Sexual harassment: More lecturers indicted in Nigerian universities

MORE lecturers in various schools across the country are being indicted or sanctioned for sexual harassment following recent protests by law students of the University of Calabar (UniCal) in Cross River state against the law faculty dean, Cyril Ndifon.

Following the protests, Ndifon was suspended by UniCal, his second suspension for alleged sexual assault since 2015, when a final-year law student accused him of raping her in his office.

Ndifon’s suspension took effect on August 17, the same day Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UniZik), Awka, Anambra, handed warning letters to two lecturers of the Department of Theatre and Film Studies, MacDonald Abunike and Somto Umobi, over allegations of sexual harassment.

The warnings resulted from allegations of sexual harassment made by an anonymous student of the department against the lecturers.

“I’m broken. I am tired of his harassment and cruelty. I don’t know what to do anymore. Everyone fears him. He’s the real HOD. Dr. Somto is too weak to help. And they share the same values and secrets. Sex, indiscriminate sex with students. Body touching in the office is ok. Forceful sex in the office. Invitation for sex or threats. Embarrassment and intimidation for delay in cooperating.

“HOD will ask, try to force himself on you. He left me when I cried. I know he has a little heart, even when it’s immoral. Abunike is different. He boasts a lot. ‘Do you know how I came here?’ He brags about how he bought the job. Are we girls his reward?” the message read in part.

Umobi, who was also Head of Department (HOD), was made to relinquish the position to another lecturer Nkemakonam Aniukwu, who now serves as Acting HOD.

Emmanuel Ojukwu, Media Adviser to the University’s Vice-Chancellor, confirmed the incident to The ICIR.

“It is true that there are online allegations of sexual harassment, yes. And the University has, based on what is going on, called the affected lecturers and issued warning letters to them, that is one. Two, the vice chancellor has asked those circulating the allegations to come forward.

“The problem we have is that they usually do not want to come forward. So, because of that, we have issued warning letters to the lecturers and then removed them from all official positions they are holding,” he said.

He noted that the school held meetings with lecturers accused of sexual harassment in affected Departments to issue last warnings and communicate the school’s stance against such issues.

“In fact, if the affected students agree to come forward, we will just send those people away. This is not the first time, but the problem we have is that the students cannot come, even privately, to confide in us,” Ojukwu said.

He noted that the school was committed to getting to the root of the issue.

“We will get the information. We are sure that over time, the students will be able to trust us. We must protect the students,” Ojukwu said.

A statement by the Acting HOD on August 20, which was sighted by The ICIR, disclosed that conversations had begun between students and authorities of the department.

“I want our students to be happy and proud. And the journey has begun. We have already started by meeting with the students and creating solid platforms where grievances, sexual abuse, harassment, exploitation, victimisation, etc, will be handled,” Akonam noted.

The sanctions, which some describe as lenient, were issued because no evidence was presented to support the anonymous claims.

The UniZik students contacted by The ICIR also failed to speak on record for fear of being victimised by lecturers or their cronies.

A report by FIJ showed how lecturers frustrate students for having issues with their cronies.

However, many ex-students have indicted other UniCal lecturers following the protests by the Law students.

    “Only him? How about his other co-conspirators; Frank Enor, Otora Agbor, Elvis Okorn, and Okoi? Let’s include these notorious sex-for-grades lecturers in the conversation,” a Twitter user, Chief Ire, posted.

    Another user, Onyinyechikwu, posted: When you people are ready, we will discuss Maxwell Eba.

    While Ndifon, Abunike and Umobi merely got suspension and warning letters, two lecturers at the University of Abuja (UniAbuja) were dismissed about a month ago for similar reasons.

    Although the lecturers were not named, UniAbujaVice-Chancellor Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah disclosed that they were academic staff dismissed over allegations of sexual assault.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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