In what could be described as a victory for activism, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered the authorities of the University of Ilorin to release the certificates of some its students who were victimized on the accounts of their involvement in unionism.
The students – Olanrewaju Akinola and Rasheedat Adesina, who had graduated since 1999 and 2001 respectively, had their certificates withheld as a result of their campaign for better welfare conditions on campus.
While Justice Peter-Odili, presided over the case of Akinlola and upheld the award of N7 million, which the federal high court ruled to him as compensation for exemplary damages, Justice Kumai Bayang Akaahs ordered that a compensation of N5 million also be given to Adesina.
Dissatisfied with the rulings of the federal high court and the court of appeal, authorities of the institution under the leadership of Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem as vice-chancellor, headed to the apex court.
However, the justices unanimously dismissed in its entirety the appeal filed by the institution against the judgement of court of appeal and federal high court.
Late Justice Chukwura Nnamani had ruled in favour of Adesina in June 2006 and that of Akinlola, a year later.
Speaking with TheCable, Mr. Adeyinka Olumide, the lawyer who represented the students, described the judgment as a landmark decision, adding that the court hardly decides over such matters.
“The court is always reluctant to decide over matters involving whether students should be given certificates or not but in this instance because of the peculiar circumstance of the case, the court had no other choice than to make an exception to that rule,” he said.
“The court had to intervene to enforce the law that was breached by UNILORIN which was established by the statutes of law.”
TheCable gathered that there was no love-lost relationship between the AbdulRaheem-led administration and unionists in the school.
As at the expiration of his tenure in 2001, leading student activists such as Tosin Akinrogunde was serving an expulsion sentence, while the students who got the recent Supreme Court judgement in their favour had their academic records and degrees withheld and 49 lecturers were relieved of their jobs for partaking in a nationwide strike staged by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that year.