Students of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) have dragged the institution before a Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, over the illegal expulsion of two of its students and the violation of their various fundamental human rights.
The application, which was filed on 11th December, 2015, under suit number: FHC/L/CS/1883/2015 was brought before the court to enforce the Fundamental Human Rights of all the members of Congress of NOUN Students, the unofficial Students Association of the University.
It will be recalled that the National Open University of Nigeria, under its former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Vincent Ado Tenebe, repeatedly barred students of the institution from forming any kind of Union, and subsequently announced the expulsion of two of its students in November of 2015. An investigation has revealed that the expelled students, Messrs Elias Ozikpu and Abdulrazaq Oyebanji Hamzat, were expelled for campaigning for the need of a Student Union body in line with the Nigerian Constitution.
During an interactive session with the media at the University headquarters in Lagos on Thursday, December 3rd 2015, the former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tenebe made certain remarks in defence of the University's anti-union policy:
'The Act establishing this University came up in 1983 and in the blueprint of this University, it was agreed that because of the nature of this school; we are not allowed to float or organise staff and students union because we have staff and students in all states of the federation.' He further added that a union body at the institution will be as having a political party, which will pose danger to the country.
However, an attempt by our correspondent to confirm the stance of the University's Act on Unionism, it was observed that none of the provisions of the Act opposes students or staff unions as claimed by Professor Tenebe, who is one of the Professors recently sacked by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The expelled students, who have now dragged the University to court, have been the voice of several students as well as championing the cause of student unionism at the university before they were issued expulsion letters dated 11th November, 2015. Some of the University students have confirmed that the anti-union stance of the University is not unrelated with fact that the proposed union will challenge some of the illegal fees currently running freely at the University.
Respondents in the suit are:
1. National Open University
2. The Registrar, Mrs Josephine Olasumbo Akinyemi
The expelled student leaders, who are joined by four other members of the Executive Committee of Congress of NOUN Students as Applicants in the suit, are praying the court for some of the following declarations:
1. An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Respondents whether by themselves or by their officers, agents, servants, assigns, privies or any other person(s), however called, from further prosecution, conviction and expulsion of any of its students on the basis of their insistence on the exercise of their Fundamental Rights as enshrined under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
2. An order of perperual injunction restraining the Respondents whether by themselves or by their officers, agents, servants, assigns, privies or any other person(s), however called, from further issuing any notice prohibiting students’ right to Freedom of Association and thereby infringing on the Fundamental Rights of the Applicants.
3. An order quashing or setting aside the expulsion letters issued against Mr Elias Ozikpu and Abdulrazaq Hamzat dated 11/11/2015, etc.
The presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Olatoregun Ishola had, on February 9th adjourned the case for Wednesday 17th February, 2016 for hearing. Although the Open University Counsel failed to turn up for the hearing and failed to file any affidavit of defence, Counsel to the Applicants, Barrister Gabriel Orban prayed the court to grant all the reliefs as contained in their substantive suit. The case was subsequently adjourned to 13th April, 2016 for judgement.