A coalition, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), has petitioned the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, over the appointment of the Vice Chancellor designate of the University of Uyo, (UNIUYO), Professor Enefiok Essien, stating that the professor of law indicted in 2005 for forgery and sexual assault by the Court of Appeal.

According to the petition sent to the Minister and signed by the coalition’s chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, the group which said that it took its cue to follow up on the issue from a report of an online Newspaper, Premium Times, of November 8, 2015, said the appointment of Essien must be halted with immediate effect owing to his indictment by a court of competent jurisdiction.

The petition reads: “The Court of Appeal, Calabar, Cross River State, handed down the indictment on Mr. Essien on July 14, 2005 while affirming the judgment of the Federal High Court, Calabar, which nullified Uniuyo’s expulsion of a female student, Linda Onyebuchi Essell, from the university over her alleged involvement in examination malpractice. Uniuyo did not appeal the judgment and Ms. Essell went on to complete her first degree in law and graduated from the university.

“According to the report, Ms. Essell, as at the time she was accused of examination malpractice in March, 1995, was in her second year, while Mr. Essien was a senior lecturer then. The facts of the case, according to the court processes, is that Ms. Essell submitted unstamped and unsigned answer booklet during her examination in Constitutional Law (PUL 211), and for this reason the university accused her of having pre-knowledge of the examination questions and of bringing pre-written examination answers into the examination hall. She was eventually expelled from the university, although she pleaded that she was innocent of the allegations.

“Ms Essell won both matters at the Federal High Court Calabar and Court of Appeal because her case was founded on the breach of her fundamental right to fair hearing by the two panels Examination Malpractice Panel and the Senate Appeal Panel set up by the school to investigate the matter. In her affidavit in support, she stated how Mr. Essien, the man who several years later would be selected for appointment as Uniuyo’s vice chancellor, manipulated the university system against her because she had refused to accede to his love overtures. It was Mr. Essien, who invigilated Ms. Essell in the PUL 211examination. It was him who accused her of examination malpractice. It was also him who chaired the Examination Malpractice Panel that tried Ms. Essell.”

The matter, which is reported as University of Uyo & Others v. Essel (2006) All Federation Weekly Law Report (Pt. 315) p. 80, the court held that there was a grave miscarriage of justice and breach of the principles of natural justice as the panel was not properly constituted after one of its members had stepped down and was not replaced. The Court of Appeal faulted Essien’s chairmanship of the panel and the failure of the vice chancellor to hear from Ms. Essell before acting on the recommendations of Mr. Essien’s panel which proceedings the court said wasn’t credible. Ms Essell also stated in her affidavit that Mr. Essien as chairman of the Examination Malpractice Panel, forged and signed the signature of another member of the panel, Mr. Akpan, as well as doctored the proceedings of the panel. The Court of Appeal in its judgment delivered by Justice Dalhatu Adamu declared that Ms. Essell’s statements as contained in her affidavit were “serious indictment on Essien”.

According to the report, the court stated that since there was no counter-affidavit by Mr. Essien, the court in its unanimous decision, held that Ms. Essell’s allegations “not having been challenged, contradicted and controverted, must be deemed to be true and correct.” The court said, “It is surprising and strange that the said Mr. Essien who was the subject of a vicious allegation refused to swear to a counter-affidavit to challenge or contradict or controvert the allegations leveled against him by the respondent”.
The Director of Information, University of Uyo, Godfrey Essien when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES said he wasn’t aware of the case and declined to comment on it. Prof. Essien also refused to speak on the issue when he was contacted. He said he had nothing to say on the matter.

However, the Pro-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Kimse Okoko, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the institution’s governing council received a petition against Mr. Essien after the selection process had ended. Mr. Okoko said the allegations against Mr. Essien, as contained in the court judgment were brought to the notice of the university Governing Council, in which he (Okoko) is chairman, after the council had concluded its work on the appointment of a new vice chancellor for the university. Mr. Okoko, whose Governing Council appointed and announced Essien as vice chancellor-designate, said it was too late for the council to open an investigation into the allegations against Mr. Essien.

“From the report, if truly the allegations against him were unfounded, he ought to have vehemently controverted it in a counter-affidavit before the court, in order to absolve himself of any wrong doing. You will agree with us that there are other credible candidates suitable for effective discharge of expected services from that office.

“In the light of this, CSNAC is therefore by this petition demanding that the appointment of Mr. Essien as the Vice Chancellor of University of Uyo be halted with immediate effect. Failure to accede with this demand will leave us no choice than to approach a court of competent jurisdiction for an order of mandamus compelling you to do same.”