Kate Halim And Lawrence Enyoghasu
Once in a while, such a scandal breaks out and provokes the ire of the public. However, the public deals with it in a predictable manner: a display of righteous indignation that slowly ebbs as the funk is allowed to dissipate in the conspiratorial climate of silence and inaction from relevant authorities; thereafter, everyone forgets about the culprit. But soon after, someone else breaks the wind again.
That has been the pattern, until the bombshell from the BBC Africa Eye Sex For Grades documentary.
There is no denying that the spate of occurrence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions is alarming. In September, Ahmadu Bello University sacked 15 staff for various misconducts; among those affected was a lecturer from the Department of Plant Science who was relieved of his appointment over sexual harassment of a female staff. The institution also confirmed ongoing investigations into other cases of sexual harassment.
Similar scandal was recorded at Obafemi Awolowo University––where a professor of the institution, Richard Akindele was sentenced on December 2018 to two years in prison for demanding sex from one of his students as criterion to pass his course––and Lagos State University (LASU) that dismissed three of its academic staff for sexual harassment and misconduct in October 2018. Similar incidents of varying degrees have popped up in Osun State University, Ekiti State University, University of Abuja and Ibadan Polytechnic, to mention but few.
Some of the allegations––like the one levelled against the LASUCOM lecturer, Gbeleyi who reportedly sedated two female students before he sexually took advantage of them––are as disgusting and downright immoral as to make the vices of Marquis de Sade seem like a child’s play.
The shenanigans of these satyrs in the ivory towers were the subject of the BBC Africa Eagle Sex For Grades documentary aired on October 7 where Dr Boniface Igbeneghu of University of Lagos and a supposed head pastor of a local Four Square church, made his starring role. Secretly recorded making indecent overtures to an undercover reporter who posed as a 17-year-old seeking admission in the institution, Igbeneghu, one of four predators in the footage, went on to explain how the practice is enshrined among lecturers who used the facility of the university’s senior staff club, which he dubbed a “cold room” for their perversions. Although the consequence has been swift for the randy lecturers, the public, however, is left pondering how citadels of learning have degenerated into a dishonourable portrayal as ivory towers of moral decay where a deviant culture of sexual exploitation is perpetuated by randy lecturers.
Rage of UNILAG students
When Saturday Sun visited the Akoka campus of the University of Lagos, the atmosphere at the Faculty of Arts where the office of the suspended lecturer Boniface Igbeneghu was located on the second floor was a beehive of activities as usual.
Students were seen moving up and down the Faculty, discussing and talking about their courses. Others were seated on the ground floor, fiddling with their phones or listening to music. The rest were rushing for their lectures with seriousness.
The business of studying was ongoing as usual despite the trending story of one of the Faculty’s lecturers who was suspended for soliciting sex for admission from an undercover BBC journalist who claimed to be 17 years old.
Students did not shy away from commenting on the burning issue.
Manuel Abiodun, a 300 Level student in the Department of English tells Saturday Sun that the issue of sexual harassment is one the University authorities have to treat seriously. He urged the university to stop paying lip service to their threat of punishing culprits who play God with the lives of female students.
Abiodun has a reason for his vehemence––his cousin, a Year Two student in the Department of Philosophy is a victim of sexual harassment. She was singled out by one of her lecturers and has been told that if she doesn’t play ball, she won’t graduate with a good result, he claims.
Visibly angry with the long-standing issue of sexual harassment by lecturers and the many instances where female students were left helpless, Abiodun wants the lecturers at the centre of the recent scandal sacked as a deterrent to others.
Says he: “It is sad that parents would struggle to make money to send their daughters to school and some randy old men who have refused to respect the grey hairs on their heads will be making a mess of their children’s future.
And it is appalling that good people would labour to build a good reputation for an institution, but it takes one stupid fool to destroy everything they have done.”
Abiodun says he trusts that the university authority will be ruthless in dealing with this glaring misconduct by the lecturers. He also hopes that anyone found culpable in this embarrassment will have a full measure of that ruthlessness.
Jennifer Shittu, a 200 Level student of Department of European Languages, notes that the lecturers caught in the scandal are those who bragged that no one can score A in their courses.
The scourge she laments had eaten deep into the lives of some male lecturers who believe they are entitled to have sex with many female students as possible. “I can’t count the number of girls who have narrated their ordeals at the hands of some randy lecturers to me. It has gotten so bad that if your lecturer tells you to meet him in his office, you will start panicking. Why can’t these men leave girls alone?”
Creative Arts student Chinelo Obi, describes the extent female student go to avoid the attention of randy lecturers––wearing big flare skirts anytime they have cause to see their lecturers so as not to cause distraction.
“Some lecturers pick on ladies that don’t have parents or father figure and use them to achieve their goals. Some of my friends that have tried to get into UNILAG suffered sexual harassment.”
Dr Igbeneghu’s day of reckoning is here, she avows. “He can’t be using one mouth to preach and still sexually harass students with his hands.” She is happy that these monsters in positions of academic power are being exposed
Law student Edwin Ikogho is appalled that people trying to turn the narrative into girls seducing lecturers for marks.
Ikogho says: “I applaud the steps the University authority have taken by suspending the two lecturers exposed in the video but I don’t see anywhere in the documentary portrayal of girls selling themselves for marks. We have to be careful in addressing the issues at hand which is of men or women in authority using that leverage to coerce and manipulate against people they should be protecting, it is immoral.”
Reactions from Four Square Church
Hours after the sex for admission scandal broke, with the full persona of Dr Boniface Igbeneghu exposed in the BBC documentary, the leadership of Foursquare Gospel in Nigeria announced the suspension of the lecturer who was also one of the pastors in the church.
According to the press statement released on the church’s Facebook page, the church stated that as a holiness and Bible-believing church, they do not condone such heinous and unscriptural act among their ministers.
The statement reads: “The attention of the leadership of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria has been drawn to a video clip trending on social media platforms titled “Sex for grades: Undercover in West Africa Universities- BBC News” Wherein a lecturer in University of Lagos names Dr Boniface Igbeneghu also described as a pastor in Foursquare Gospel Church was allegedly involved in sexual misconduct with some female students of the university.
“We totally dissociate ourselves from the purported conduct of Dr Igbenoghu and promise to take appropriate measure as soon as the ongoing investigation is concluded. Meanwhile, the pastor in question has been asked to step down from all ministerial assignments.”
The statement was signed by the National Secretary, Rev. Ikechukwu Ugbaja.
UNILAG on alert, recommends psychiatry test for erring lecturer
In the aftermath of the scandal, the authorities of the University of Lagos had directed the dean of Faculty of Arts and the head of his department and the Dean of Clinical Sciences, a professor of Psychiatry to discuss with Dr Boniface Igbeneghu.
According to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, the panel of three was to evaluate the frame of mind of the lecturer and decide whether to admit him into the hospital to prevent him acting on suicidal impulses.
“But the doctor said it has not gotten to the level where they have to admit him into the hospital,” he said.
The doctor, however, was directed to continue to monitor the embattled lecturer.
Professor Ogundipe also dispelled the rumour that the disgraced academic had attempt suicide as earlier speculated in some quarters, reiterating, “he is under watch.”
There are indications there might be police trouble for Dr Igbeneghu.
DSP Bala Elkanah, spokesperson, Lagos State Police Command told Saturday Sun that the police is aware of the Sex For Grade video that got two lecturers in of the University of Lagos suspended.
The police force, he also affirmed, is aware that the university has set up a panel to investigate the allegations against the lecturers since the accused are members of the University community.
The police division in Sabo, Yaba is fully involved in the preliminary investigation stage as they will work with the University community during the investigation, he disclosed.
He said: “We will allow the panel set up by the University to conclude its own investigation but at the same time, our intelligence unit will also be analyzing the details of the investigation.”
He vowed that the police will work with the university panel set to investigate the issue to its logical conclusion.
“We have to allow the inquiry run its course before the police force can speak on what will happen next,” he declared.
In the meantime, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission had declared its intention to begin collaborating with the Nigeria Police Force and the National Universities Commission (NUC) to curb cases of sexual harassment in universities.
A statement by Mr Babatunde Irukera, the Chief Executive Officer of the commission in Abuja on Friday, said that FCCPC would also collaborate with the National Human Rights Commission and Civil Society Organisations.
He said the collaboration would be geared toward developing a robust mechanism to support prevention, retribution and accountability in universities.
“The Commission in furtherance of its mandate to protect consumers is leading an effort to establish a framework to provide adequate protection and accountability. This is to address this obvious and inexcusable pattern that appears prevalent in schools.”
“The Commission is immediately engaging the Federal Ministry of Education, the National Universities Commission, the Nigeria Police Force and the National Human Rights Commission.
Irukera disclosed that the commission would gather credible intelligence to assist school authorities to take decisive actions regarding sexual harassment, exploitation and other misconduct.
He urged citizens and students with credible information to send it to the commission’s dedicated email address: [email protected]
Varsity shuts ‘cold room’
University of Lagos (UNILAG) shut down its Staff Club that was mentioned in “Sex-for-admission” video as the ‘theatre of operation’ where lecturers supposedly conduct their amoral agenda.
A statement by the Principal Assistant Registrar (Communication Unit), Mrs Taiwo Oloyede, announcing the suspension of Dr Igbeneghu said the university management had ordered the shutdown of the Staff Club “Cold Room” mentioned in the documentary for further investigation.
“The so-called “Cold Room” is a Functions Room that may have been abused because this is a deviation from the purpose for which it was created which are meetings, seminars, events, etc.
“The university assures members of the public that any other lecturer mentioned in the full version of the operation which is to be aired later today (Tuesday), will also be suspended to ensure a proper investigation is carried out.
”The university is embarrassed and dissociates itself totally from this act(s) and any inappropriate behaviour of staff with female students and vice versa. The university has a well-articulated ‘Policy on Sexual Harassment, Sexual and Romantic Relationships.’
…And the church suffereth
One of the most disturbing parts of the documentary was the footage showing Dr Boniface Igbeneghu ministering on the pulpit inside of a church.
Saturday Sun visited the church on Thursday. The yellow-painted church is located at No. 10 Lawani Street, Onitiri. Located at a T-Junction, the bungalow opened into two streets. The door that serves as the entrance into the church, painted blue is on Adebiyi Street. The second door painted red leads to the church’s backyard and the entrance of a student hostel on Lawani Street.
The student woke around 7 am and went straight for their morning devotion in a parlour-size room, which also serve as a Sunday school during service and choir room on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The room also leads to the main auditorium.
The head of the students, addressed as Brother Mike reminded the congregation: “We need to be aware of what we saw now. No new friends.”
It was gathered that the zonal delegate that visited on Tuesday had briefed the church. The visit led to the closure of the church.
A woman who refused to give her name confirmed this. The tall dark woman cautions the reporter to stop seeking information. “The man has been chased from the church and the church is closed. Please, we need to rest. We are not his family members, neither is it the church that committed the offence,” she warns.
It was gathered the church, mainly attended by Four Square members who are students of the University of Lagos, has been in the area for over 30 years.
The scandal had brought shame to members of Four Square Church, claims Ike, a member of the church and a tire dealer in the area.
The fair-skinned young man says he has not been able to face his boss since the news broke. “On Tuesday, my boss came to the office and called me to see something, I was not suspicious because he has always been doing it. On getting there, he showed me my pastor (Dr Boniface Igbeneghu). Immediately, I became speechless.”
He, however, does not spare the beleaguered lecturer.
“If it is true that he committed those things, I think he deserves to suffer the consequences,” he said.