claim that Abanikanda skipped the rank of Reader was a gross misunderstanding of the rules and regulations governing academic staff promotion in the institution. The judge then ordered that Dr Abanikanda be reinstainted back to the position of full professor and his entitlement from July 14, 2016 be fully paid to him.
Livestonews spoke to Dr Abanikanda who was full of gratitude to God for giving him the favourable justice that he deserved. He was optimistic that the university authority will comply with the ruling. Some of his colleagues in LASU and other universities also rejoiced with him. Dr Gbenga Ogunwole of University of Ibadan and Professor Saidu Oseni of Obafemi Awolowo University said they were extremely delighted by the judgement.
Documented records from many universities within the country indicated that skipping a rank in the promotion cadre is not alien. In fact at the University of Ibadan, academic staffs are allowed by regulation to skip the readership position and move from senior lecturer to full professor once requirements are met. It is also possible to receive accelerated promotion in which the number of years between two ranks would be shortened to two instead of three years.
As at the time of writing this report, what is not certain is whether the Lagos State University authority will simply accept and implement the judgement in favour of Dr Abanikanda or appeal the judgement.