- Courts shocked by UB leadership forgery drama
- Fako drags Tafa into the matter
- Court papers by Nigerian academic luminary and UB long-serving lecturer say Fako dishonestly altered the minutes
Following a series of impeachment attempts against him at the University of Botswana (UB), Dr. Gbolagade Adekanmbi has suggested in court documents he filed that Vice Chancellor Professor Thabo Fako altered minutes of an institutional body to deceive the University Council in order to have his way with him.
The case, The Botswana Gazette has learnt, has not only shocked the UB academia and High Court judges but also the Court of Appeal, especially its president Justice Ian Kirby who described Fako’s conduct as “a flagrant alteration to the minutes of the University Council.”
Skeletons tumbled out when the long-serving Nigerian academic luminary, Dr Adekanmbi, who has been with the University for over a decade- instituted a legal suit against the university challenging its “deteriorating culture of dishonesty and maladministration” after his employment offer as Deputy Director of Academic Programing was suspiciously withdrawn.
Documents suggest that all is not well at the highest institution of learning of the country.
The Nigerian academic had appealed the UB Human Resource Department’s decision to withdraw his employment offer at Staff Appeals Committee. Its findings were later placed before the University Council- the highest body in the administration of the institution.
The council deliberated on the issue at its meeting of 5th October, 2012 with its Secretary David Fani subsequently addressing the outcome in a letter to Dr. Adekanmbi:
“Your appeal against termination of employment.
We refer to your appeal to the University of Botswana Council against the decision of the university to terminate your contract of employment entered into in March 2011 which could have commenced on 1st August 2011. Following the review of your appeal by the Staff Appeals Committee, the appeal was presented to the University Council at its 181st meeting held on the 5th October 2012. Following due process, the University decided to uphold your appeal,” the letter reads.
Pursuant to the said decision, Council further directed that a settlement of the matter be negotiated between Dr. Adekanmbi and the university. The UB instead opted to negotiate an exit package with him which he turned down, instead insisting that since his appeal had succeeded he be reinstated to resume his functions.
Drama then unfolded when the council at its meeting of 8th January 2013 had cause to revisit the earlier minutes to determine what the decision had been.
According to Court of Appeal Judges, “A relook at the minutes and the resolution passed in relation to appellant reflected that there were patent differences between those minutes and the chairperson’s notes. Those were not ordinary inaccuracies but differences suggestive of a deliberate alteration of the minutes. Of great concern was the addition of a paragraph designated as (d).”
The paragraph which reads “Council concludes that the Staff Appeals Committee had made their conclusions based on technicalities and not the substances of the case. The post of Deputy Director, Academic Programming and other posts in the CCE were redundant or excess requirements that management should have discontinued. Although management had discussed their issues of redundancy, overlaps and conflict in positions at the Centre for Continuing Education, a decision to declare the post of deputy director programming and other posts redundant in the CCE was never made. The University has the right to discontinue any position and give the incumbent reasonable notice, which normally ranges between six months and twelve months’ worthy of pay.”
There is no record of a meeting having occurred subsequent to meeting 181 at which a correction of the minutes was authorised.
The three judges found that “fortunately the then Council Chairperson was clear and adamant on account of his diligence and astute of mind that the contents above were never part of the resolution of Council at all.”
The judges further lambasted university leadership for this unauthorised alteration of the minutes, saying “this flagrant alteration to the minutes of the University Council is suggestive of, if not actually manifesting some malicious manoeuvre towards Dr. Adekanmbi.”
Given the growing tensions and questions raised by Adekanmbi due to the UBs failure to implement Fani’s correspondence a subsequent council meeting resolved to have the entire disputed paragraph (d) deleted in what was effected as a correction to the minutes. The corrected version read “Council concluded as follows, that Dr. Adekanmbis’s appeal against termination of employment be upheld and secondly that the university should take steps to formalise and speed up the discontinuance of redundant positions at the Centre for Continuing Education including the position of deputy director, academic programming.”
According to court papers, “Even before the correction referred to above was effected, the letter of David Fani who was the Secretary of the Council reproduced informed Dr. Adekanmbi expressly that the “ University Council decided to uphold your appeal.” This according to the court would inevitably mean the decision complained of was set aside.
Forgery, arguments and justifications
Speaking in his court papers on the forgery of the council minutes the Nigerian academic, Dr. Adekanmbi said the minutes on a decision to uphold the appeal against his dismissal originally penned by Fani were dishonestly altered Vice Chancellor Fako.
In the legal proceedings, Dr. Adekanmbi stated that “Following the decision of the Council and the compilation of the said minutes by Fani, Fako sought to dishonestly alter the minutes by removing the aspect which says the appeal has been upheld and replacing it with a paragraph criticizing the findings of the of the Staff Appeals Committee.”
The minutes of the Council meeting of 30th March 2012 record that Fako informed Council that neither he, in his capacity as the Chair of Staff Appeals and Promotions Committee (SAPC), the body which determined in July 2011 to withdraw an offer to renew nor the Secretary of SAPC had been afforded an opportunity to address the SAPC.
According to UB, this is a normal practice in Council meetings. Thus, any member including those who were not in attendance of that meeting could comment on the correctness or otherwise of the minutes.
In pursuit of that objective, Fako, Nthomiwa Nthomiwa J says in the High Court hearing, alerted the Council that certain factual errors in the SAPC report existed and to the fact that Parks Tafa, a member of the Council and the SAC had previously indicated a request to consider and contribute to the SAC report prior to its finalisation.
Tafa is the Council’s Chairperson while Fako’s responsibility as Chief Executive Officer is to guide, lead and manage the university.
Tafa and Fako’s emphasised request to contribute to the SAC report prior to its finalisation shocked the court, prompting Justice Nthomiwa to remark: “While this could be said to be the practice of the University Council to seek to change minutes or a decision of a meeting of the University that was properly quorate, it does not seem to me to accord with known management practices.”
Speaking of the alteration, Dr. Adekanmbi said the distorted “version was inadvertently confirmed by the Council at its meeting of 16th November 2012 because they failed to realise that Fako had dishonestly altered the minutes following the departure of Mr. Fani from UB.”
He further alluded that “the distortion of the minutes of the Council by Fako was brought before (sic) the attention of the late Honourable justice Elijah Legwaila who was then the chairperson of the Council”.
He added that at its meeting held on 8th January, 2013 the Council resolved that Fako’s minutes were incorrect. “Fako was dissatisfied with the recommendation and in breach of the rules of natural justice, he then put together a personal submission that ran into about 50 pages, trying to lay out a basis for the Staff Appeals Committee to reverse its recommendation. Fako was representing himself,” wrote the academic and although the court ultimately found against him on the issue of the altered minutes, he had sought to deny it.
In explaining Fako‘s actions and alleged dislike for him, Dr. Adekanmbi who has been with UB for over a decade says it dates back to Fako’s time as Acting Director of the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE). “This was evidenced by his vehement pursuit of the reversal of the SAPC to approve my appointment as the Deputy Director, Academic Programming in 2008 while he was Acting Director at the same centre. Another reason why he had a strong dislike for me is because I replaced him as Acting Director after some CCE staff had petitioned against his leadership style. For Prof. Fako it was a case of unfinished business,” he said.
The UB lost the case at CoA as judges agreed with Dr. Adekanmbi on most points.