Abimbola Abatta, Osogbo
Workers of the Osun State University have approached a Federal High Court sitting in Osogbo, Osun State for an order compelling the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate and prosecute the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof Labo Popoola for allegedly misappropriating and embezzling the university funds.
The workers, under the umbrella of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational And Associated Institution (NASU) claimed that their VC has mismanaged over N100 million belonging to the school among other corrupt practices.
When the matter, with suit number FHC/OS/CS/44/2020, came up at the court on Tuesday, counsel to the applicant (NASU), Kanmi Ajibola said the application for judicial review was brought before the court in pursuant to order 34 rules 1, 2 and 3 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) of 2019, sections 6(6) (B), 251(I) (O) and (R) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
According to him, the Motion on Notice dated November 11, 2020, was filed on November 12 and duly served on the respondents same day and urged the court to hear the motion and order the EFCC to Investigate and prosecute Popoola for allegedly siphoning the funds of the university.
NASU informed the court that it had written a comprehensive petition supported with valued documents to the EFCC in Ibadan against the VC since 2018 but the anti-graft agency had failed to investigate and prosecute the Vice-Chancellor.
But, counsels to EFCC, M. S. Usman and the VC, S. B. Ayeni sought relief of the court to adjourn the sitting to allow it respond to the application before the court on the ground that the filed motion on notice was handed to them on Monday. They pleaded with the court to give them more time to respond having exhausted the required period stated in the notice.
Ajibola, while opposing the application for adjournment, said the applicant must not be made to suffer for the respondents’ decision not to respond to the application, saying they were served early enough to respond to it.
He added that should the court adjourn the matter, the EFCC and VC should be made to pay the applicant the sum of N100,000 each as the cost for the inconvenience the applicant was made to suffer.
Corroborating the applicant’s argument that the respondents had enough time to respond but failed to do so, the presiding judge, Justice Peter Lifu chided the respondents’ counsels over flagrant disobedient of court order and failing to respond on time.
The judge frowned at the request of the respondents for adjournment maintaining that they had enough time to have responded.
Justice Lifu while seeking clarification from the respondents’ counsel on why he should adjourn the matter, said it is unfortunate that counsel disregarded a clear court order and wanted the court to act with impunity because they (respondents’ counsels) failed to do what was expected of them.
He warned that the problem of the administrative bottleneck of their organisation should not be brought before the court as it (court) is bound by law and refused to swallow his order or act with impunity.
However, the EFCC lawyer acceded that the order of the court was clear but in the interest of fair hearing, their application for adjournment should be granted.
Ruling on the prayers of the parties, Justice Lifu granted the cost of N20,000 against EFCC and UNIOSUN VC in favour of NASU to compensate the applicant for the inconvenience the adjournment might have caused.
He, therefore, adjourned the matter till November 25 for final hearing
The judge ruled: “the application for adjournment in this instance as made by the respondents is without cogent, compelling or convincing recourse. A fair hearing has been adequately expended to the parties in this case.
“Adjournment is not granted as of course, it must be based on sound legal principles, justifiable by good course. In the absence of that good course, it will amount to travesty of justice to grant one.
“However, since the inconvenience can be assuaged or compensated, I bend backwards to reluctantly accommodate the respondents by granting next adjournment to the 25th of November, 2020 for definite hearing as agreed by parties.
“Since an adjournment has been granted thereby preventing the hearing of this case today, I grant the cost of N20,000 each against the respondents but in favour of the applicant.”