My attention has been drawn to the “prompt suspension” of 17 students by the Olabisi Onabanjo University Management for having pending financial crimes cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). According to a release on the school website, the decision was taken in view of the school’s zero tolerance for “anti-social activities and other economic crimes committed by any member of the University Community”. To avert a perilous precedent in OOU, the following must be noted:

  1. The suspension of the students for having pending cases bothering on financial crimes to answer is unjust, illegal, unconstitutional, unlawful and unfair.
  2. Since the students are presumed innocent until proven otherwise by the court, under our law, the notion of suspension pending the outcome of their trial is unjustifiable and baseless. The suspension should have come after the court finds them guilty and not the other way. You cannot place a cart before the horse.
  3. The suspension, despite their presumed innocence, presupposes that the school has convicted them even before trial. That is condemnable.
  4. It is the height of illegality for the school management to suspend students without fair hearing. Before punishment, the principle of natural justice must be well respected. The school must, as a matter of law, hear from the sides of the students before a valid suspension can be made. Like it was held in the popular case of Garba v. University of Maiduguri, where the right of fair hearing is encroached, any purported suspension can never stand — the test of legality.
  5. It is also a cardinal principle of criminal justice that no person shall be punished of an offence unknown to law. Aoko v. Fagbemi. Never was it known that a law says an accused person, who is innocent, should be punished for any reason whatsoever. And if any, such law or the particular section that provides for such is illegal and unconstitutional for contravening the grundnorm, the Constitution. Therefore, the suspension is erectly dysfunctional; it cannot stand.
  6. Morality should not be mistaken with law. Anybody can be accused of a crime. Even the management. Should we say they get “promptly suspended” too for mere accusations? It will not work that way. That will occasion nothing other than miscarriage of justice. Ditto in this case.
  7. As much as I’ll not be in support of antisocial behaviors, the rule of law must be allowed to reign even in the most uncomfortable situation. Not making recourse to the due process of law is another way of institutionalizing jungle justice.
  8. The purported suspension will even do more grievous damage to the school’s image than the mere, sheer criminal allegations on students. Accusations should not be treated as guilt or outright conviction.
  9. The University Management is hereby enjoin to lift the suspension ban on the students forthwith for its illegality, unfairness and unlawfulness.
  10. God bless OOU.

Festus Ogun
1/2/2019

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