A High Court in Winneba has ordered the reinstatement of the dismissed Vice-Chancellor (V-C) of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), Professor Mawutor Avoke.
The court, presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh, on Wednesday, February 2022, also ordered the UEW to reinstate five principal officers of the university who were dismissed together with Prof Avoke in August 2018.
The five officers are Dr Theophilus Senyo Ackorlie, Finance Officer; Mr Frank Owusu Boateng, Deputy Finance Officer; Ms Sena Dake, Internal Auditor; Ms Mary Dzimey, acting Head of Procurement, and lng. Daniel Tetteh, acting Deputy Director of Works and Physical Development.
Per the orders of the court, Prof. Avoke is to be reinstated as V-C, while the five officers are to be reinstated to the same grade level they occupied before their dismissal.
It was the considered view of the court that the position of V-C of the UEW was currently vacant and, therefore, Prof. Avoke should go back to occupy it, while the other officers should be given other commensurate positions because their previous positions were currently being held by others.
The court also ordered the payment of all the salaries, gratuities and benefits in arrears since their dismissal.
It, however, refused to grant costs in the spirit of reconciliation.
Justice Aboagye Tandoh held that the dismissal of Prof. Avoke and the five officers, coupled with the subsequent refusal of the UEW to reinstate them, was wrongful in law, unjust and against the tenets of equity.
According to him, the six persons had already been exonerated by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), which investigated certain allegations of procurement malfeasance levelled against them
He also held that a three-member committee set up to investigate and amicably resolve the crisis that bedevilled the UEW had also recommended the reinstatement of the six persons after finding no adverse case against them.
The three-member committee, chaired by Justice Sir Dennis Dominic Adjei, a Justice of the Court of Appeal, had held that the dismissal of the six persons was illegal and, therefore, they must be reinstated.
Justice Tandoh ruled that it was unjust for the UEW to still refuse to reinstate the six persons when all investigations had cleared them of any wrongdoing.
The court gave the judgment after it upheld an application for prohibition and mandamus by one Samuel Kweku Ghartey.
Mr Ghartey wanted the court to prohibit the UEW from appointing anyone to occupy the vacant position of V-C.
Also, the applicant was seeking an order of mandamus to compel the Governing Council of the UEW to implement the findings in the EOCO report that exonerated the six officers and the report of the three-member committee that called for their reinstatement.
The applicant also asked the court to issue a declaratory order that the university acted in actual bias or strong likelihood of bias in causing Prof. Avoke and the five officers to step aside without any prima facie case against them.
Statement from Avoke
A statement from Prof. Avoke on the ruling said: “In summary, the court, at a sitting today, ordered the UEW, where I once served as V-C, to restore me to the office to serve the remainder of my interrupted term as V-C. Consequently, I genuinely expect that in the coming days, I will return to the office and perform all the duties that come with the office of V-C for the next two years.
“While I consider this judicial determination a total and final vindication of my position regarding the divisive issues that founded my removal from office, I am clear and certain in my mind that I will not boast over the outcome, no matter how reliving and joyous the judgement may seem. Instead, and with the help of the Almighty God, I intend to work every day with all the genuineness of heart, skill, and diligence at my disposal to ensure that complete and total reconciliation is done between me and all the persons who may seem to have been vanquished by today’s judicial determination.”
Quoting President Nelson Mandela, Prof. Avoke said: “Reconciliation does not mean forgetting or trying to bury the pain of conflict; reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.”
“Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That’s why it’s such a powerful weapon”.
He said the quotes should remind all of us of the need to put the bitter past behind us and work together honestly and diligently in the continuous journey to build the UEW into a respectable African institution of higher learning, with an unyielding knack for global excellence, groundbreaking research pedigree and reach.
He said it was in doing that and more that the UEW would be deemed to have achieved its true and stated purpose.
“I believe that as a university, the great UEW has the resources – both financial and human – and the goodwill needed to establish itself as a truly impactful and influential institution of global significance through the diligent efforts of management, staff, students and all stakeholders. I pledge that on my return to office in the coming days, I will provide the committed and visionary leadership needed to help the UEW either achieve or move it closer to achieving its stated purpose,” he said.
UEW Public Relations
Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer of the university, Mr Ernest Azugita, said the management of the university had still not officially received a copy of the said ruling reinstating the dismissed V-C.
He indicated that the case of the dismissed V-C and other members of the university was dismissed by a High Court and an Appeal Court in Cape Coast, adding that the management would have to critically take a look at the ruling on this particular application to inform its next line of action.
The crisis in the UEW started in 2017 when the Winneba High Court ordered Prof. Avoke to step aside until the case brought against him and the university’s Governing Council was determined.
The case was by one Supi Kofi Kwayera, who insisted that the V-C and the finance officer were operating under the institution’s defunct governing council.
Supi Kwayera also accused the V-C of engaging in various procurement infractions.
In July 2017, Prof. Avoke and the five officers were interdicted by the UEW to allow for investigations into the alleged procurement infractions.
On May 2, 2018, the Winneba High Court, presided over by Mr Justice George Atto Mills-Graves, held that the Governing Council of the UEW that appointed Prof. Avoke as V-C was illegitimate because it had overstayed its tenure, as stipulated by law.
This decision was, however, quashed by the Supreme Court.
In August 2018, the UEW dismissed the six officers, leading to in-fighting and controversies.