IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF JUDICATURE
IN THE HIGH COURT (GENERAL JURISDICTION DIVISION),
ACCRA- A.D 2019
DR. MARTIN AJEI - (Plaintiff)
DR. EMMANUEL IFEANYI ANI - (Defendant)
DATE: 13 TH MARCH, 2018
SUIT NO: GJ/1286/17
JUDGES: HIS LORDSHIP ERIC KYEI BAFFOUR JUSTICE OF THE HIGH COURT
The parties are both senior academic staff of the Department of Philosophy and Classics of the University of Ghana, Legon. The Plaintiff being the Head of Department instituted this action claiming damages for what he claim to be defamatory publications made by Defendant against him. Based on an application filed by the Defendant that the action of the Plaintiff was premature as there was the need for proceedings to be stayed pending the exhaustion of local remedies at the University, the court acceded to the invitation by staying its proceedings and referred the matter to be settled by the use of the process set out under the Code of Conduct for academic Staff of the University of Ghana.
The parties are back in court and reminiscent of the account of the twelve spies in the Book of Numbers in the Bible who were sent by Moses to spy the promised land and having witnessed the same events in Palestine but with different interpretations as to what they witnessed so has the events that transpired at the University of Ghana subsequent to the reference by the court to the University for the internal procedures to be exhausted been the subject of variant interpretations by the Plaintiff and the Defendant.
Whiles Plaintiff claim that the internal procedures spelt out has been exhausted by virtue of clause 7:8 of the Code of Conduct of the University wherein the Dean of the School of Arts, Prof. Kodzo Gavua has written to indicate his unwillingness to continue to attempt settlement of the dispute in view of a letter received from the lawyer for Defendant. Defendant on the other hand claim that the internal remedies have not been exhausted by relying on clause 14 of the same Code of Conduct and insist that a Committee set up by the Provost of the College of Humanities based on a petition filed by the Plaintiff to investigate the allegations made by Plaintiff has not yet completed its work and submitted its report. It is instructive to note that before the issuance of the writ, Plaintiff had petitioned the Provost complaining about the conduct of the Defendant for which a committee was set up. There is evidence that Defendant was invited to appear before the Committee and indeed Ex ‘C’ states among others that “The Provost, College of Humanities has established a Committee to investigate some allegations of misconduct…”.
When proceedings was stayed for the parties to exhaust local remedies, the Plaintiff per a letter dated 27th November, 2017 and purporting to be proceeding under clause 7:8 of the Code of Conduct invited the Dean of the School of Arts to attempt settlement. And it is this failure of settlement culminating in the letter of Prof Gavua that Plaintiff relies on as the exhaustion of local remedies. For a better appreciation it is worth quoting clause 7:8 and 14 of the Code of Conduct. Clause 7:8 states as follows:
“Where an academic staff is aggrieved by the conduct of a colleague on any issue, he/she shall first report to the Head of Department or Dean for an attempt at settlement”.
Clause 14 that deals with Investigative Procedures states at 14:1 as follows:
“On receipt of a complaint of any breach of code of conduct, either from the Head of Department through the Dean, or from the Dean, Vice Chancellor shall set up a committee to investigate the complaint. The committee so set shall report to the relevant Disciplinary Committee in accordance with the Statutes of the University”.
It could be gleaned that clause 7:8 under which Plaintiff wrote to Prof Gavua was only in respect of an amicable settlement of the dispute partaking of the form of a mediation process. This process is the first step to activation of the disciplinary committee procedures under clause 14 as clause 14 procedure deal with the operations of a disciplinary committee set up and tasked to investigate any alleged breach of the Code of Conduct.
The withdrawal of a party from a voluntary mediation process as done by the Defendant to the attempted mediation process by Prof Gavua cannot be said to be an exhaustion of the local remedies within the University. The committee that was set up has not completed its work and until that is done with its report issued, the jurisdiction of the court to proceed with the determination of the suit is still held in abeyance.
The attempted reliance on the principle of interpretation being generalia specialibus non derogant by the Plaintiff is completely misplaced. Where is the specific provisions in the Code of Conduct relating to this matter for which he claims that clause 14 is in respect of general provisions. In fact there is no conflict at all between clauses 7 and 14. Whiles clause 7:8 deals with peaceful mediation clause 14 is in respect of the work of a disciplinary committee set up to investigate breaches under the Code of Conduct and the invocation of this principle is a non sequitor.
If the Plaintiff is desirous of seeking justice then it would be in his own interest to ensure that the committee that was set up the Provost, College of Humanities complete its work and submit its report. Until that is done the parties are not entitled to return to this court.