The group, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), petitioned the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, over the appointment of Professor Enefiok Essien as Vice-Chancellor designate of the University of Uyo, (UNIUYO), stating that the Professor was indicted in 2005 for forgery and sexual assault by the Court of Appeal.
According to the petition sent to Minister Adamu and signed by the coalition’s chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, the group decided to follow up on information revealed in a report by the Nigerian newspaper, Premium Times which was published on November 8th, 2015.
The petition in its entirety can be found below:
November 10th, 2015
The Honourable Minister of Education,
Federal Ministry of Education,
Federal Secretariat, Phase III,
DEMAND FOR THE IMMEDIATE HALTING OF PROFESSOR ENEFIOK ESSIEN’S APPOINTMENT AS VICE CHANCELLOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF UYO.
Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) is a coalition of over hundred and fifty Anti-corruption organizations whose primary aim is to constructively combat corruption vigorously and to ensure the effective monitoring of the various Anti-graft agencies in the fight against corruption and contribute towards the enthronement of transparency, accountability, probity and total commitment in the fight to eradicate corruption in Nigeria.
In its report of November 8, 2015, the Premium Times, an online newspaper reported that the Vice-Chancellor designate of the University of Uyo, (UNIUYO) Professor Enefiok Essien was indicted in 2005 for forgery and sexual assault by the Court of Appeal. This according to the report is from the court processes obtained by its correspondents. Mr. Essien, a 55-year old professor of commercial law and the current dean, faculty of law, Uniuyo, has been tipped to succeed Professor Comfort Ekpo as the next Vice-Chancellor of the university on December 1, 2015.
The Court of Appeal, Calabar, Cross River State, handed down the indictment on Mr. Essien on July 14, 2005, while affirming the judgment of the Federal High Court, Calabar, which nullified Uniuyo’s expulsion of a female student, Linda Onyebuchi Essell, from the university over her alleged involvement in examination malpractice. Uniuyo did not appeal the judgment and Ms. Essell went on to complete her first degree in law and graduated from the university.
According to the report, Ms. Essell, as at the time she was accused of examination malpractice in March 1995, was in her second year, while Mr. Essien was a senior lecturer then. The facts of the case, according to the court processes, is that Ms. Essell submitted unstamped and unsigned answer booklet during her examination in Constitutional Law (PUL 211), and, for this reason, the university accused her of having pre-knowledge of the examination questions and of bringing pre-written examination answers into the examination hall. She was eventually expelled from the university, although she pleaded that she was innocent of the allegations.
Ms. Essell won both matters at the Federal High Court Calabar and Court of Appeal because her case was founded on the breach of her fundamental right to fair hearing by the two panels Examination Malpractice Panel and the Senate Appeal Panel set up by the school to investigate the matter. In her affidavit in support, she stated how Mr. Essien, the man who several years later would be selected for appointment as Uniuyo’s vice chancellor, manipulated the university system against her because she had refused to accede to his love overtures. It was Mr. Essien, who invigilated Ms. Essell in the PUL 211 examination. It has him who accused her of examination malpractice. It was also him who chaired the Examination Malpractice Panel that tried Ms. Essell.
The court held that there was a grave miscarriage of justice and breach of the principles of natural justice as the panel was not properly constituted after one of its members had stepped down and was not replaced. The Court of Appeal faulted Essien’s chairmanship of the panel and the failure of the vice chancellor to hear from Ms. Essell before acting on the recommendations of Mr. Essien’s panel which proceedings the court said wasn’t credible. Ms. Essell also stated in her affidavit that Mr. Essien as chairman of the Examination Malpractice Panel, forged and signed the signature of another member of the panel, Mr. Akpan, as well as doctored the proceedings of the panel. The Court of Appeal in its judgment delivered by Justice Dalhatu Adamu declared that Ms. Essell’s statements as contained in her affidavit were “serious indictment on Essien”.
According to the report, the court stated that since there was no counter-affidavit by Mr. Essien, the court in its unanimous decision, held that Ms. Essell’s allegations “not having been challenged, contradicted and controverted, must be deemed to be true and correct.” The court said, “It is surprising and strange that the said Mr. Essien who was the subject of a vicious allegation refused to swear to a counter-affidavit to challenge or contradict or controvert the allegations leveled against him by the respondent”.
The Director of Information, University of Uyo, Godfrey Essien when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES said he wasn’t aware of the case and declined to comment on it. Prof. Essien also refused to speak on the issue when he was contacted. He said he had nothing to say on the matter.
However, the Pro-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Kimse Okoko, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the institution’s governing council received a petition against Mr. Essien after the selection process had ended. Mr. Okoko said the allegations against Mr. Essien, as contained in the court judgment were brought to the notice of the university Governing Council, in which he (Okoko) is chairman, after the council had concluded its work on the appointment of a new vice chancellor for the university. Mr. Okoko, whose Governing Council appointed and announced Essien as vice chancellor-designate, said it was too late for the council to open an investigation into the allegations against Mr. Essien.
A university ought to be a citadel of learning where world class citizens are produced. In other to achieve this role, it should be headed by respectable member of the society or academia with proven track record and untainted character. The personality to occupy that important office of Vice Chancellor must be with unimpeachable integrity. It would be a slap on the face of this current administration and bring to ridicule the “change” campaign if someone with a record of Mr. Essien is allowed to head an academic institution in Nigeria. From the report, if truly the allegations against him were unfounded, he ought to have vehemently controverted it in a counter-affidavit before the court, in order to absolve himself of any wrongdoing. You will agree with us that there are other credible candidates suitable for effective discharge of expected services from that office. The matter is reported as University of Uyo & Others v. Essel (2006) All Federation Weekly Law Report (Pt. 315) p. 80
In the light of this, CSNAC is therefore by this petition demanding that the appointment of Mr. Essien as the Vice Chancellor of University of Uyo be halted with immediate effect. Failure to accede with this demand will leave us no choice than to approach a court of competent jurisdiction for an order of mandamus compelling you to do same.
Thank you in anticipation of your cooperation.
CC: 1. The President,
Federal Republic of Nigeria,
2. The Chairman,
Independent Corrupt Practices (and Other Related Offenses) Commission (ICPC)
3. The Chairman
National Universities Commission (NUC)