■ Randy lecturers on the prowl in universities
Gabriel Dike; Bianca Iboma; Fred Ezeh, Abuja; Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
The nation’s tertiary institution has come a long way. Since the establishment of Yaba Higher College, there has been a phenomenal growth in the sector, which now include private institutions.
According to stakeholders, these growth and development have not been without challenges, some of which have been caused by the rapid physical expansion or in some cases by social, political and economic factors.
Certainly, this is not the best of time for the nation’s tertiary institutions. Aside the incessant strikes by staff unions, non-provision of adequate funds to pay salaries as at when due and lack of teaching facilities, the system is currently embroiled in scandal involving some lecturers and their female students.
In the last two months, two of the nation’s top universities, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife and University of Lagos, Akoka have been rocked by allegations of sex-for-marks. The lecturers fingered are high ranking academic staff.
A female postgraduate student of OAU, Miss Monica Osetobe Osagie leaked an audio recording of her conversation with Prof. Richard Akindele in the Department of Management Accounting demanding for five rounds of sex in exchange for marks.
The Vice-Chancellor of OAU, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, set up a panel and based on its recommendation approved the suspension of Prof. Akindele.
That incident was still a talking point when on Thursday, May 24, an unidentified female student in the English Department of University of Lagos (UNILAG) accused Prof. Segun Awonusi of sexual misconduct and released three semi nude pictures which went viral.
In his defence, the former commissioner in Ogun State and former vice chancellor of Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijagun, said his mobile phone, which contained the nude pictures was stolen. Prof Awonusi accused the unidentified female student of blackmailing him with the photos.
But Chief Lanre Ogunjobi, proprietor of Focus International School, Abeokuta, disagreed with Prof. Awonusi claim that his phone was missing thus the semi nude pictures that went viral on internet were inside. “Did he report to the police when the phone got missing? How did he take his personal pictures from a distance in his office half naked? Looking at the three pictures, it is obvious that he was not aware that someone took his pictures,” he declared.
However, time would tell as management of UNILAG has promised to launch a probe into the allegation.
Before Prof. Awonusi’s case, one Afeez Baruwa was alleged to have raped a female seeking admission into UNILAG. The 18-year-old victim was handed to the lecturer by her father who was his friend, to help her secure admission. But UNILAG management denied knowing the lecturer then.
Two years ago, a professor at the University of Port Harcourt was caught pants down having sex with a female student in one of the classrooms at night. The act took place on a desk inside the classroom, all in a bid to increase the student’s marks.
In 2016, at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, a lecturer was apprehended at a private female hostel in Samaru, after he sneaked into the hostel, disguised as a woman in a hijab. Findings showed that he was having an affair with one of the female students.
A randy senior lecturer at the Department of Languages and Linguistics, Osun State University, Osogbo, was caught on video in a hotel room with one of his female students. The female student used her Laptop to record the act and posted it on social media. The Governing Council after investigations terminated his appointment.
Two years ago, it was the turn of University of Calabar as a senior lecturer was accused of harassing a 16-year-old female Diploma student in the Faculty of Law.
In 2005, the Governing Council of the Lagos State University sacked a lecturer, who was caught in a hotel room on the verge of having sex with a 200-level undergraduate. He was sacked.
Senate to the rescue
In May 2016, the Senate proposed a five-year jail term on lecturers who exploit female students sexually. A bill sponsored by Ovie Omo-Agege and co-sponsored by 46 other senators, sought to prohibit any form of sexual relationship between lecturers and their students in the tertiary institutions.
The bill when passed into law will make it a criminal offence for any lecturer to violate or exploit the student-lecturer fiduciary relationship for sexual pleasures.
But the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) rejected the bill, arguing that it would undermine the autonomy of universities. It said universities were established by law as autonomous bodies, adding that there were laws that clearly articulated redress procedures. Besides, it stated that the bill was targeted at only male lecturers, adding that the rule of lawmaking did not permit one to target legislation against a group or an individual.
Stakeholders and students
The unwholesome acts have not failed to draw the ire of stakeholders. One of them is Wande Ebe, a gender activist, accountant and founder of Wanda Adu Foundation, a non-profit organisation that give voice to victims of gender base violence especially women, who lauded the boldness and confidence of OAU and UNILAG students that spoke up recently. Their action, she said, would increase the confidence and encourage other female students to speak up and demand for justice.
She said sexual harassment in the universities has always exist, only that victims hardly raised their voice either because they lacked the confidence, scared of stigmatisation or cannot defend their claims.
She is happy that the trend has begun to change as female students could boldly speak up on the issue of sexual harassment in universities and expect justice. “This was contrary to the practice few years ago. In those years, female students bottled up their sad experience with lecturers. But what we have today is an indication that female students have gained confidence, and are determined to confront the canker-worm.
“I was a victim of sexual harassment and molestation in my university days and it was a horrible experience. That, perhaps, encouraged me to establish an NGO to give a platform and voice and enable victims of gender base violence to get justice.
“My experience in school was awesome until my second year when four of my lecturers including my HOD took sexual interest in me. It was a horrible experience. They tried all they could but I vowed not to succumb and I paid for it.
“They worked against me. One continuously recorded me absent on his assessments and exams. Even when I wrote exams, he will claim that attendance sheet had gone missing. My grade point (GP) was so bad by 300 level that I contemplated dropping out because I lost interest in school.
“A course mate noticed I stopped attending lectures and called to inquire. That was when I opened up to him. He suggested that I continue school and not drop. That was how I ended up with a third class after I had spent six years in school for four years programme.
“Some of my friends thought it was as a result of poor academic performance that made me spend extra years in school, but far from it.
“Today, I am lending my voice to end sexual harassment and other gender base violence in school and workplaces. I have fully recovered and God has blessed me tremendously. None of my employer gave me opportunity based on my university results.
“Howbeit, in as much as we support naming and shaming of lecturers with questionable character, we always suggest that students arm themselves with evidences to support whatever claim they have against their lecturers.
“That is the only way to get justice. It is not enough to accuse someone of sexual harassment. It must be proven beyond doubt.”
Ebe equally admitted that male lecturers and students were also being harassed sexually, “but that is in few occasions unlike the other way round.”
She appealed to the university managements to strengthen their systems and provide identity protection platform and friendly environment that could encourage victims to speak up.
Like Ebe, President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Chinonso Obasi, is equally unhappy that cases of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions have refused to abate, in spite of several enlightenment programmes and previous punishments.
He observed that the menace has become a way of life in Nigerian institutions, arguing that lecturers that engaged in the act know themselves, as they meet regularly to discuss about female students, including their strength and weaknesses.
But Obasi added that some of the so-called victims are equally culpable. “Some of the female students enjoy the attention. What do you expect when you deliberately expose your body to male lecturers? It’s abuse. But that is never a justification for a lecturer to take sexual advantage of a female student. A lecturer should be able to control his sexual urge amidst any form of seduction by a female student. We suggest that he turns back a female student that dress indecently to his class or report such a student to school management for punishment.”
He promised to continue his regular engagement with female students on the dangers of indecent dressing, in addition to regular distribution of pictorial messages that discourage indecent dressing. He then advocated a legislation that would make sexual harassment in tertiary institutions a jailable offence.
Similarly, Dr Ama Onyerinma, an advocate of sexual abuse, Founder/Executive Director Live Abundantly Empowerment Imitative acknowledged that sexual harassment is prevalent in the institutions and the workplace. She noted that it was the least addressed area of violence and rights violation.
She is of the opinion that for anybody to his position or authority to subject another to degrading and unacceptable sexual advances verbally, non-verbally and physically which results in disastrous consequences for the victim psychological, emotionally, physically and economically is unacceptable.
According to her, the wall of silence and shame must be brought by ensuring that issues surrounding denigrating form of abuse which can destroy personal careers and lives are brought to the forefront and addressed.
She is unhappy that in Nigeria, there is no national law against sexual harassment in the work place though Lagos State Criminal Law prohibits harassment in educational or employment settings.
“I may be wrong but I am yet to hear of any perpetrators being brought to justice,” she said.
Mr. Tajudeen Oladipupo, chairman of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) Ojo chapter agreed that a great number of ladies have either dropped out of the institution or suffered the consequences of not succumbing to lecturers sexual advances. He observed that female students feel uncomfortable speaking up about sexual harassment.
Henrietta Rex, NDII Mass Communication students, Delta State Polytechnic Ozoro, agreed that sexual harassment is a serious problem.
She observed that the judicial system has not handled sexual harassment cases well “due to the extreme the interpretation of what constitute sexual harassment.”
A 400-level student of Kogi State University, Ayingba, Josephine Audu, expressed shock at the alarming rate lecturers harass and sometimes terrorise female students in their quest for illicit sex in exchange for marks.
“Honestly speaking, the cause of this untoward behaviour of these lecturers can be attributed to lack of self-control. They allow their emotions to take the better part of them and leverage on any opportunity including exchanging marks for sex to ensure they hit their target. This menace is in every tertiary institutions. It is, however, more pronounced in certain institutions than others.
“However, some lecturers are not to blame. Some female students are the ones who flaunt their sensitive parts to entice some lecturers. In fact, some that are lazy and academically weak literally go after the lecturers so that they can sleep with them and give them marks,” she said.
On why the female students were becoming bold in exposing these lecturers, she said: “The use of technology now makes it easier, as the female students can record their interactions with the Romeo lecturers or even discretely film their actions. But I must confess that not all female students have the boldness to come out and expose such lecturers. Most of them will rather grudgingly compromise and carry on with the lecturers so as not to jeopardise their academic programmes,” she said.
As for punishment, she is in support of relieving any erring lecturer of his job in addition of filing charges in a court of law to serve as a deterrent to others.
As a way out of the sex-for-marks syndrome which is giving the nation a bad image, a public affairs analyst and human right activist, John Danjuma Akubo said the various tertiary institutions in the country must come up with stricter measures.
According to him corruption is not only relative to finances, but moral corruption is the bedrock of all corruption.
“We’re in a society where corruption of all sorts thrives. The foundation of corruption is already laid and the tertiary institutions are part of this society which cannot be exempted, so corruption breeds more corruption and to me moral corruption is the root of all corruption.
“Randy lecturers who demand for sex in exchange for marks, and the female students who go wild on campus exposing their feminine parts so as to attract the lecturers are some of the products of a corrupt society.”
On why female students are now bold to expose this social malaise, Akubo said: “If a student is sure of herself that the marks she was given in the exams was far below what she wrote, she can cry out to the school authority who may take the scripts to another lecturer to mark instead of giving her body to the lecturer. Secondly, the OAU episode is an eye opener which can propel any female students that is being sexually harassed to speak out. Thirdly, these students may be forced to speak out because some of the randy lecturers are old enough to be their father.