The recent dismissal of Professor Richard Akindele over sexual impropriety by the authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, has again resonated the urgency for effective legislations against gender-based crimes in the country. Justice has been served for the bold and courageous Monica Osagie, who nailed the fate of the randy lecturer with overwhelming evidence. The women rights community is quite enthused over the historic victory, as a boost for its campaign, because Osagie, unlike many others, remained stoic, despite tremendous threats, stigma and pressure against her.
The initial apathetic response from the university sparked off widespread media and public rage, with some legislators and Edo state government calling for expeditious investigation and justice in the case. Osagie, in several media interviews including CNN, said she remained dogged in the battle for justice, due to the rise in sexual objectification and exploitation of women across society.
“I am happy I came out. I am helping many ladies that have gone through the same thing I have gone through. Most of them can’t talk about it. They are scared of coming out in public. But I know it happens everywhere, not just in Nigeria. Speaking up will bring more women to speak out,’ against the evil trend,’ she said. Indeed the evidence against Akindele, a professor of Accounting and Management was staggering, hence he was summarily dismissed by the institution.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede said ‘Akindele operated in a position of power and authority over Miss Osagie by sexually harassing her. He was liable for all the allegations of misconduct levelled against him and was dismissed,’ the VC said.
‘To disabuse the minds of the general public on the issue of an alleged cover-up, he said the duo were duly invited and investigated after which the lecturer was dismissed, ‘ he added.
‘Prof Akindele had an inappropriate relationship with his student. This was established through their conversation in the audio recording; his reply to the query; the oral evidence; and the printed ‘WhatsApp conversations’ tendered before the Committee. He offered to change Miss Osagie’s purported 33 percent result to a pass mark in consideration for sexual favours, though she had passed the course. His request for sexual favours from Osagie to change her examination scores was scandalous behaviour that portrays the university, as an institution where its teachers and examiners trade marks for sexual favours,’ he explained.
The judgement is a relief because it will not only serve as a deterrent to other sex perverts, who victimise people over sex and money for grades, but will encourage others to report such maleficence.
Many victims are often denied justice, due to lack of evidence and legal services, as well as, family pressure, social stigma, threats and psychological trauma. Nigeria is currently witnessing increasing cases of sexual crimes in several institutions, prisons, police cells, Internally Displaced (IDP) camps and homes.
The gory details of sex-related crimes perpetrated across the country are quite alarming and horrific, hence the heightened demand for stiffer penalties for assailants. Amnesty International recently accused members of Joint Task Force(JTF) of rape and sexual exploitation of women in Internally Displaced (IDP) Camps in the North-East, saying it had ‘evidence that thousands of people have starved to death in the camps in Borno state, since 2015.’ Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said ‘it is absolutely shocking that people who had already suffered so much under Boko Haram have been condemned to further horrendous abuse by the Nigerian military.’ ‘Thousands of women and girls are abused by the Nigerian security forces, who claim to be rescuing them,’ it alleged. Despite the international rage against rape and sexual offences, they have continued to escalate in India, Nigeria and other countries. Global statistics indicate increasing incidences of sex-related violations against women.
In Nigeria, such crimes are largely under-reported because of societal inhibitions, lack of professionalism, corruption along with other weaknesses bedevilling the security and judicial system. Other factors include discriminatory social norms, primitive cultures, political crises and ineffective legislations. Generally, women in patriarchal and traditional societies, as well as those in the entertainment industry and institutionalized settings are more predisposed to sexual assault. Spain is presently besieged by protests across several cities, following the controversial judgement over the alleged sexual abuse of a young girl, due to bail options for the assailants. Meanwhile, United States (US) famous actor, 80 year-old Billy Cosby faces a mandatory state jail term of up to 30 years, after his conviction, as a sex offender.
The world is awash with stories of despicable sexual atrocities, involving top politicians, business moguls, entertainment icons, particularly, in Europe and America.
Sadly India, seems to lead the global chart on sexual offences and rape, due to its ancient caste system, primordial cultures and religious mythologies, which mortify females and poor people. In India a women is reportedly raped every 15 minutes. Generally it is believed that a girl is sexually abused, virtually every day, in several countries. It is said that most females suffer a form of sexual abuse at least once in their life time.
Sexual rights of women are violated from the home to the work place, as well as in IDP camps, schools, stadia, prisons and other heinous circumstances across this country. Successive governments have failed to implement several global benchmarks on basic human rights, including the conventions on women, children and physically challenged persons. Nigeria is signatory to several United Nations (UN) conventions and protocols on women rights, but has not domesticated many of the treaties.
For instance government has not implemented the 2016 World Health Assembly on strengthening health systems in addressing violence, against women, girls and children. United Nations(UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), has intensified calls to implement the principles of CEDAW, as global standards in tackling sexual crimes and gender-based violence, which constitute human rights violations. It also called for concerted efforts to end all discriminatory policies and violations that undermine the safety and lives of women and girls, through economic empowerment, microfinance, training, education, legislation and media advocacy.
Meanwhile government, weekend, said it ‘will deal decisively with any university council that fails to deal with reported cases of sexual harassment in their institutions.’ Nigerians hope this is not another irredeemable pledge.
Ojukwu, a journalist and Fellow of Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, writes via [email protected] com