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Cameroon: Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla dismissed from UB as an Instructor

May 07, 2020

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Felix Agbor Balla Human rights defender addressing participants during the International Nelson Mandela-Day in Yaounde
Felix Agbor Balla Human rights defender addressing participants during the International Nelson Mandela-Day in Yaounde

Renowned Human Rights Lawyer and founder of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) Barrister Flix Agbor Nkongho (Balla) has been dismissed from the University of Buea as an instructor. The lawyer was accused of setting an examination question during the first semester that talked about the Anglophone crisis, something which observers noted as gross violation and suppression.

The disciplinary board sat Wednesday, May 6, and handed down his dismissal after a long deliberation. Barrister Balla did not appear during the deliberation. He had earlier written a letter to the institution titled, “Memorandum of Appearance under Protest,” accusing the said institution of not following laid down rules and regulations.

The Ministerial Circular of 2017, supra, states that: “The disciplinary procedure of a teacher being essentially contradictory, the suspect must be summoned in writing, at least five (05) days before the holding of the Council.”

Such a decision was, however, not followed by the University of Buea who notified Barrister Agbor Balla barely 24 hours to the hearing. “What time will the suspect have to prepare against the very “serious allegations” against him” He questioned.

Barrister Balla was hired by UB as an instructor in 2015 for a period of two years
Barrister Balla was hired by UB as an instructor in 2015 for a period of two years

Bone of contention

The Minister of State, Minister of Higher Education, Prof Jacque Fame Ndongo, suspended Barrister Felix Agbor Balla Nkongho for posing a question on the current sociopolitical crisis in an official examination.

The Chancellor of Academic Orders in a letter addressed to Prof Ngomo Horace Manga, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buea, on April 20, 2020, ordered the suspension of Barrister Agbor Balla, a lecturer of constitutional law in the department of law.

Barrister Agbor Balla who has been lecturer in UB before the eruption of the Anglophone-crisis, in his first semester examination 2019/2020 in a course titled Political and Constitutional History of Cameroon said: “The Anglophone-Crisis since 2016 was caused by the lawyers, and teachers strike.” Assess the validity of this statement. 40mks.

Disrespect of legal provisions

In the letter send to the University of Buea, human rights lawyer detailed the legal provisions that were disrespected by the institution.

…. “It is incumbent primarily to the Registrar, on the occasion of a disciplinary council before which a teacher must appear, to investigate the matter. In this wise, he must obligatorily hear the suspect on the basis of a report [. . .].”

At the end of the investigation, a circumstantial report is transmitted to the President of the Disciplinary Council, to provoke the holding of the Disciplinary Council, through a convocation sent to the members of the Council presiding the day, time and the place of the session.  

The suspect, in this case, was never invited for the purposes of any such prior investigation.

Barrister Balla added: “The aforementioned letter inviting me to a “Disciplinary Hearing” does not mention what sanctions I may incur.

“The teacher implicated has the possibility to defend himself or be assisted by a defender of his choice but the summons fails to apprise the suspect of this fact.”

The said question on the Anglophone crisis that got Barrister Balla dismissed from the University of Buea

UB Reacts after Balla’s Dismissal

“His public showmanship with a document widely circulating in the social media seeking cheap publicity is inconsequential, therewith citing texts that do not pertain to him,” Ernest Molua, Registrar said in a communiqué.

“Instructors”, known in French as “Monitors” are not personnel of the Ministry of Higher Education; and neither recognized by the Ministry of Public Service or the Ministry of Finance.

“Mr Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla does not have a matricule number, hence, not a formal employee of the State. He is likable to a PTA teacher in Basic Education.”

The Registrar went on to add that: “He (Ball) was hired in 2015 for a two year contract renewable twice. His contract was never renewed. However, the University of Buea in its magnanimity extended to him verbal gentleman collaboration, which he finally abused by intoxicating 17 and 18 years old Students on his political showmanship, in a course seemingly unqualified to teach on “Political & Constitutional History of Cameroon.”

“Being invited to a Disciplinary Panel, was a privilege, UB accorded on humanitarian grounds, since he had run out of contract.”

“His contract ended in 2019… but again the University is in breach of due procedure here,” a source familiar with the issue told this reporter.

“In contract Law, if a contract expires both parties are supposed to notify each other if at all they do not intend to prolong contract. Silence on the part of both parties is considered that contract continues especially if the two parties continues to act as though they were in a contract. This has what has been happening in the University of Buea because Balla continued to give lectures, and the University con continued to pay him in January, February, March, and April, so they cannot claim that his contract had ended on the 31st of December whereas he continued to teach and even when ahead to set exam and UB continued to pay him before the Minister stepped in.”

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