'Dismissed' UEW VC Avoke gives ultimatum to be reinstated

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong
Prof Mawutor Avoke
Prof Mawutor Avoke

The estranged Vice Chancellor of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), Prof Mawutor Avoke has initiated fresh moves aimed at getting his position at the university back.

Together with Dr Theophilus Senyo Ackorlie, also an estranged Finance Officer of the UEW, they have through their lawyers asked the University to prepare their offices and make available to them the necessary tools and resources necessary for them to resume work not later than November 26, 2018.

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They are also asking the UEW to pay all the entitlements due them, which the university, “illegally and unreasonably withheld from them from the time of their illegal interdictions, through to their illegal dismissals, and to date.”

The letter, a copy of which has been seen by Graphic Online is dated Tuesday November 20, 2018 and addressed to the chairman of the UEW Council and signed by their solicitor, Harold Tivah Atuguba of Atuguba and Associates.

“We wish to advise, and advice is hereby given, that should you, within Seven (7) days of receipt of this letter, fail to commit, unequivocally, to meeting the above demands, we shall proceed and resort to other lawful, processes or avenues to vindicate the constitutional, statutory, and legal rights of our Clients without further recourse to you,” they stated.


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“Finally, If notice is required for the institution of any legal or other proceedings against you or any recipient of this letter, this letter shall constitute such notice,” it added.

Argument

Prof Avoke and Dr Ackorlie are arguing that, since the Supreme Court on October 31, 2018 quashed the High Court in Winneba’s decision of May 2nd, 2018 that declared their appointments as “null and void”, they are entitled to return to their positions.

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Besides, they are arguing that since their appointments had been declared void by the High Court in Winneba, the university could not have subjected them, when they were technically no longer occupying their respective offices to disciplinary hearings and subsequently purportedly dismiss them from office.

“We wish to bring to your attention that immediately the High Court declared our Clients' appointments as void by its Judgment dated 2nd May 2018, our Clients effectively ceased to be officers of the University.”

“Accordingly, no disciplinary proceedings could be instituted against them as they were no longer officers or appointees of the University,” they said.

They insisted they therefore refrained from attending the said “illegal disciplinary hearings” because of the High Court decision.

“It Is clear, therefore, that the purported disciplinary hearings carried out in respect of our Clients that directly resulted in their purported dismissals are void, as our Clients were no longer occupying their respective offices in the University at the time of the purported disciplinary hearings and their purported dismissals, since It is impossible and impracticable to dismiss persons who were not in office at the time of the said dismissal.”

Read also: Why UEW VC Avoke and 6 others were asked to proceed on leave

Related: Supreme Court quashes High Court ruling on UEW

Read also Removal of Prof. Avoke not influenced by ethnicity

The UEW matter started with a lawsuit initiated in May 2017 by Supi Kofi Kwayera, a former Assembly Member for Donkoryiem, a suburb of Winneba, against the UEW.
Mr Kwayera, in his legal action, claimed that the tenure of the Governing Council of the UEW elapsed in November 2013 after its members had served two 2-year terms.
According to him, the Ministry of Education failed to constitute a new governing council and allowed the defunct council to continue to operate, contrary to Section 8 of the University of Education, Winneba Act (Act 672).
He also argued that the Governing Council of the UEW appointed certain officers of the university, such as the vice-chancellor [Mawutor Avoke], the registrar and the finance officer and also “approved academic board recommendations for the award of certificates and honorary degrees’’, although it had “no such mandate’’.
The applicant further claimed that the council awarded “contracts to several companies to undertake projects without recourse to the Procurement Act 663’’.
He therefore, sought reliefs such as a “declaration that the extension of the mandate of the governing council of the 1st respondent by the 2nd respondent to stay in office to perform such functions as a properly appointed council was in breach of Section 8 of Act 672 and a declaration that all decisions taken by the de facto body of persons who constituted themselves as the governing council are null and void and of no effect”.
He prayed the court to order the refund of all amounts expended by the university on any contract which “side-stepped the dictates of the Procurement Act’’.
In effect, his case was that Prof Avoke's appointment was illegal.

Procurement

Aside the court case, Professor Avoke and four principal officers of the UEW, including the Finance Officer, Dr Theophilus Senyo Ackorlie, Daniel Tetteh, Mary Dzimey and Frank Owusu Boateng, were interdicted by the university after it emerged that some vital documents at some offices at the centre of an ongoing investigation on procurement had disappeared.

They were found culpable for the loss of the vital documents and were subsequently found guilty of procurement and other financial irregularities.

Dismissal

The irregularities had to do with the monies paid to the contractors of the North Campus roads project.

In August 2018, the UEW Governing Council dismissed the five principal officers of the university after a fact-finding committee had been set up to look into the matter.

Prof Avoke maintained his innocence and challenged his indictment in court.

He refused to appear before the disciplinary committee.

He took the case to the Accra High Court (Labour Division), but it was beyond its jurisdiction, forcing him to take the matter to the Supreme Court. Related: Supreme Court quashes High Court ruling on UEW

Below is a copy of the recent letter Prof Avoke sent to the UEW Council

Tuesday November 20, 2018

THE CHAIRMAN
THE GOVERNING COUNCIL
UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION, WINNEBA
WINNEBA

Attn: Prof. Nicholas Abakah

Dear Sir,

RESUMPTION OF PROF. MAWUTOR AVOKE AND DR. SENYO ACKORLIE TO THEIR PREVIOUSLY HELD OFFICES IN THE UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION, WINNEBA; AND PAYMENT OF THEIR ENTITLEMENTS

We act as Solicitors for Prof. Mawutor Avoke and Dr. Senyo Ackorlie (our “Clients”) and write to you upon their instructions.

We have the firm instructions of our Clients to bring to your attention the following:

1. You will recall that on the 20th day of February 2018, one Supi Kwayera caused a Writ of Summons to be issued against the University of Education, Winneba and the Minister of Education, at the High Court, Winneba, claiming the following reliefs:

a. “A declaration that the extension of the mandate of the Governing Council of the 1st Defendant by the 2nd Defendant to stay in office to perform such functions as properly appointed council was in breach of section 8 of Act 672.

b. A declaration that no authority or institution of state has any power to extend the tenure of a member of the Governing Council of the 1st Defendant unless such extension is in accordance with Act 672.

c. A declaration that all appointments made by the defunct Governing Council which constituted themselves as the Governing Council of the 1st Defendant by virtue of the directives of the 2nd Defendant are null and void and of no legal effect.

d. A declaration that all decisions taken by the de facto body of potions who constituted themselves as Governing Council is null and void and of no effect (sic)."

2. You will also recall that on the 2nd day of May 2018, the High Court, Winneba delivered Judgment in Default of Defence, granting all the declaratory reliefs endorsed on the Writ of Summons of the said Supi Kwayera. Specifically, by the said Judgment of the High Court. Winneba, all appointments made by the alleged defunct Governing Council, inducing those of our Clients, were declared null and void and of no legal effect.

3. As your lawyers may have advised you, the effect of the said judgment of the High Court, Winneba, whilst that judgment subsisted, was that the respective appointments of our Clients were void and as though the said appointments were never made.

4. Your lawyers may have also advised you that a decision or an order of a Court, however, procured and however invalid, is binding until it Is set aside by a Court of competent jurisdiction.

5. Therefore, immediately the Court declared the appointments of our Clients as null and void on the 2nd day of May 2018, our Clients effectively ceased to hold their respective offices in the University of Education, Winneba.

6. You will also recall that after our Clients’ appointments had been declared void by the High Court, Winneba, you purported to subject our Clients who were no longer occupying their respective offices in the University by virtue of the judgment of the High Court, Winneba to disciplinary hearings and subsequently purported to dismiss them from office.

7. We wish to bring to your attention that immediately the High Court declared our Clients' appointments as void by its Judgment dated 2nd May 2018, our Clients effectively ceased to be officers of the University. Accordingly, no disciplinary proceedings could be instituted against them as they were no longer officers or appointees of the University.

8. This reason, among others, informed our decision to advice our Clients to refrain from attending the said illegal disciplinary hearings.

9. It Is clear, therefore, that the purported disciplinary hearings carried out in respect of our Clients that directly resulted in their purported dismissals are void, as our Clients were no longer occupying their respective offices in the University at the time of the purported disciplinary hearings and their purported dismissals, since It is impossible and impracticable to dismiss persons who were not in office at the time of the said dismissal.

10. As you are already aware, on the 31st of October 2018, the Supreme Court, by a unanimous decision, quashed the Judgment of the Winneba High Court dated 2nd May, 2018. Consequently, the declaration by the High Court, Winneba that the appointments of our Clients were void stands quashed by the Supreme Court.

11. In effect, immediately the said Judgment of the High Court, Winneba was quashed by the Supreme Court on the 31st of October 2018, our Clients automatically resumed the erstwhile positions they respectively held in the University prior to the decision of the High Court, Winneba dated 2nd May, 2018.

Consequent upon these and other material facts which we have found through our investigations, we have advised our Clients In respect of their legal rights and remedies at law; whereupon our Clients firmly instructs us to request you to:

i. Prepare their offices and make available to them the necessary tools and resources necessary for them to resume work not later than the 26th of November, 2018.

ii. Pay all the entitlements due our Clients, which the University of Education, Winneba illegally and unreasonably withheld from them from the time of their illegal interdictions, through to their illegal dismissals, and to date.

We wish to advise, and advice is hereby given, that should you, within Seven (7) days of receipt of this letter, fail to commit, unequivocally, to meeting the above demands, we shall proceed and resort to other lawful, processes or avenues to vindicate the constitutional, statutory, and legal rights of our Clients without further recourse to you.

Finally, If notice is required for the institution of any legal or other proceedings against you or any recipient of this letter, this letter shall constitute such notice.

Yours in the service of Mother Ghana.

Harold Tivah Atuguba

Atuguba and Associates
Solicitors for Prof. Mawutor Avoke and Dr Senyo Ackorlie

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD COPY OF UEW RESPONSE TO PROF AVOKE

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD COPY OF PROF AVOKE'S LETTER

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