Tony Osauzo and Lucky Ighomuaye, Benin
Dr. Monday Igbafen, chairman Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma chapter, has put the issue of the national strike behind him but the hurdle before him at the moment is how to extricate himself from the accusation of sex-for-marks scandal which has been levelled against him.
The act was said to have been committed eight years ago (2011) while the said students could have long graduated and possibly married.
The management of AAU during the suspended strike by ASUU members nationwide, allegedly mounted pressure on the union to scuttle the industrial action but Dr. Igbafen and his exco stood their ground.
Having failed to persuade ASUU AAU chapter to suspend the strike, the management asked students to resume but Dr. Igbafen warned against the move and accused the Vice Chancellor, Prof Ignatius Onimawo of trying to break the national strike.
Students heeded the directive of the AAU management and returned to campus but their lecturers refused to teach or attend to those they are supervising their projects. The situation was like that until the national body suspended the strike. Less than four weeks after, the VC reportedly dug out an old case of allegation which lead to the ASUU AAU chairman’s suspension.
Recently, the management of the institution, said it had suspended him over alleged sexual harassment.
Igbafen, an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy, was alleged to have threatened female students with marks for sex.
The university’s spokesman, Mr. Edward Aihevba said in a statement, that the suspension followed the arraignment of Dr. Igbafen before the Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee (SSDC) over allegations of gross misconduct bordering on sexual harassment and threat of marks for sex.
The statement stated that Igbafen had earlier been found culpable and indicted by an investigative panel of the university for the offence of sexual harassment.
Investigations revealed further that the family of a female victim had threatened to drag the AAU before the ICPC if it (university) failed to bring Dr. Igbafen to book.
“On receipt of the petition, the university management asked for his comments. His response was found unsatisfactory. He was therefore arraigned before the SSDC.
“As due process demands, he has been suspended from the university pending the determination of the allegation levelled against him. Except those related to SSDC during the period of his suspension. He is therefore not allowed to participate or involved in any university duties or functions,’’ the statement added
But Dr. Igbafen has threatened to expose the Vice Chancellor to the world that blackmail does not work within the university.
He alleged that his suspension was part of a grand plan to intimidate ASUU AAU chapter, adding that the VC has a personal vendetta against him.
“It is a grand plot that will fail. The VC is desperate because he has so many things to hide. He is looking for a weak ASUU to manipulate.
“That petition was written against two of us when I was a Lecturer II in 2011. I answered it that my hands are clean. Is that why he is denying me of my promotion?
“All these things are plot to destabilize the union. It is cheap blackmail. The VC is desperate to decimate ASUU. I know he is behind all the petitions against me”, Dr. Igbafen said.
He also added that his recent face off with the VC is a fallout of his non compromising approach to acts of impunity exhibited by the VC.
He quoted an example of the case of the wife of the VC who was elevated to the position of lecturer 1 from her lowly position of a typist.
“We (ASUU) challenged him to be open and transparent. You cannot move your wife from nowhere and make her a lecturer 1 without a PhD and academic masters degree. We have been on the matter and he has made attempts to compromise me as the chairman of the union and I refused.
“That led to his desperation that I should never be chairman of ASUU for a second time,” Igbafen disclosed.
Another negative activity of the VC according to the embattled ASUU chairman is that since his assumption of office the union has been pushing for due process.
“All monies coming in must be judiciously used. The main source of fund in the university is the TETFUND and NEEDS assessment intervention fund. These funds are all products of ASUU struggle.
“The university has collected more then N5.5 billion for the past five years. From the TETFUND, he has received more than N3.4 billion while that from NEEDS Assessment is more than N1.2 billion.
“The union is demanding for how he utilised these funds. Is it a sin to demand for how he has utilised our funds?”
But Aihevba has asked Igbafen to face the allegation against him and leave the VC alone.
“Dr. Igbafen should face the matter before him, and the matter before him is that he is faced with allegation of sexual harassment and threat of sex for marks, he should face it and not remove attention from it with all these frivolous allegations.
“Igbafen in 2011 was accused of sexual harassment, there was an investigation panel and he was indicted and this administration did not know anything about it until its attention was drawn to it in a petition received on the 24th of December, 2018.
“The petitioner said if the matter is not brought to public domain, he will write to EFCC or ICPC or the state government and accused the administration of trying to sweep it under the carpet.
“Now that the petitioner has called for justice, should we keep quiet just because Igbafen is ASUU chairman? He should face the allegation of sexual harassment against him and leave the VC alone.”
On the TETFUND allegation, Aihevba said all money released to the university in the past two years have been judiciously used for more than 42 visible projects on the university campuses.
“TETFUND is an institution in which, if they give money to you, you account for it before you get another. It is a form of continuous accounting. I don’t know the amount that was released. You should come to campus; there are more than 42 projects that were executed with this fund. They are visible. If you don’t account for what you have, you can’t get more and they follow up the use of the money,” he said.
Igbafen is not ready to lie low but to fight his cause to a logical conclusion with the aim of redeeming his battered image which the said allegation has inflicted on him.
This he has done by giving the management 30 days within which to retract what he described as “defamatory materials” allegedly published in the university bulletin of February 13, 2019 which was widely distributed both within and outside the university.
Dr. Igbafen also alleged that the said publication was distributed to several media houses, which gave it prominence on February 14, 2019.
The ASUU AAU chairman in a letter titled: “Defamation of Dr. M.L. Igbafen: Demand for refraction, apology and damages” by his lawyer, Osehon Irebhude & Co. to the university demanded a written apology to be published in the university bulletin and in at least four national dailies.
Dr. Igbafen’s lawyer is also asking the university authorities to pay his client N200 million as compensation for the injury he suffered by reason of the said offensive publication.
According to Igbafen’s lawyer, the university bulletin publication authored by one Eddy Aihevba, a deputy registrar in the VC’s office, concerning our client defamatory materials to the effect that our client was involved in an act of sexual harassment of his student and that he intentionally failed the said student because she turned down his advances.
“The author of the write-up and the university knew that that allegation was unfounded but was only meant to spite our client and he has indeed been injured by the grave but untrue allegation contained in that offensive publication.
By reason of the publication of the aforementioned allegation, our client has been injured in his character, credit and reputation and has been exposed to odium, hatred and ridicule and has suffered damages.
The lawyer put AAU management on notice that Igbafen will be constrained to approach the court for the due protection of his rights if the foregoing demands are not heeded within 30 days.
Another letter titled “Re: Arraignment and suspension from duty of Dr. M. L. Igbafen: Pre-action notice” by Chief A. B. Thomas & Co. of Oloke Chambers, asked the university management to within 30 days withdraw two letters sent to Dr. Igbafen, dated January 17 and February 12, 2019 respectively or face legal action.
The two letters, according to A.B. Thomas, conveyed the university management’s decision to arraign his client before a disciplinary committee, while the second letter conveyed the VC’s decision to place his client on suspension from duty.
Going by the way issues are unfolding, it is going to be a fight- to-finish and the members of the academic bodies and the general public are watching to see to who blinks.