The Akwa Ibom State High Court, Etinan Judicial Division has ordered the reinstatement of no fewer than 6,000 dismissed students of the defunct College of Agriculture, Obio Akpa in Oruk Anam Local Government Area of the State.
The affected students were sacked when the administration of former governor Godswill Akpabio, ordered the House of Assembly to repeal the law setting up the institution and converted the campus to the Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU).
The institution was set up to offer agricultural and other allied courses in 2000, for the award of Diplomas, Higher National Diplomas and certificates, but the State government later made a U-turn in 2009, to stop operation at the agriculture college.
It was gathered the campus and assets of the school were taken over by the then newly created Akwa Ibom State University, while the affected students were not absorbed and accommodated in the new regime.
Her clients, Ada recalled, were duly admitted into the school with all evidence of payment of fees, but were not issued with certificates after graduation due to non accreditation of courses of study by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
Mrs. Ada Okonkwo, a private lawyer in Uyo, was said to have been moved by the plights of the students to take up the matter after the State government failed to reach amicable resolution at the multi-door Court.
The aggrieved students, some of whom Ada said had died in the course of the struggle prayed the Court to impress it on the first respondent (State government) to ensure certificates were issued to those who had completed their programmes before the School was decreed out of existence by government fiat.
Besides, they asked for general damages running into N500 billion, as well as accreditation of several programmes of the defunct institution by the NBTE.
In a well articulated ruling, the presiding Judge, Justice Pius Idiong, ruled out the payment of N500billion to the affected students, noting that “the future of the students was more important than cash”.
He, therefore, ordered the State government to ensure the students’ future were guaranteed, noting that the essence of their going to school hinged on certificate which would qualify them to earn a decent living in their various fields of training and disciplines.
To assuage the emotional trauma they experienced during the period, the Court ruled that the State government should pay general damage of N1. million to each HND students, who graduated from the defunct school; N.5million to ND graduates and N.2million to students who gained admission into the College few months before the proscription of the College in 2009.
Speaking with reporters at the end of the ruling, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Ada Okonkwo, hailed the judgment, saying “it has rekindled the belief that judiciary remains the hope of the common man”.
She recalled that all entreaties for the government, the House of Assembly and other relevant agencies of government to intervene genuinely in the matter were rebuffed, forcing the students to take their case to the regular Court.
Bassey Willie, Uyo