A Federal High Court sitting in Jos has awarded N5 million in general and exemplary damages against a lecturer, Thaddeus Longduut, for victimizing a masters student, Georgia Mark Davou and causing her not to graduate from her Economics Masters program.
The trial judge, Justice M.H. Kurya also ordered University of Jos to immediately pay the plaintiff N100,000 only in damages, reinstate the student, change her supervisor and ensure the final defence of her thesis is done within reasonable time.
The court in suit number FHC/J/CS/38/2018 between Georgia Mark Davou V. University of Jos & 1Other held that the plaintiff was not accorded fair hearing in the determination of her case.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Gloria Mabeiam Ballason of MIVE Legals firm had in 2018 brought an application against the defendants for arbitrarily withdrawing the plaintiff from the masters program on allegation of poor performance without complying with the school regulations.
She argued that the plaintiff was also refused access to her results and was denied a fair hearing when she petitioned the school for access to her results.
The counsel further contended that the plaintiff was victimized by the 2nd defendant who was her supervisor and who had frustrated and stopped her from participating in her final defence.
The 1st & 2nd defendants in their defence as argued by N.V. Denden asked the court to refuse the application on the ground that the plaintiff failed to meet the academic requirements of the school.
They also claimed that the court could not meddle in 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.
However, the court rejected the defendants’ arguments holding that where an institution failed to comply with the rules of fair hearing, it was the duty of the court to fill the void.
The court found that the 1st defendant did not prove that the plaintiff had failed, having sat for final exams and written the last chapter of her thesis.
The 1st defendant, the court held, did not accord the plaintiff a fair hearing when the plaintiff presented her petition but found that the acts of the 2nd defendant who lacked the qualifications to supervise the plaintiff, frustrated her and was the fulcrum that set the chain of causation of violations noting also that it was unfortunate that the 2nd defendant having mitigated the plaintiff’s career, proceeded for his PhD abroad and cited that as reason why he could not file his defense.
The court ordered the 2nd defendant to pay the damages into the plaintiff’s account before taking any other legal steps on the judgment.
Responding to the judgment, Gloria Ballason commended the court for its landmark decision. She added that the judgment was a laser intervention on who bears the liability for victimisation of students noting that the judgment marks a watershed and would go a long way in improving accountability in Nigeria’s education sector especially in tertiary institutions.