FEATURE: Three Nigerian universities face sexual harassment scandals
Since April, three Nigerian universities have been in the spotlight, after their lecturers got involved sexual harassment scandals.
These scandals followed actions of female students who opened up on abusive conducts of lecturers towards them in the three universities; namely Obafemi Awolowo Universities, Ile-Ife; University of Lagos, Akoka; and Lagos State University, Ojo.
While OAU, the first hit, dismissed its lecturer involved in the scandal, the other two, LASU and UNILAG, have said they are still proceeding with investigations.
OAU made headlines at the beginning of April when a lady, later known to be Monica Osagie, leaked a phone recording, which showed a professor, Richard Akindele, seeking sex ‘five times’ from her for a pass in an examination.
The student repeatedly addressed the other person in the conversation as ‘Prof. Akindele’, who, later, protested: ‘stop calling my name!’.
Later, the lecturer said he demanded five rounds of sex in one date as a deliberate attempt to discourage the student and at the same time invite her to his office to obtain evidence.
The following month in May, Joy Nwanna, a student of the University of Lagos also accused Olusegun Awonusi, a professor of English and former Vice Chancellor of Tai Solarin University of Education, of habitual sexual harassment.
The student who released semi-nude photos of the lecturer through Linda Ikeji’s blog said the lecturer was used to molesting students and that she was reaching out to the public to curb his excesses.
Also, reacting to the allegation levied against him, Mr Awonusi, the lecturer at the centre of the sex scandal in UNILAG, in an interview with New Telegraph, said he was blackmailed, insisting that he did not sexually harass any female student.
“It is blackmail. The said pictures were taken about four years ago. But sometimes ago, I received a message from a particular lady, saying she was in possession of my unclad photos and that I should pay her N400,000. The lady said if I did not pay the money, she would go public with the photos. I think this is what she had promised.”
Then, this month, Sunkanmi Odubunmi of the Department of Economics at the Lagos State University was also caught in sexual harassment scandal. He was said to have invited a yet-to-be-identified female student to his office to rewrite the paper she failed. The victim was said to have involved an NGO to help track the lecturer before proceeding to his office.
A surveillance gadget was reportedly placed on the student while the NGO stationed the laptops connected to the spy cameras on her to monitor what would happen between the lecturer and the student.
Unfortunately for Mr. Odubunmi, he reportedly fell for the trap as he was reported to have removed his shirt and started cuddling the student from behind after giving her papers to rewrite the exam he invited her for.
Reports have it that while trying to resist his sexual advance, the lecturer found out that the lady was with a spy eyeglass which he allegedly seized and destroyed immediately. He was thereafter arrested by the university security officials and the NGO representatives.
Efforts to get the reaction of Mr. Odunbunmi were unsuccessful as his mobile number was switched off. He could not also respond to text messages sent to him on the allegations.
Immediately the news about the first scandal broke out, OAU got ensnared in public attention, with condemnations and demands that the school should act to safeguard its institutional integrity.
“Every Nigerian adult, who is not a liar, who schooled in Nigeria, knows a Nigerian girl that was hassled for sex over marks/not failing a course in Nigerian public universities,” commented Japhet Omojuwa, one of the social media users demanding authorities act to deter others.
A Twitter user then suggested an independent ombudsman deal with issues of sexual abuses in Nigerian schools.
“If reliance is placed on universities to get rid of sexual harassment, nothing will ever happen. There needs to be an ombudsman for the tertiary education sector with people from private sector sitting on sexual complaints committees,” the user tweeted via @Mofe_To.
Commenting, Remi Sonaiya, OAU retired professor and former presidential aspirant, said: “Terrible! Unfortunately, many universities don’t have strong deterrence or punishment for abusers. Students should be encouraged to speak out when such things happen. There must be at least someone in the institution who can be trusted and confided in. Justice must be done.
“The good thing about such cases becoming public is that it will force the institutions to address them more seriously – if only to protect their name. Sadly, our universities have not dealt seriously with the issue of sexual harassment.”
Actions By Authorities
Following the scandal and the reactions, OAU acted decisively to raise public trust. Many Nigerians monitored on social media believe predatory lecturers, even when exposed, are left unpunished, thereby increasing the rate at which lecturers sexually abuse female students.
However, OAU set up a committee and mandated it to submit its report within a week. It also issued a query to Mr. Akindele.
On June 20, the university announced the dismissal of Mr. Akindele after he was found guilty of misconduct. He had earlier been placed on an indefinite suspension immediately the panel was set up.
“The Council, at its meeting of today, Wednesday, 20th of June, 2018, having considered the recommendation of Senate, as well as the report of the Joint Committee of Council and Senate, decided that Professor Richard I. Akindele should be dismissed from the services of the University for gross misconduct,” the Vice Chancellor, Eyitope Ogunbodede, said.
Like OAU, the other two schools, UNILAG and LASU, have also set up panels to look into allegations against their lecturers.
On July 12, LASU issued a query to the accused lecturer and the case is already before a Joint Action Disciplinary Committee.
Adekoya Martins, the university’s spokesperson said the management of the institution had zero tolerance to such act. The LASU Registrar, Olayinka Amuni, had said the sanction for such act once established would be dismissal.
Also, UNILAG called for submission of memoranda to its probe panel. Its management appealed to Linda Ikeji to assist in convincing Nwanna Joy, the lady in question, to defend her sexual harassment claim.
The institution’s vice-chancellor also said UNILAG may involve the police to invite her.