With each new day, leadership wrangles at the University of Nairobi (UoN) continue to get worse with three suits being filed in court just this week alone.
While the Employment and Labour Relations Court asked Prof Stephen Kiama to keep off from doing anything that could prejudice the, the High Court stopped Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha from appointing new members to the university council.
Justice Pauline Nyamweya issued the directive on Thursday, but following the multiplicity of cases touching on the appointment of a vice-chancellor, her colleague Maureen Onyango Tuesday directed that the matters be heard together next week on Thursday.
“Pending the inter partes hearing, the CS is restrained from effecting appointment of any person as chairperson and or member of the university council,” ruled Justice Nyamweya.
Prof Magoha and the Attorney-General have been sued by a Mr Misare Willies Oloo.
The university council, its six members and professors Madara Ogot, Isaac Mbeche and Stephen Kiama are all listed as interested parties.
The council members listed in the suit are Prof Julia Ojiambo, Flora Mtuweta, Mighulo Maghanga, Dr Jocelyn Rarieya, Hassan Mohamud, Isaac Kiprop and Mr Kariuki Muchemi.
The petitioner has faulted the CS for disbanding the council and revoking their appointment.
He also faulted the CS for appointing Prof Mbeche and revoking Prof Kiama’s appointment.
He has further faulted the council for appointing Prof Kiama into office as the VC.
He described Prof Kiama’s appointment as one done in an inexplicable disgruntled manner and pointed a finger at the CS for allegedly generating a melee of power struggles, leadership confusion and a vacuum at the university.
Mr Oloo alleged that Prof Magoha has subjected the university to ridicule and loss of stature yet it is a premier institution of excellence and symbol of national prosperity.
He also alleged that the council members are mere victims of illegal actions of the CS who sacked them for discharging their duty.
He accused the CS for bypassing both the council as well as the Public Service Commission and arrogating himself powers that do not exist in law.
“If illegal and ill-advised action of the CS is allowed to prevail, it will set a dangerous and damaging precedent in the conduct and process of appointing State as well as public officials,” said his lawyer Christopher Odongo.
Lawyers Fred Ngatia and Ahmednassir Abdullahi Tuesday questioned how their colleague Evans Monari was representing the CS and the AG yet he is a private lawyer just like them.
They argued that the government ought to be represented by a State lawyer.
Those in support of CS Magoha’s action and Prof Mbeche said they were optimistic that the court will rule in their favour while claiming that several interests beneficial to the varsity are currently at stake owing to the row in court.
“We are in support of government in terms of what it wants to do in our institution, the situation is not stable as at now, many stakeholders interests have been jeopardised,” they said.
They added, “As it is, staff cannot be paid on time, classes are not going on well as they should and many other programmes with collaborators are at a standstill because of the current confusion.”
In 2017, Justice Onesmas Makau ruled that under the Universities Act, the then education CS lacked the authority to sack Prof Josphat Mwatelah, who served as the VC, Technical University of Mombasa.
As a result, the judge ordered the university council to pay Prof Mwatelah Sh28 million for terminating his contract on the directive of then Education CS Fred Matiang’i in 2016.
For this reason it will be interesting to see how this UoN case would go owing to the precedent set by the case involving TUK as Prof Kiama wants CS Magoha stopped from meddling with operations and management at UoN as well as his performance of duties.
The case will be heard on Thursday, January 30.