Supreme Court quashes High Court ruling on UEW

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
Professor Mawutor Avoke
Professor Mawutor Avoke

The Supreme Court has quashed a judgment by the Winneba High Court that declared the immediate past Governing Council of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW) as illegal.

On May 2, 2018, the Winneba High Court, presided over by Mr Justice George Atto Mills-Graves, held that the immediate past Governing Council of the UEW overstayed its tenure as stipulated by law.

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The court, therefore, declared all the decisions of the council, including appointments and the award of certificates, as “null and void”.

The legal action that culminated in the High Court’s decision was initiated by Supi Kofi Kwayera, a former assembly member of a suburb of Winneba, with the defendants as the UEW and the Ministry of Education (MoE).

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

Quashed

But in a ruling Wednesday October 31, 2018, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court unanimously held that the High Court breached the rules of natural justice by failing to give the defendants (the UEW and the MoE) a fair hearing.


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According to the apex court, the High Court acted unlawfully when it gave a default judgment and failed to allow the defendants to make their case.

Again, it held that the High Court failed to take any evidence from the plaintiff, Supi Kwayera, in order to prove his case.

“The trial court seriously erred, for which reason its decision must not be made to stand. In the circumstance, the judgement of the

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High Court, dated May 2, 2018, is hereby quashed,’’ the Supreme Court declared.

The five-member panel was presided over by Mr Justice Jones Dotse, with Mr Justice Anthony Bennin, Mrs Justice Vida Akoto Bamfo, Mr Justice Yaw Appau and Mr Justice Gabriel Pwamang as members.

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Professor Avoke's application

The ruling by the court was as a result of a certiorari application filed by the dismissed Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Mawutor Avoke.

Professor Avoke filed the application, seeking to have the High Court’s judgment quashed.

Although the dismissed VC was not party to the action that led to the High Court’s decision, he filed the certiorari application on the basis that his appointment was done by the governing council, which action had been declared null and void by the High Court.

He argued in his application that the High Court gave a default judgment without requiring any prove from Supi Kwayera by way of evidence.

Second time

The decision by the Supreme Court is the second ruling by the court quashing a judgment of the Winneba High Court in relation to the impasse among Supi Kwayera, the UEW and Prof. Avoke.

On December 20, 2017, a five-member panel of the apex court nullified the High Court’s decision that found Prof. Avoke and the Director of Finance of the UEW, Dr Theopholus Senyo Ackolier, guilty of procurement and financial irregularities.

The High Court, presided over by Mr Justice Mills-Graves, had, on December 15 , 2017, also ordered the two principal officers to vacate their positions for a forensic audit into certain road projects in the university.

But the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), UEW Chapter, filed a certiorari application at the Supreme Court for the decision to be quashed.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court held that the plaintiff in the action at the High Court, who was Supi Kwayera, should have initiated the action with a writ of summons and not an application.

Dismissal

Yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court is the offspring of a bitter legal battle between Supi Kwayera and Professor Avoke.

Apart from the court battles, Supi Kwayera also petitioned the new governing council, leading to the dismissal of Prof. Avoke and four other principal officers in August this year.

Supi Kwayera accused Prof. Avoke and the other officers of committing procurement and financial irregularities.

The UEW has already inducted a new VC, in the person of Rev. Fr Professor Anthony Afful-Broni, into office.

Before the induction of the new VC, a lawyer who formerly represented Prof. Avoke, Dr Raymond Atuguba, had accused the government of targeting his client on the basis of ethnicity.

But Mr Alexander Afenyo Markins, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Efutu and lawyer for Supi Kwayera, had rejected Dr Atuguba’s accusations and stated that the dismissal of Prof. Avoke and the four other officers was in the interest of the university.

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