A High Court in Isuikwuato has ordered the Abia State University to restore a degree certificate which was withdrawn from former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu.
Justice Agwu Umah Kalu held that the university’s withdrawal of the degree was unconstitutional.
He directed the university’s Senate (the second defendant) to immediate restore the certificate to Kalu.
Justice Kalu held that the claimant’s suit was meritorious; he granted all the reliefs sought.
The judge nullified the university’s senate ad-hoc investigation panel report on allegations of fraud and breach of regulations concerning Kalu’s admission and graduation.
According to the judge, the university’s March 1, 2013 decision to cancel and withdraw Kalu’s degree without affording him an opportunity to defend “the grave allegations against him” amounted to a breach of the claimant’s right to a fair hearing guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution.
“Finally, an order issues from this court mandating and/or directing the second defendant to immediately restore the degree result and certificate of the claimant Kalu Orji,” the judge ordered.
Kalu filed the suit on May 27, 2013. He sought a declaration that the university withdrew his certificate without affording him an opportunity to defend the serious allegations against him.
He sought an order quashing the proceedings, as well as an order mandating the university to restore the degree result and certificate to him.
The university, in its defence, argued that the suit was premature because the claimant did not seek or exhaust the domestic remedies as provided in Section 9 of the ABSU Edict No. 5 of 1995 before suing.
ABSU urged the court to hold that the suit was, therefore, incompetent and robbed the court its jurisdiction to hear and determine it.
The university senate withdrew the degree certificate it awarded Kalu while he was a sitting governor of the state.
It said there was a violation of its academic regulations on admission-by-transfer, which rendered the offer irregular, ab initio.
It said Kalu did not complete the mandatory six semesters (three academic years of study), but spent only two semesters in all.
But, Justice Kalu dismissed the university’s objections and held that the maxim audi alterem partem accentuates the rule of fair hearing.
“It lays down that no man should be condemned unheard. It is the first principle of the civilised jurisprudence that a person facing charges must be given an opportunity to be heard before any decision is taken against him,” the judge said.
The judge said it was clear that the defendants did not accord the claimant his right to fair hearing.
“He was not informed of the petition written against him. He was not shown the exhibit ‘E’. The claimant was not informed of the setting up of the senate ad-hoc panel to investigate the matter of the exhibit ‘E’ as it concerned the claimant.
“The claimant was not invited to the sittings of the said ad-hoc panel and the second defendant before each arrived at the decision adverse to the interest of the claimant.
“In a nutshell, the defendants did not afford the claimant common courtesy, decency and natural justice.
“Even God, in all His omniscience, did not pass a sentence upon Adam before he was called upon to make his defence.
“In the immortal words of Lord Denning in Pett v. Greyhound Racing Association  2 ALL ER 545, when a man’s reputation or livelihood is at stake, he not only has a right to speak by his mouth, he also has a right to speak by counsel, if he so desires.
“Following all I have said above, the court holds that the suit of the claimant is meritorious and grants all the reliefs sought by the claimant,” the judge held.
08 February, 2018