JUST IN: 35 professors, others in trouble over sexual harassment. ASUU reacts ….

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No fewer than 35 lecturers in the nation’s tertiary institutions have been indicted and dismissed over sexual misconduct in the past five years, analysis of media reports by Sunday PUNCH has revealed.

Sexual harassment has been recurring in Nigerian higher educational institutions with a survey conducted in 2018 by the World Bank Group’s Women revealing that 70 per cent of female graduates from tertiary institutions in the country were sexually harassed in school, with the main perpetrators being classmates and lecturers.

Although the Senate had in 2021 passed a bill that randy lecturers be subjected to 21 years imprisonment, Sunday PUNCH reports that most of the lecturers indicted and found guilty after the bill was passed were simply sacked.

According to the reports compiled by our correspondent, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, topped the list of institutions with the highest number of lecturers indicted for sexual misconduct.

In April 2018, the OAU announced the indefinite suspension of a Professor of Accounting, Richard Oladele, over sexual harassment.

In 2021, the university also dismissed three lecturers from the Departments of English Language, International Relations and Accounting over sexual harassment.

In February 2020, the institution also announced the suspension of a lecturer at the Centre for Distance Learning, Monday Omo-Etan, for sexually molesting a 19-year-old female student.

In 2019, Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, announced the suspension of an associate professor, Monday Igbafen, over allegations bordering on sexual harassment of female students.

Igbafen, who was the AAU branch chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities at the time, had accused the vice-chancellor of the institution of trying to frame him up.

The senior lecturer In the Department of Philosophy at the university in a letter written to the school by his lawyers, Osahon Irebhude & Co, demanded a written apology from the school.

In September 2020, the management of the Imo State University announced the suspension of two lecturers, who were alleged to have been involved in sexual misconduct with female students.

In February 2021, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, announced the suspension of a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Tourism, Dr Chigozie Odum, over allegations bordering on sexual misconduct.

The Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, similarly suspended a lecturer in the Department of Media and Theatre Arts in June 2021 for sexual misconduct.

In the same month, the management of the University of Lagos announced the dismissal of two lecturers over similar offences.

In August of that year, the University of Port Harcourt announced the dismissal of a lecturer in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature for sexual misconduct.

In October 2021, the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi, also announced the dismissal of two lecturers from the departments of Nutrition/Dietetics and General Studies over sexual misconduct.

A lecturer from the Department of Sociology, Ignatius Ajuru University of Education was dismissed for impregnating a female student.

In December 2021, the Kwara State University, Malete, announced the dismissal of a lecturer for harassing a student in the Department of Pure and Applied Sciences.

In January 2022, the Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Rivers State, announced the dismissal of a lecturer for harassing a female student.

In April 2022, OAU again launched a probe into allegations of sexual harassment against a professor in the Department of Linguistics and African Studies. So far, two professors have been affected in the institution.

In June 2022, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Abuja, Prof Abdul-Raheed Na’allah, announced the dismissal of two lecturers for sexual misconduct. Both of them are professors.

Earlier in 2023, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission arraigned Dr. Balogun Olaniran of the Tai Solarin University of Education who was said to have demanded sexual gratification from a female student to alter her results in 2021.

In March 2023, a lecturer at the Kogi State Polytechnic, Abutu Thompson, was dismissed on account of sexual harassment and victimisation of a female student in the Department of Computer Science.

In May, the management of the Ambrose Alli University in Edo State reportedly dismissed an unnamed lecturer over allegations bordering sexual harassment.

Reports noted that the lecturer was dismissed on the recommendations of the institution’s Staff Disciplinary Committee, which found him guilty of the offence.

According to AAU’s vice chancellor, Prof. Asomwan Adagbonyin, the dismissed lecturer had claimed to only make advances, yet he went to the girl’s church to plead for forgiveness.

In July 2023, the VC of UNIABUJA, Na’allah, said two lecturers were dismissed following allegations of sexual harassment.

In August, the management of the University of Calabar suspended the embattled Dean, Faculty of Law, Prof. Cyril Ndifon, over allegations of sexual harassment.

On September 7, 2023, the University of Lagos suspended a lecturer, Kadri Babalola, who was accused of raping a 21-year-old student.

ASUU reacts

The National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, urged students to report cases of sexual harassment to the school authorities and the student union.

He added that the union had an Ethics and Grievances Committee that looked into such cases, stating that boxes where students can anonymously report such cases were placed on campuses.

The ASUU president said, “In the cases that happened in OAU and UNILAG, the lecturers were jailed and in the case of UNICAL, the university has taken action and suspended him.

“If students have any issues, they should be reported to the Student Union as they did in Calabar and if they have become notorious, what was done in UNICAL should be done and the university should take it up from them.

“The system follows the process but the student has to report if there is a case. We are in a country where a criminal case must be proven beyond reasonable doubt but as a union, in all our campuses, we have an Ethics and Grievances Committee that anyone can go to report any case.

“In many universities, we have boxes where students can write about the problem without having to put their names and drop them in the box. These boxes help to serve as checks but many students are not willing to do so.”

Osodeke further noted that some universities had established dress codes for students while on campus as measures to reduce such cases.

“But they also arouse lecturers so it also works in two ways. A student coming to school scantily dressed. There has to be some dress code and many universities have now established dress codes to ensure students, both male and female dress decently and to also remove this temptation from the system.

“In the good old days, it could be controlled because all students lived on campus but today, 90 per cent of students live off-campus so one does not know what is happening,” the ASUU president stated.

*Stakeholders speak*

Speaking with one of our correspondents on the matter, the Director of Programmes, Reform Education Nigeria, Ayodamola Oluwatoyin, urged President Bola Tinubu to sign the sexual harassment bill into law.

Oluwatoyin said, “The President signing the bill will be a game changer. We need to make schools safe for our students. The most unfortunate part of the issue is that some of these students even when harassed, are scared to come out in the open for fear of victimisation and other issues.

“However, if there is a concrete law in place and these lecturers see that their colleagues are being made to pay the price for their unbecoming attitude, they will stop. So we are using this opportunity to call on the President to sign this bill into law.”

The Programme Manager- Gender Justice at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, Nafisa Atiku-Adejuwon, urged institutions to prevent survivors from being further victimised into silence and provide safe anonymous pathways for them to report such incidents.

Atiku-Adejuwon also called for the building of a system of trust between university management and the student population.

“The response system has to be survivour-centred and holistic: mental and physical health concerns must be taken seriously. The response system shouldn’t be created to make the university look good; it should be to take care of the survivors,” she added.

Similarly, a gender and child rights activist, Omolola Pedro, said, “Generally, the lack of punishment for an offence is one of the factors that may further encourage. Most of the time, in institutions where this happens, the highest form of punishment we see is suspension of erring lecturers.

“When attention is no longer on the matter, institutions reinstate the lecturers and they move on to do it over and over again because they are aware that there’s no serious consequence for their actions.”

Pedro added, “Formation of anti-sexual harassment committees which would include representatives of school authorities and the Students Union Government is one of the ways management and students can work together to curb this behaviour.

“Also, leaving the committees to carry out their duties without any form of interference would make meaningful differences. We see situations where erring lecturers are shielded from facing their crimes because they’re popular, or are in close relationships with university heads.”

Copyright PUNCH NEWSPAPERS

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