On the morning of Friday 16th June, 2017, an email was circulated by the UEW local UTAG secretary that, UTAG has “sought legal advice from a reputable lawyer and have filed a suit to join as an interested party” (a suit pending at the High Court, Winneba). The email went further to encourage members to come to the court and show support. I believe that UTAG is governed by a constitution, just as the Republic of Ghana is governed by the 1992 Constitution and other Legislations, and therefore, all actions of public and private officers, including the President of the Republic of Ghana, must be in conformity with the provisions of 1992 Constitution and all other relevant laws in force at any given time.
Furthermore, immediately after the court sitting on Friday the 16th of June, 2017, the local President of UTAG UEW declared that, lecturers were not going to return to the classrooms, which appeared defiant and questioning the authority of the court.
The first question is, on the authority of which resolution did UTAG had permission to use the union funds to engage the services of a lawyer and go on to join the suit? Which resolution also resolved that lecturers were going to stay out of the lecture halls if the court decision went a particular way, and therefore formed the legal basis upon which the local UTAG President announced to the media that lecturers were staying out of the classrooms? A court action is not far-fetched in this regard (both contempt of court and a member’s action to enforce the union’s constitution could be sustained). Not following laid down procedures, easily give rise to litigation, so let’s endeavour to abide by the due processes at all times.
Anyway, I expect the students who were sent home for the summer holidays on 17th May, 2017 to organise demonstrations at the UEW various campuses, to put pressure on the litigating parties to end the legal tussle. Let us do away with the propaganda and stay focused.
The request by the local UTAG secretary that members should mass up at the court premises on Friday the 16th of June, 2017, was unbelievable, especially coming from someone who is supposed to know that, cases are won by the submission of evidence in court to the contrary, to convince the Judge or Jury, and not by numbers massing up outside a court like a political party foot soldiers, or a vigilante group! Apologies to ‘Delta Force’!
It must be pointed out to those who are failing to see the light that, the current action by Mr. Supi is actually against UEW as the first defendant and the Ministry of Education, a part of the government machinery, as second defendant. The Member of Parliament (MP) for Efutu just happens to be a lawyer and is representing the claimant. If the Attorney-General was representing Mr. Supi, then that is where one can talk of government interference, but not in a situation where the services of a private legal practitioner is sought, just like UTAG doing so to join the suit.
The National President of UTAG in an interview argued the autonomy of public tertiary institutions among several others and went on to appeal to the government to advise the MP for Efutu to stay off UEW. With all due respect, this is erroneous! The distinction between the MP and the government is already made clear above.
However, to counter that misleading statement of government interference, is the fact that government still pays the salaries of all public tertiary institutions staff, and government still has a role to play in almost all aspects of public tertiary institutions administration in this country, per their enabling statutes and other relevant laws. How can someone pay your salary and turn around to shut his eyes to your activities? I pay my son’s fees at university, then he fails a course and turns around to tell me that it is none of my business? Then what would the Judiciary as an arm of government say?
The previous government changed the handling of the internally generated funds (IGF) of all the courts in Ghana, by ordering that, all fees, fines and other income accruing to the courts, which hitherto was being paid directly into the courts’ bank accounts, be paid into the Consolidated Fund instead, after which a percentage would then be remitted to the courts. And this is an organ of government whose independence is clearly spelt out in an entrenched clause in the 1992 Constitution, and NOT via the provisions of an Act of Parliament which can be amended or repealed within the twinkle of an eye by Parliament if the government so desires. If anyone wants complete autonomy in the running of a university, nothing stops them from setting up their private university. Who cares about what happens at Ashesi University or Central University?
To be continued!
Alhassan Salifu Bawah
Lecturer and NPP Member
(son of a peasant farmer)