A High Court sitting in Yenagoa has set aside and declared null and void the rustication of one Micah Diniprema, a 27 years old final year student of the Faculty of Education of the Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa state and ordered the authorities of the institution to reinstate and allow him to graduate.
The final year student was rusticated from the university for one semester with effect from second semester of the 2013/2014 academic session “for alleged offence of misconduct,” because according to the varsity authorities, he did not utilize available internal means to resolve a university matter before going to court.
Diniprema, had dragged the chairman and secretary of the Students Union Electoral Commission, Dr Mrs. Comfort Zuofa and Mr. Barry Tamunoibi respectively to court to challenge his disqualification and wrongful exclusion from lists of candidates to contest for the position of students union president of the institution in 2013.
However, he was ordered by the university authorities to withdraw the matter from court only for him to be rusticated for one semester with effect from second semester of the 2013/2014 session in a letter dated June 2, 2014 “for alleged offence of misconduct,” and “for not utilizing available internal means to resolve a university matter before going to court.”
In her judgment on Tuesday, the presiding judge, Justice (Mrs.) M. A. Ayemieye, ordered the University authorities or their agents to restrain themselves from unlawfully frustrating the student from graduating from the Niger Delta University.
She declared: “I hereby make the following order, a declaration that the letter dated June 2, 2014 which rusticated the claimant for one semester with effect from second semester of 2013/2014 academic session is therefore null and void and is hereby set aside.
“The decision of the Disciplinary Committee of the University which rusticated the student is null and void, on the ground that the he was not given fair hearing before sentence was passed on him. The act of filling a suit before the Bayelsa State High Court of Justice to challenge his disqualification from Students Union election does not constitute a punishable misconduct under any law.
“Misconduct was specifically spelt out thus: forgery, alterations, issues of mutilation of documents, record, identity cards and impersonation, furnishing false information, willful damage or destruction of properties belonging to the university, aiding or inciting others to commit any of the above acts. So the offence of which the claimant was punished with rustication is not contained in the University Student Handbook and any other law and I so hold.
“The defendants are hereby restrained by themselves their agents and all persons acting on their behalf from unlawfully frustrating the claimant from graduating from the Niger Delta University.”
The judge however, failed to award damages.
In his reaction, Mr. Diniprema, who described the court ruling as a relief, said: “Just as the legal dictum said, where there is a wrong, there is a remedy, the university wrong me and today the court has remedy that wrong, I know this a judgment that is loved by many, irritated by some and must be respected by all, irrespective of the fact that no damages was awarded but am still grateful to God.”
counsel to the Niger Delta University, Mr. Oseibide Akpagra said, while reacting to the ruling, said: “the court is always right and in this case too, the court is right, we have no other option than to abide by the ruling of the court, but on the other hand as a client I will present the judgment as it is before them and if they deemed it necessary to appeal, it is their own decision to make, but I think it will be proper for them to abide by the judgment of the court.”
Also reacting, counsel to the student, Mr. Rowland Emem, said: “My take on judgment is exactly what came out except I was disappointed on the issue of damages but the court actually gave us what we wanted. It would have been a sad day for any court to decide that going to court sanctioned by the constitution is a misconduct for which the student is punished by rustication. The court has vindicated our position that what the claimant did was not wrong.”