Prof. Eric Magnus Wilmot did not go back to his office after Justice Charles Adjei Wilson delivered his damning verdict on Monday, 27 November 2023, in the Upper East Region.
He headed back to his official residence at Navrongo straight from the premises of the High Court in Bolgatanga on an official V-8.
As the black car raced off from the regional capital through a highway, he had his chin pensively rested on one of his palms.
Then, he slid a finger across the screen of his smartphone, when it ranged, to answer a call.
He was not smiling.
His co-defendant, Dr. Vincent A. Ankamah-Lomotey, had suddendly vacated his office minutes earlier in a similarly cheerless mood.
A source said the registrar was in the office, about to sip at water from a cup, when the unpleasant news arrived on his phone from the court’s premises.
The cup was half way to his mouth, according to the source, when the update hit him. He put the cup down and left the office at once for his residence.
At present, the office once occupied by Prof. Wilmot as Vice-Chancellor of the C.K. Tedam University of Technology and Applied Sciences (CKT-UTAS) is empty.
The situation is not different at the office Dr. Ankamah-Lomotey held until that Monday as the university’s Registrar.
Visitors to those offices, who are unaware of the latest happenings at the state-owned university, are being redirected by their secretaries to see the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Samson Abah Abagale, and the Deputy Registrar, Gilbert Ansoglenang, who now act as vice-chancellor and registrar respectively.
Prof. Wilmot and Dr. Ankamah-Lomotey had stood a civil trial for eight months at the court as 3rd and 4th defendants respectively alongside the university, represented as 1st defendant, and Ghana’s Attorney-General, appearing as 2nd defendant, in the case.
Joseph Pwoawuvi Weguri, a well-known anti-corruption activist in Navrongo, the town where the university is located, filed the case on Monday, 20 March 2023.
Weguri challenged the post-retirement appointments offered the vice-chancellor and the registrar at the university.
The plaintiff asked the court to nullify their appointments and order the two retired appointees to refund all the salaries and allowances paid them from the consolidated fund for the past three years.
The case, which started in March 2023, ended in November 2023 with the court granting a half of Weguri’s wish list.
The judge ordered the two defendants to cease “holding themselves out as vice-chancellor and registrar” of the university.
The 14-page judgment also partly reads: “The 3rd and 4th defendants are prohibited from taking any steps to perform any duties and functions on the appointed post forthwith.”
But the judge did not order them to refund the salaries and the allowances, his reason being: “it is unlikely that the defendants would be able to pay back all arrears of salary.”
Wilmot left the courtroom, looking bitter, after Wilson directed the university to appoint an interim management team pending “the fresh appointment of a new vice-chancellor and registrar to replace the retired officers”.
Four-week quit notice
As directed by the court, the university’s Governing Council lost no time in forming an interim management board to run the affairs of the school.
The council held an emergency meeting and, at the end of deliberations, appointed Prof. Abagale as Acting Vice-Chancellor and the university’s Deputy Registrar, Gilbert Ansoglenang, as Acting Registrar.
A circular, dated 28 November 2023 and signed by the council’s chairman, Prof. Gordon Akanzuwine Awandare, spread across the school and beyond, announcing that the council had also “initiated the processes for the appointment of substantive Vice-Chancellor and Registrar”.
On Monday, 4 December 2023, Media Without Borders visited the university to check if the court’s orders were being satisfied.
The acting vice-chancellor told Media Without Borders the former registrar had not only vacated his office but had also checked out of his official bungalow, released the key to his official car and left the region 48 hours after the judgment day.
He said Dr. Ankamah-Lomotey also told the interim management board before he left that he would make himself available when invited to officially hand over the school’s property in his custody.
Another source disclosed to the author of this story that the former registrar had also quit the university’s WhatsApp platforms in the aftermath of the court verdict.
But the former vice-chancellor, according to the acting vice-chancellor, has remained in the official bungalow and he is still keeping two of the university’s vehicles.
Media Without Borders spotted two vehicles from outside the net-fenced yard of the former vice-chancellor’s residence at Tono during a recent visit to the area.
The acting vice-chancellor said steps were being taken to repossess all university’s belongings from the former vice-chancellor.
Asked why the former vice-chancellor, after the court consequential orders had been issued, was still occupying the bungalow officially attached to the office of the vice-chancellor, the governing council’s chairman said the sacked vice-chancellor had been given four weeks to “get himself organised and move”.
The four-week notice, starting from the first week of December, is due to elapse by the end of the year.
Bruised vice-chancellor files 10 grounds of appeal— but Governing Council says university not backing his move
Nearly two weeks after the judgment had been passed, the former vice-chancellor filed a notice of appeal and a motion for stay of execution through Louisa Yenpoka Babilah— the assistant state attorney who defended him and three others at the High Court trial.
The appeal notice comes with ten grounds, which generally state that the High Court judge got things wrong in law with respect to the judgement he passed.
Weguri’s lawyer, Raphael Alijina, had won the case at the High Court with the argument that the appointments offered the former vice-chancellor and the former registrar were illegal because the 1992 Constitution made it unlawful to appoint a person above the prescribed retirement age of 60 years.
Alijina also had argued further that only the public officers appointed by the President of the Republic in accordance with Article 70 of the 1992 Constitution were not required to retire at 60.
The lawyer also pointed out that the two officers were not appointed under Article 70 of that constitution.
But Babilah maintains in the notice of appeal that the High Court judge got it wrong when he held that the two retired officers did not fall under the category of public servants appointed under Article 70 of the 1992 Constitution.
She says the judge caused “a miscarriage of justice” by failing to consider all the submissions made by the defendants during the trial.
And, according to her, the judge also erred when he considered the submission by the plaintiff that Prof. Wilmot and Dr. Ankamah-Lomotey did not qualify to be re-engaged into public service on a full-term basis after they had retired voluntarily at their previous workplaces— the University of Cape Coast (UCC) and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) respectively.
The assistant state attorney also finds fault with the judgment, saying Justice Wilson failed to recognise that all the members of the university’s governing council (Prof. Awandare included) were appointed under Article 70 of the Constitution and that the former vice-chancellor is also a member of the council.
Another ground for the appeal is that the judge, according to Babilah, also relied on exhibits attached to the written legal submission by her opponent, Alijina, to arrive at the verdict.
She also said the “judgment is against the weight of the evidence adduced at the trial”— implying that there were some pieces of evidence which, if considered, could have changed the outcome in the defendants’ favour.
As part of the reliefs now being sought, Babilah is heading to the appellate court in Kumasi, Ashanti Region, to fight for the retired officers to be reinstated and allowed to continue to earn salaries and allowances until their four-year terms come to an end in 2024.
In the affidavit attached to the motion for stay of execution, the former vice-chancellor claims in Paragraph 2 that he had the consent of the other defendants.
“I have the consent and authority of the Defendants/Applicants (hereinafter referred to as ‘Applicants’) to depose to the facts herein contained which unless otherwise stated are within my personal knowledge,” he says in that paragraph.
But when Media Without Borders contacted the university (the 1st defendant) on Thursday, 14 December 2023, to verify the former vice-chancellor’s claim, the chairman of the governing council said Prof. Wilmot’s assertion was false.
“No,” Prof. Awandare replied when asked if Prof. Wilmot’s claim was true. “We have moved on from this issue. We are complying with the court order,” the governing council’s chairman added.
And true to the chairman’s words, the university published job announcements for the positions of a vice-chancellor and a registrar the following day.
Meanwhile, some an anti-corruption groups have announced plans to drag the former vice-chancellor and the former registrar to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for hearing and for a refund of the salaries and allowances received from their post-retirement appointments.
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org