Jos — A Federal High Court in Jos, Plateau State, presided by Justice M.H. Kurya has awarded N5million damages against a lecturer of the department of Economics, University of Jos, Mr. Thaddeus Longduut, for victimising a student undergoing a Master’s degree programme in Economics, Georgia Davou, causing her not to graduate from the programme.
The court, in the case of Georgia Mark Davou vs. University of Jos (1OR FHC/J/CS/38/2018), which was decided on June 23, 2021, ordered the University of Jos to also immediately pay the plaintiff N100,000 in damages, reinstate the student, change her supervisor and ensure that the final defence of her thesis is done within reasonable time.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Gloria Ballason, had in 2018 brought an application against the defendants for arbitrarily withdrawing the plaintiff from the Master’s programme on allegations of poor performance without complying with the school prospectus, without granting the plaintiff access to her results, and without fair hearing when she petitioned the school for access to her results.
The plaintiff also claimed that she was victimised by the second defendant, who was the plaintiff’s supervisor, and who had frustrated and stopped her from participating in her final defence.
The first (UniJos) and second defendants (the lecturer) led by N.V. Denden of N.V. Denden and Co, argued that the plaintiff had failed to meet the academic requirements of the school, and that the court could not meddle into the domestic affairs of the university by acceding to the plaintiff’s application for the answer scripts, raw scores and marking scheme to be tendered before the court.
The court, however, held that where an institution fails to comply with the rules of fair hearing, it is the duty of the court to fill the void.
The second defendant, who applied that he should be struck out as a party in the suit, but was refused the application, failed to enter defence on the orders of court, and also failed to lead any evidence.
The court held that the first defendant did not prove that the plaintiff had failed having sat for her final examinations and written the last chapter of her thesis. It also held that the first defendant did not accord the plaintiff fair hearing when she presented her petition, and especially when it found that the acts of the second defendant, who lacked the qualifications to supervise the plaintiff, frustrated her.
It held further that that was the action of the second defendant that set up the chain of causation of violations, and that the only liability of the university was to have employed such a person and assigned him as a supervisor to the plaintiff, noting also that it was unfortunate that the second defendant, having mitigated the plaintiff’s career, proceeded for his doctorate abroad, and cited that as the reason why he could not file his defence.
The court ordered the second defendant to pay the sum of N5 million into the plaintiff’s account immediately before taking any other legal steps concerning the judgment.
Responding to the judgment, Ballason thanked the court, describing the judgment as a laser intervention on who bears the liability for victimisation of students in schools.
She added that the judgment marks a watershed, and will go a long way in improving accountability in the Nigerian education sector, especially in tertiary institutions.