UNICAL VC reacts to minister’s threat on sexual harassment witnesses

THE Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Florence Obi, has reacted to a leaked viral audio recording said to be that of the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Ohaneye, threatening female students who had testified about alleged sexual harassment by Cyril Ndifon – a professor and suspended lecturer at the varsity.

The university suspended Ndifon on August 17 after female Law students protested, alleging that he had subjected them to sexual harassment and assault.

He had denied the allegations.

Following the developments, the university set up an investigation panel to investigate the allegations, namely sexual harassment, lack of accountability and abuse of office.

Ohaneye, in the leaked telephone conversation with one of the girls claiming to have been raped by Ndifon, threatened the girl and other testifiers that they would go to jail if they lied against Ndifon.

Similarly, the minister had in a video warned parties in the probe, saying, “Whoever lies in this Calabar sexual case will go to jail. I will make sure that all (guilty persons) involved in this shameful act shall be prosecuted and jailed. I am pleading with you; I want justice to be done.

“If you have complaints or anything to talk about concerning this case, head to the panel because the investigation is still ongoing. Go there and lay the complaint, but don’t lie. Because if you lie, I will make sure you are prosecuted and jailed if found guilty.”

Addressing the matter on Friday at the University Council Chambers, the vice-chancellor expressed deep concern over the threats issued by the minister, according to a report by Punch.

He was quoted as saying: “A new dimension has unfortunately reared its head in a way that has left us nonplussed with the leaked viral audio of intimidation and jail threats from the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Uju Kennedy, on a few girls who were bold enough to come out to testify on an alleged age-long sexual harassment of female Law students against Professor Ndifon.

“While I do not consider it expedient to respond to the disturbing audio, I wish to generally state that the students of the Faculty of Law on their own wrote and submitted a petition and protested against the suspended Dean. And, as I know, those who have testified before the panel on both sexual harassment and other violations were not prompted by anyone.”

She argued that the university should rather be commended for pursuing goals directed at academic excellence and creating an environment key to the students’ survival in an “oppressive and dominant patriarchal culture that yields little or no space for women.”

Transcription of the audio the VC referenced

“If your VC makes you to go and lie against somebody, you will go to jail, trust me. I want you to be very careful because your future is at stake. You can’t join anybody and maltreat a fellow human being and equally nobody wants you to be maltreated.






     

     

    The day I spoke with you, I recorded what you spoke and you told me the whole truth. I have contacted your VC, I don’t know what her plans are, I don’t want to quote anybody, I don’t equally want to condemn anybody or judge anybody. But I want you to be very careful because this thing is going to prove fire. If I were you, as you have already said to me, nobody raped you, nobody sexually harassed you, keep off from this case if I were you.

    But if she makes you to go there, she is recording whatever you people are saying in that panel and if she records you and I bring my own and get you contradicted and this man has gone to court, my ministry will join them and make you go to jail so that you will be an example to others. So I want you to be very, very careful. You are telling me if your VC permits you before you can come and see me, there is nothing she can do to you, she is not the one paying your school fees.

    So face your future by standing on the truth at all times. Save my my number, when you have time to visit me, I will find a way to empower you people so that your life will be easier for you. I am a minister, I am above her by position, you know that.

    So don’t go and do anything that will put you into a very big trouble that will scandalise you in the whole world because this matter has gone far and beyond. Now, I won’t play what you people said to me except when you people try to deny it, that is when I will play it. I will conceal it because it’s something you told me in confidence. So, I am warning you to keep off from lying against anybody”.

    Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in society. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.

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