Politics

Final year student sues Akwa Ibom varsity over expulsion for criticizing the state government

Ekpo Iniobong, a 500-level student at Akwa Ibom State University, has chosen to sue the university for his suspension and eventual expulsion.
The final year student of the Department of Agricultural Engineering was allegedly suspended by the administration in September 2020, and subsequently expelled by letter dated April 9, 2021, for allegedly criticizing the state governor, Emmanuel Udom, in a Facebook post.

On June 18, 2021, Iniobong submitted a pre-action notice to the institution’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof Nse Essien, through his lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, requesting his immediate and unconditional reinstatement, among other requests.
“At no point did the Akwa Ibom State University invite or summon our client to appear before the university’s Students’ Disciplinary Committee prior to his indefinite suspension,” the notification stated in part. The allegedly offensive post was not revealed to our client, nor was he challenged with it.
“It is clear that the institution behaved in violation of Section 36 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution of 1999, as amended, and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
“As a result, we demand the following: immediate and unconditional reinstatement of our client; restoration of all studentship rights accruable to all university students; and payment of N20 million to our client as damages for the gross violation of our client’s fundamental human rights and the resulting depression.”

When contacted, Iniobong stated that the school had yet to prove any case of defamation against him and that he had not been found guilty of any crime prior to his expulsion.
“My ordeal began in September 2020, two days after the university announced resumption following the COVID-19 lockdown; my sister called me from Lagos to inform me that I had been suspended indefinitely,” he explained. I was suspended because I refused to attend a meeting called by the Students’ Disciplinary Committee.
“I went to the school to see the CSO’s secretary and other people. They said they hadn’t received any notice of indefinite suspension. I went back to my department to obtain the letter’s original copy. I requested my department to show me the invitation letter since they said I declined to accept an invitation. The department and the HOD answered that no invitation had been sent.
“I wrote to the Students’ Disciplinary Committee to express my disappointment at not receiving an invitation. I proceeded to study for my examinations. The committee has yet to invite me to any hearings by November. On November 16, I arrived at the school to find a second invitation letter from the committee. When I requested for a copy of the initial letter from the committee, I was ordered to leave. They sent me a second invitation letter, but the original was missing.

“In January, they pasted my picture on the school gate without any indication that they had found me guilty. I got a third invitation. When I arrived to the meeting, they informed me that I had not been invited and that the invitation had been sent in error. Because they did not provide me with a formal letter of suspension, I continued to attend courses. I’ve already completed my first semester 500-level examinations. My most recent encounter with them took place on March 3rd. They didn’t show that there was any defamation of character in any way. On June 15, 2021, I received a notice of expulsion.”
When approached, the institution’s Public Relations Officer, Akaninyene Ibanga, stated he would not comment on the subject.

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