The National Industrial Court of Nigeria, sitting in Abuja, on Monday ruled against moves by the Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) and the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, to remove the Provost of Federal College of Veterinary and Medical Laboratory Technology, Plateau State, Joseph Okwori, from his office.
This is coming two weeks after the court prevented the ARCN Executive Secretary, Garba Sharubutu, and the new agriculture minister, Muhammed Abubakar, from conducting interviews for the position of the Provost.
The court also stopped the minister from going ahead with the aptitude test for nine applicants, who were shortlisted for the Provost position, slated to hold at the College premises, Jos on Thursday, September 2, 2021.
Justice Bashar Alkali, while ruling on the application for an injunction, on Monday, said the Minister and the Executive Secretary "have no power whatsoever, to remove the applicant" (Provost) from his office, when he had not finished his tenure.
The court also frowned at the refusal of Sharubutu to honour the memo sent to him by the immediate past Agriculture Minister, Mallam Sabo Nanono, who asked him not to involve himself with the recruitment of another provost of the college.
In a memo dated June 4, 2021, which was tendered in evidence, the former Minister had advised Sharubutu to go ahead by recruiting heads of other institutions but not the Provost of the College whom he said had two more years to stay in the office.
The Executive Secretary, however, ignored this directive and rather advertised the position of the Provost of the College, and shortlisted 9 applicants for interview.
But the Provost, Okwori, had challenged the process in court and the Judge granted an interlocutory order to stop the interview scheduled for September 2.
Justice Alkali, during his ruling on Monday, specifically ordered that Okwori be allowed in office, while the parties continued with their suit.
The court affirmed that Okwori, who was appointed as a substantive Provost of the College on the 2nd July, 2018, would still be in the office till 2023, "according to the appointment letter, which has not been controverted".
A paragraph from the letter of appointment obtained by SaharaReporters read, “Consequently, your appointment which will run for a single period of (5) five years now takes effect from 2nd July, 2018. This is in recognition of your dedication and commitment to service delivery as well as your immense contribution to the development of the Green Alternative Program (GAP).
"It is expected that you would continue to lay a solid foundation for the implementation of the Mandate/objectives of the College in accordance with extant laws and other subsisting Rules and Regulations.”