A judge of the National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos yesterday described as fake news a report last week that he refused an ex-parte motion filed by Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, who was ‘removed’ as University of Lagos (UNILAG) Vice-Chancellor.
Justice J.I Essien said he never even sat on the case until yesterday because he had not read the file.
The judge spoke while hearing applications for the formal withdrawal of two suits filed by parties to the Vice-Chancellorship controversy in the university.
“I was surprised on Saturday when a colleague of mine drew my attention to the news that I had heard this motion and refused it. The situation is very bad because it a mis-represention of court proceeding”, he said.
Ogundipe, who has now been suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari, had earlier complained to the court through his counsel Messrs Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, that some newspaper publications quoted one of the defendants in suit as their source of information.
“My lord, we are greatly disappointed on the newspaper publication last week that my lord had refused this motion which never come up before this court”, claimant’s counsel said.
Responding, the judge noted that if he had sat on the matter, he “would have done substantial justice to the case” being a Professor of Law who left teaching to become a judicial officer.
He urged Unilag authorities to resolve the controversy amicably, adding that this controversy is not good for the image of a university.
One of the suits was filed by Ogundipe, to challenge his removal by the Governing Council then under the chairmanship of the now ‘suspended’ Pro-Chancellor, Dr Wale Babalakin (SAN).
The other was filed by the Unilag Senate to challenge Ogundipe’s removal and his replacement with Prof. Theophilus Soyombo by the Governing Council.
Oyetibo applied for the withdrawal of Ogundipe’s suit while Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) applied for the withdrawal of the Senate’s suit.
There was no objection by Mr Tola Oshobi (SAN), who represented Babalakin in both cases, following which Justice Essien struck out both suits.
The judge said he was glad that the parties elected to withdraw the suit, thereby saving him from having to make pronouncements, which would have generated media reactions.
He noted, however, that having been a Dean of Faculty and member of a university Senate, he would have “determined the case properly and settled the controversy because the matter came to the right place”.
“We hope that peace will reign because when two elephants fight, in this case, the grass will wither. Controversy is not good for a university,” Justice Essien said.
Osipitan assured the judge that “maturity will prevail.”