Enefiok Essien, a professor of law and Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Uniuyo, has been nominated for the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, despite his indictment for sexual assault and forgery by the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal, Calabar, in 2005, indicted Mr. Essien when the court gave judgment against Uniuyo for expelling a female law student accused of examination malpractice.
The student, Linda Essell, apart from her argument that Uniuyo did not give her fair hearing before she was expelled, had told the court that Mr. Essien, then a senior lecturer in the law faculty, manipulated the university system against her because she refused to have a sexual relationship with him.
One striking thing about Ms. Essell’s case was that it was Mr. Essien who invigilated in the examination that she was alleged to have cheated in. It was Mr. Essien who accused Ms. Essell of examination malpractice and he also chaired the Examination Malpractice Panel that tried her.
Ms. Essell’s expulsion was first nullified by a federal high court and then followed by the Court of Appeal judgment which affirmed it. The Court of Appeal in its judgment declared that Ms. Essell’s statements as contained in her affidavit were “serious indictment on Essien”.
Mr. Essien did not file an affidavit to counter Ms. Essell’s statements. The Court of Appeal, in its unanimous decision, held that Ms. Essell’s allegations “not having been challenged, contradicted and controverted, must be deemed to be true and correct.” The court also held that the proceedings of the panel that was chaired by Mr. Essien must have been tampered with. The university did not appeal the judgment. Despite Mr. Essien’s indictment surfacing 20 years after, in 2015, he was appointed the vice chancellor of the university.
Mr. Essien had told the then Chairman of the Uniuyo Governing Council, Kimse Okoko, that he was away in the U.K for his Ph.D. while the case was going on in Nigeria. The professor may also be honoured with the SAN title soon unless the authorities heed the appeal from an NGO, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC.
CSNAC is asking the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee, LPPC, to step down the consideration of Mr. Essien for the award because of his indictment by the court. The civic group had previously petitioned the Federal Ministry of Education against Mr. Essien’s appointment as the vice chancellor of Uniuyo.
“We are of the view that the said Professor Enefiok Essien should not be allowed to further benefit from his own wrong by being appointed to the prestigious rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria,” the group said in its petition.
“His appointment by the LPPC as SAN will be a huge slap on the face of the academic world which he may represent and also ridicule the current administration’s commitment to ensure sanity in our educational system.”