Iyabo Lawal wades into the viral sex-for-grades scandal that has rocked African universities recently.
S*x sells but it has become a dangerous weapon being used mostly by male lecturers to take advantage of their female students. Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL, writes on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the nation’s ivory towers and other learning institutions.
“DO you know that you are a very beautiful girl?” he had asked.“Do you know that I am a pastor and I’m in my fifties? What will shock you is that even at my age now, if I want a girl of your age – a 17-year-old, all I need is to sweet tongue her and put some money in her hand and I’ll get her.”“Do you want me to kiss you? Switch off the light, lock the door and I will kiss you for a minute. That’s what they do in ‘cold room’.”“Let me just hug you. My baby. My baby. No, wait. Don’t ask me what I want to do. I’m not going to harm you,” he said at one point.
The above conversation and accompanying viral video caused a groundswell of outrage. The revelation by the BBC Africa Eye’s Sex-for -Grade documentary was not as chilling as previous sex scandals in Nigeria’s universities brought to the public glare in the past. It, however, shows that the worrying sexual harassment (or sex- for-marks) of female students by male lecturers is a thriving but damaging practice in tertiary institutions across the nation.
In an exclusive undercover year-long investigation, the BBC revealed proof of a sexual harassment scandal at West Africa’s top universities including UNILAG and the University of Ghana as journalists posing as students made secret recordings of male lecturers who harassed and abused young women. Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu, a senior lecturer in UNILAG’s faculty of arts, a former sub-dean, and the head pastor of a local branch of the Foursquare Gospel Church, which has over 8.8 million members in over 90,000 churches across 146 nations, was caught on camera sexually harassing an undercover reporter who posed as an admission seeker in the institution.
The church in a statement by its National Secretary Rev. Ikechukwu Ugbaja, noted, “The general public is hereby informed that as holiness and Bible believing church, we do not condone such heinous and unscriptural act among our ministers. We totally dissociate ourselves from the purported conduct of Dr. Igbenoghu and promise to take appropriate measures as soon as the ongoing investigation is concluded.”
In the video, the senior lecturer revealed how he and some of his colleagues patronised the institution staff club ‘cold room’ to have sexual activities with female students of the institution.
According to Igbeneghu, inside the ‘cold room’, lecturers meet to “touch students breasts”.Following the expose, the lecturer has been asked to step down from all “ministerial assignments” in his church as it dissociated itself from his shameful conduct.Igbeneghu’s example illustrates how lecturers, who can make or break academic careers, groom victims in academic settings; abusing their power to try to get what they want.
The major protagonist of the documentary, Kiki Mordi, said: “No one should be robbed of their future. When the dream slipped away I didn’t have any options. I did this story for my 19-year-old self who did not have a voice in the face of sexual harassment.”
Other lecturers accused of sexual harassment in the film include Dr. Paul Kwame Butakor, a lecturer in the College of Education, University of Ghana; Prof. Ransford Gyampo, a political scientist and outspoken commentator; and Dr. Samuel Oladipo, an Economics lecturer at UNILAG.While the Ghanaian university authorities seemed to have stood by their lecturers, UNILAG has already suspended Igbeneghu.
“The university management has 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 (meetings, seminars, events, etc.).
The institution assured members of the public: “Any other lecturer mentioned in the full version of the operation, which is to be aired later today, will also be suspended to ensure a proper investigation is carried out,” it said in a statement.However, UNILAG is not new to sex scandals. Last year, the institution threatened to involve the Nigerian police to compel Joy Nwanna, who accused one of her lecturers of sexually harassing her, to appear before an investigation committee to substantiate her allegations.
Nwanna had accused a professor of Linguistics, Segun Awonusi, of sexual harassment. She was a former student of the English Department who was enrolled to 200 level through direct entry during the 2012/2013 academic session and graduated in 2016. Sexual harassment is a malaise in Nigerian schools but the government and other stakeholders seem not to be bothered. In one survey of female graduates in Nigeria’s higher institutions, at least 69.8 per cent said they had been sexually harassed by their lecturers and male classmates.
It added that about two-thirds experienced the non-physical sexual harassment (in the form of sexual comments and requests to do something sexual in exchange for academic favours); 48.2 per cent experienced physical sexual abuse. But statistics only scratches the surface of the ugly practice.In a four-year (between 2008 and 2012) analysis of sexual assault cases at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), it was revealed that out of a total of 287 reported cases of sexual assault, 83 percent of the victims were below the age of 19.
And in its 2012-2013 study on sexual abuse, Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (ESUTH), found out that 70 perc ent of sexual assault victims were under the age of 18.Similarly, in Rivers State, at least 1,200 girls were raped in 2012, according to the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development.
The sexual scandal involving one Monica Osagie and Prof. Richard Akindele (then-lecturer at the Management and Accounting Department of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State should deepen the context of the latest sex-for-mark video.OAU did not stand behind him. He was suspended. Later, he was arraigned in court and found guilty. The lecturer was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment for asking Monica for a sexual favour.He was handed another 24 months for soliciting from her sex-for-marks.
That is not all: he was sentenced to 12 months in prison for deleting parts of the WhatsApp conversation between him and Osagie to conceal evidence against him.The judge, Maureen Onyetenu, had said while delivering the judgment,“The menace is getting to secondary and primary schools. I am a pastor and a counsellor. I know mental torture many of our female students have been subjected to by the likes of the respondent.“The adverse effect of such action is huge. Many of his likes have been awarding marks to those students that are ready to warm their beds, thereby releasing half-baked graduates into society.”
In 2016, in another university in the same state, a raunchier episode of sexual harassment unfolded. A 34-minute video was posted online suggesting a sexual encounter reportedly between one Dr. Wale Ojoniyi (at the Department of Languages and Linguistics, Osun State University, Ikire Campus) and Mercy Ikwue, a 400-level English student of the school.
The student was allegedly caught cheating during an exam and was expelled for an academic session. When she returned to the institution having observed the expulsion, Ojoniyi, allegedly began to make a pass at her. In the video, though the couple was not shown having sex, the man in the video, identified as Ojoniyi, was naked and appeared to be caressing Ikwue occasionally.
In the video, the student used the bed sheet to cover up her body while the lecturer walked to the bed with his manhood swinging like a pendulum. In response to the video and allegation of sexual harassment, Ojoniyi simply said, “I also heard of the video. It is being investigated. People can do anything. But I cannot be brought down.”
There was a proposed bill that would slam a five-year jail term on lecturers guilty of sexually harassing female students being considered. The bill sought to prohibit any form of sexual relationships between lecturers and students. If passed into law, the bill would ensure that vice chancellors of universities, rectors of polytechnics and other chief executives of institutions of higher learning will go to jail for two years if they fail to act within a week on complaints of sexual harassment made by students.
The proposed bill read in part, “An educator shall be guilty of committing an offence of sexual harassment against a student if he or she has sexual intercourse with a student. He or she shall be guilty if he has sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student as a condition to study in an institution. He or she shall be guilty if he has sexual intercourse with a student or demand for sex from a student or a prospective student as a condition to the giving of a passing grade.”The bill did not spare students either. Any student who falsely accuses lecturers of sexual harassment will likely be expelled from school.
However, during a public hearing on the bill in June 2016, ASUU saw the bill in a different light.“As a global norm, universities and other tertiary institutions are established by law as autonomous bodies and have their own laws regulating their affairs. This includes misconduct generally among both staff and students, with clearly articulated appropriate redress mechanisms. Any law or bill, which seeks to supplant these laws, violates the university autonomy. In this particular instance, the bill violates the Federal Government of Nigeria and ASUU agreement of 2009 and as such should be rejected,” ASUU Chairman, Biodun Ogunyemi, had said.
He added, “The bill is discriminatory, selective, spiteful, and impulsive and lacks logic and any intellectual base by attacking the character and persons of those in tertiary institutions rather than addressing the issue holistically. Furthermore, the bill is dangerous and inimical to the institutions as it contains several loose and ambiguous words and terms which could also be used to harass, intimidate, victimise and persecute, especially lecturers, through false accusations.”
But the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okogie, at that time felt otherwise.He had noted, “University miscellaneous provision act gives them the power to formulate policies and by-laws to guide them and most institutions have structures to handle these incidents. However, there is nothing wrong if there is legislation to add to what is on the ground. We are only saying that universities are doing something about sexual harassment, which may not be enough.”
A former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has called for a review of the bill.“As a father, I’m appalled by the actions of lecturers captured in the exposé. We cannot allow this sort of deplorable behaviour to fester. We need to believe victims and make institutions safer for our students,” he said.The lecturer in the eye of the storm has not resigned his appointment It is not known whether the documentary will help other sex-for-mark victims to speak up.One thing, they said, is that a culture of silence particularly on the part of victims will help to perpetuate sexual harassment in schools and thus urged school management to set up mechanisms that will make victims or potential victims speak up and be supported.
As a father, I’m appalled by the actions of lecturers captured in the exposé. We cannot allow this sort of deplorable behaviour to fester. We need to believe victims and make institutions safer for our students.