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Opinions of Friday, 2 November 2018

Columnist: Kweku Takyi

The Supreme Court ruling on UEW: A case of wrong media reportage

Prof. Mawutor Avoke Prof. Mawutor Avoke

The University of Education, Winneba (UEW) court saga has received a whole lot of unnecessary political readings resulting in most cases, the real issues being drowned. This morning Wednesday, 31st October,2018, the Supreme Court made a ruling in respect of a certiorari application brought before it that has seen widespread publication on mainstream and social media. Most of the reportage on the matter are rather misleading than informing the unsuspecting public. Indeed GBC Radio news at 1pm categorically but erroneously reported that the Supreme Court has ordered the reinstatement of the dismissed Vice Chancellor(VC), Prof Avoke. This has prompted my intervention to set the records straight and to prevent the deliberate orchestration to dent the image of the University in the eyes of the public.

The ruling by the Supreme Court bothered essentially on a relief sought by the embattled officers, Prof Avoke and Dr Ackorlie to the effect that the court should set aside the default judgment given by the Winneba High Court on 2nd May, 2018, which failed to give the embattled officers the opportunity to present their evidence as interested parties so that, they can now join the case to give their evidence. As it were, the Supreme Court this morning gave the embattled officers a favourable ruling in respect of this relief.

It is important to stress that there was no relief before the Supreme Court that warrants a ruling that the VC should be reinstated as reported by GBC Radio at its 1pm news and other media outlets. It leaves one wondering whether the story was planted or the reporter was not at the court. Indeed I have read and heard some members from the legal team of the embattled officers play mischief with the ruling given by the Supreme Court this morning.

Technically the ruling implies that the embattled officers can now join the case to give their evidence. The Court once again for emphasis, did not give any ruling on the reinstatement of Prof Avoke. It is important note, that the matter of reinstating the dismissed officers is a subject pending before the Cape Coast High Court 2 for determination. It should also be made clear that the favourable ruling secured by the embattled officers today does not absolve them from the charges against them; it does not by any stretch of the imagination scratch the substantive issues.

It is also instructive that the default judgment given by the Winneba High Court did not in any way order the dismissal of the embattled officers so that, that judgment as has been overturned by the Supreme Court this morning should invariably mean that they should be reinstated. The dismissal of the embattled officers was the decision of the University's Governing Council authorised by the laws of the University to bring finality to issues raised in reports. The Council's own decision to dismiss the embattled officers was not made in a vacuum. It was based on laid down processes which started with the setting up of a Fact Finding Committee which report found the embattled officers culpable of some breaches and/or misconduct. Subsequently the said officers were subject to the required disciplinary processes to answer same. Anyone who doubts this account can grab a copy of the Council's statement on its Fact Finding Committee's Report issued in August, 2018. Council did not in any portion of that statement refer to a court ruling as the basis for dismissing the embattled officers. What people do not appreciate however, is the fact that two simultaneous processes — the court process and the internal process were at play in the University and the two should not be confused.

It would be recalled that in December, 2017 the same Supreme Court gave a ruling quashing the judgment of the Winneba High Court on technical grounds to the effect that a wrong process was used to bring the case before the Winneba High Court and so its judgment was rendered void but the Supreme Court praised the plaintiff for his public spiritedness and indicated to him that he could restart his case at the Winneba High Court using the right process if he so wished. The Supreme Court however, made it abundantly clear that it could not interfere in the Council's decision because it was within the rules of the University. Why would the Supreme Court now interfere with Council's decision founded on the laws of the University? The plaintiff would later go on to use the right process and secured a default judgment which is the subject of the Supreme Court's ruling this morning.

It is my hope that the little light shed on the ruling this morning has corrected the wrong reportage and impression the media particularly GBC sought to create on the Supreme Court's ruling. I believe that the media fraternity should take their time to understand the court processes and issues so that their reportage will reflect the facts and not end up bringing the name of reputable institutions into disrepute.

Kweku Takyi /