Uganda: Court declines to stop NCHE from investigating Johnson Sakaja's degree

Senator Johnson Sakaja. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The High Court of Uganda at Kampala has dismissed an application by Team University seeking to block the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) from investigating a degree awarded to Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja.

In a July 14 verdict, Deputy Registrar Jamson Karemani ruled that the application by Team University lacked merit to convince the court to issue the orders sought.

Karemani took note that affidavits sworn in court proved that the investigations had been temporarily stopped by the Inspector General of Government (IGG).  

“I do believe in NCHE’s submissions that indeed the investigations were stopped and at moment there is no investigation being carried out,” ruled Karemani.

The court noted that the status quo was that there was no investigation being carried out by the respondent.

NCHE said the investigation was stopped but it had commenced a verification exercise into the academic qualification of Sakaja

Karemani said the court saw no imminent threat that NCHE would carry out the investigations anymore.

“I have looked at the submissions of both lawyers and I find that there is no threat of further investigations. I find no merit in the application which I dismiss,” ruled Karemani.

The court found that not granting an interim order sought by Team University would not render nugatory, the university’s main suit that also seeks permanent orders stopping investigations.  

“I am convinced that there is an application for a temporary injunction pending hearing. The same doesn't appear frivolous and vexatious,” noted the court.

Karemani directed the parties in the case to bear their own costs.

The court ruled on an application by Team University after it moved to court to stop the investigation.

The university wanted a temporary order restraining NCHE from investigating the qualification awarded to Sakaja nor using any report arising from the investigation pending the determination of the High Court miscellaneous application No.0324 of 2022.

“The court should restrain NCHE from publicising the investigation in any mainstream or any other media,” read the application.

In an affidavit by its Academic Registrar Dr Ssegawa James, the university claimed that the council does not have a mandate to investigate it on issues pertaining to academic credentials.

Senator Johnson Sakaja. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

 “The council can only regulate,” submitted Dr Ssegawa.

He noted that although IGG stopped the investigations, NCHE had been threatening to carry out another investigation.

Ssegawa informed the court that the threats were made public by a request for information sent to the university via an email on June 14, 2022, to conclude that there was an investigation ongoing.

“The university was granted a provisional licence by the council as a private university and it is aggrieved by the investigation into the qualification of Mr Sakaja,” said Ssegawa.

He informed the court that the university had filed a suit and an application for a temporary injunction to restrain the council from further investigations.

In reply, NCHE, through its Executive Director Prof Mary Okwakol, submitted that it had commenced a verification exercise into the academic qualification of Sakaja.

Okwakol said the investigation was halted by the IGG and there was no investigation going on touching on Sakaja’s qualification or Team University.

“IGG communicated to the director NCHE to stop the investigation on June 20,” she stated.

“The email sent to the university was part of the verification exercise into Sakaja’s qualification, following a request from the Commissioner for University Education in Kenya,” she added.

Out of Team University’s outcry, the High Court last month temporarily halted NCHE’s investigation and issued the interim order.

The order issued by Karemani also barred NCHE from relying on the said investigation for a decision until the determination of another application in court.