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Promoting Good Governance.

Ebonyi poly students receive threats after exposing their lecturer of sexual harassment

Management yet to take action two weeks after report

By Mojeed ALABI

TWO female students: Osinachi Janet Oko and Gladys Egwu of  Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwanna, Afikpo in Ebonyi State, have raised an alarm over threats to their lives after they exposed their lecturer of sexual harassment.

The students accused the Head of Department of Marketing, School of Business Studies, Ezumah Chris Obi, of sexually harassing them and subjecting them to other forms of abuse.

After the New Telegraph first reported the allegation, the students  said they now live in fear.

The lecturer, Obi, allegedly invited the students at different times and attempted to sleep with them without success.

As a result of their refusal to cooperate with him, Obi allegedly denied the students the opportunity to defend their projects before external supervisors and insisted they would not graduate from the school except they agreed to sleep with him.

Obi refused to answer the reporter’s call and did not reply messages sent to his mobile phone for his comments and to clarify his alleged suspension as the HOD by the management.

Following media reports on the matter, the lecturer and some of his allies, including students of the institution, have continued to mount pressure on the two students to withdraw their petitions against Obi.

The Rector of Akanu Ibiam Polytechnic,  Ibe-Enwo Ogbonnia, however, failed to take any definite action on the matter two weeks after the students’ petitions were submitted to his office. He claimed that he had not received official complaints from the victims.

Ogbonnia said the institution was following due process on the matter, but refused to say the specific steps taken so far on the matter. Subsequent text messages sent to his mobile phone were not replied.

Although two weeks after acknowledging receipt of the petition through the reporter,  Ogbonnia  only invited one of the affected students, Janet Oko, to his office for confirmation of the content of the petition.

The second victim, Gladys Egwu, said she was neither invited for her for briefing nor received  response from the management after she  submitted her petition on November 7.

The students, who said apart from receiving strange calls from unknown persons on the matter, their guardians have also been receiving calls from allies and friends of the accused lecturer, threatening them to advise the students to withdraw the case.

They said that some of the institution’s students have verbally attacked them and warned them to desist from bringing down their lecturer.

They added that some other persons have blamed them for crying out loud, saying they had tarnished the image of the institution by their action and that they should have just endured without bringing the name of the polytechnic into disrepute.

“It has been very difficult for us since the matter was reported in the newspaper,” Oko said. “While others commend us for being brave enough to cry out, some have particularly attacked us for tarnishing the image of the school.”

She said, “there have been many stories about us with some even tongue lashing us for our action. But each time I wanted to regret my action, my spirit tells me that my integrity as a woman matters and anything suffered in the defence of this integrity cannot be too much to bear. I am only bothered about my security because there have been several strange calls on my phone and strange movements around me.”

She recalled how one of her classmates called and began to talk rudely to her, condemning the decision to make the matter public. “My mother took the phone from me and warned the caller very seriously. In fact, I have since deleted the person’s number from my phone.”

On her part, Egwu explained she had received a call from someone claiming be a police officer investigating the matter and asked her to meet him at a specific location.

“I was surprised and I had initially agreed to meet the person at 2 pm the following day. But when I discussed with my family members and guardians, we agreed not to meet anybody anywhere,” she said.

A rights organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has petitioned the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission (ICPC) to urgently intervene in the matter.

In the petition signed by its Senior Legal Adviser, Joke Fekumo, SERAP urged the minister to urgently ensure that the allegations are properly investigated.

SERAP noted in its petition to the minister that the rising cases of sexual harassment on the campus, calls for urgent attention of the ministry and other relevant stakeholders. It added that if not urgently addressed, the fate of female students will continue to hang in the balance.

Fekumo said: “On Thursday, two letters were sent out on the matter. One was to the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu and our prayer was that he should urgently commissioned full investigation into the allegations of the issues of attempted rape, sexual harassment and intimidation of the two female students. We urged the Minister to use his good office to ensure that these allegations and all other forms of human rights abuses are impartially investigated and that anyone found guilty is punished.

“We also urged the Minister to ensure adequate protection for the safety and security of the two students, and that he should ensure an end to sexual harassment and victimisation of the students by the lecturer (Obi). We also pleaded with the Minister to take urgent step to address these issues.

“The second petition was addressed to the ICPC Chairman and we copied the Rector of the polytechnic the two letters. The case of sexual harassment is part of other offences captured in the Acts establishing the agency, and we feel the speed with which it intervened in the case of the OAU should be replicated in this case. Apart from relying on the New Telegraph report, we also interacted with the female students and captured all these in our letters.”

SERAP said it believes both the minister and the ICPC would ensure justice is done on the matter, and pledged that it would follow up on the case.

 

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