BusinessDay

Jubilation as court declares employment of BB Fakae valid

…orders Rivers State University to pay the ex-Vice Chancellor 7 years salary arrears

Jubilation has trailed the court decision validating the employment of Barineme Beke Fakae, renowned international veterinary research scientist and former Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University (RSU).

The verdict also ordered that he must be paid his more than seven years salaries the university withheld.

The order was made by the National Industrial Court (NIC) in the Port Harcourt District on June 17, 2022, on a case the renowned professor filed in 2015 against his employers before the justice, Polycarp I. Hamman.

Fakae, a lecturer in the University of Nigeria Nsukka, was tapped by the then Peter Odili administration to head the Polytechnic Bori on rescue mission especially over cultism and corruption.

After four years, the next administration headed by Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi moved him from the Polytechnic to what was then termed bigger rescue task to the then UST, now RSU, a task he undertook for eight years and handed over to a professor of medicine from the University of Port Harcourt, Blessing Didia, in August 2015, only for his employment not to be recognised and his salary stopped.

Fakae said he sought administrative solution but did not get attention. He went to court to press for his rights (before he could become statute barred), believing he served his state and the UST (now RSU) meritoriously and deserved applause, not punishment.

Delivering judgment, Hamman hammered the RSU for withholding Fakae’s salaries for years. He ordered that the claimant’s employment with the defendant vide a ‘Letter of Offer of Appointment’ dated May 16, 2014, and which was accepted by the claimant by a letter dated May 16, 2014 be respected as valid and still subsisting.

The court further declared that Fakae is entitled to all his entitlements, remunerations and/or other privileges which accrued to him as an employee of the defendant vide a letter of Offer of Appointment’ dated May 16, 2014.

The RSU was thus ordered to pay him his salaries from August 2015 to date based on the value of his monthly salary.

The court declared thus: “An order of perpetual injunction is hereby made restraining the defendant either acting by itself or it’s servants, agents, privies, assigns or whatever capacity as howsoever called or described from stopping the payment of the claimant’s salary including the arrears and other entitlements ascribed to him as an employee of the defendant.

“The terms of this judgment shall be complied with within 30 days from the date of delivery failing which same shall attract interest at 10 per cent per annum.”

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The judge did not award any costs. He also did not agree to award Prof. Fakae’s demand for N20m as general damages for injury, hardship, inconvenience, pains, and embarrassment.

The court also turned down his demand for accumulated leave of absence of 240 days as at July 2015 in line with condition of service of senior staff of the RSU.

The judge said he reached the decision after listening to the submissions of Femi Bobade and O.B. Wokeh for Fakae and J.T. Okulu and H.E. Roberts for the RSU.

The media space has been awash with reactions from all corners congratulating the judge for such verdict. Others have condemned the University authorities for withholding the salaries of a man that rescued the university which they now enjoy.

Fakae was drafted from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) to revamp the then ailing Rivers Polytechnic Bori under Governor Peter Odili. He was hailed for a good job.

Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi drafted Prof. Fakae to go to a bigger rescue job at the then UST where killing, cultism, sexual abuse, exam fraud, and classroom administration fracture had rocked the university.

By the time Fakae took over, the UST had stopped graduating students with over seven years arrears and no single course had accreditation anymore, thus making Amaechi to describe the UST as ‘dead and buried’, the task for Fakae being to turn this ugly situation around.

The professor went to ‘war’ and met resistance especially from the academic union but crushed the resistance and ended strikes there by helping to win huge salary structure that subsists to this day. He also moved the University to the best state-owned university in Nigeria. Automation and digitalisation were introduced into the management of the then UST with online exams and registration. Results and transcripts were available on graduation day.

The new management seemed to punish Fakae by stopping his salaries, but the court has ordered them to pay up.

When contacted, Fakae described the outcome as the handwork of God Almighty who he said gave him victory.

The academic, who is popularly described as the Priest of Two Temples (presiding over both academic and spiritual temples) said: “I am most grateful to God. The victory has brought relief over the seven years of denial of salaries and earned privileges. This is to the glory of God Almighty. God bless you in Jesus’ Name.”

He revealed that he had from the onset willed whatever amount he would win in the case to the work of God.

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