A row is simmering over the election of the dean at the University of Nairobi School of Law.
The standoff that has also sucked in the students union is likely to move to court after Ben Sihanya, a lecturer at the Parklands Campus, said he will seek legal redress citing breach of sections of the election process.
At the heart of the dispute is a claim by Prof Sihanya that at the close of application deadline on January 22, he was the only candidate who had presented nomination papers.
The lecturer says that without another contestant in the race, he should have been declared dean.
"A candidate is normally confirmed at the close of the nomination deadline if there is no other contestant. This has happened in other schools where there were no more contestants. But here they are scrutinising the register and I am again being informed that there could be another candidate,” he said.
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Sihanya said the list of contestants should have been published, if indeed there were any.
Vice-Chancellor Stephen Kiama, however, said that there should be no cause of alarm" as the election process is elaborate and the Senate can always reject any flawed process."
"The process is still very far, at nomination stage. The process is still long, including the election and declaration of the winner before it is brought to the Senate,” said Prof Kiama.
The VC said such a matter is tabled at the Senate as an agenda and extensively discussed. "The elected person will be the academic head of an institution and the Senate takes keen interest in the process and person."
Kiama said the process also includes intervention and approval by the University Council before appointment is done. "It is an elaborate process that in case any part is breached, it cannot go unnoticed. But from where it is, there is a returning officer who should do their work."
In his letter to Kiama dated January 28, Sihanya says he was the only candidate who declared interest for the position.
"According to official communication regarding the elections, the deadline was set for Friday, January 22 at 5pm. I am reliably informed that at 5pm, I was the only candidate who had submitted his duly filled nomination forms for the Dean Law Elections 2021,” said Sihanya.
Documents from the university registrar’s office show that on January 21, Dr Wamuti Ndegwa, a lecturer in the department of private law, proposed Sihanya's election as dean.
Dr Jackson Bett (senior lecturer, commercial law) and Florence Simbiri Jaoko (lecturer, commercial law) seconded the proposal.
In his letter, Sihanya says that inquiries made last week at the academic registrar's office to seek guidance on succession and transition revealed that there could be another candidate.
The University of Nairobi Students Association (UNSA) Parklands Campus has also weighed in the matter.
"On behalf of the students, we would like to know who the other candidate is and why the candidate is being revealed after the deadline for application,” said Unsa chairman Japheth Apidah in a January 26 letter.
Kiama said the university management does not "constrict the pursuit of individual rights, even through courts."
"Here (UoN) people are free to air their views and we do not stop anyone from pursuing their rights. But what we know is that we cannot condone a flawed process."