Some Nigerian university lecturers, especially those in public universities have for some time now, gained an unsavory reputation as sex predators.
From news reports and reports of University Disciplinary Committees, there are many sexual perverts and masochistic predators preying on female students in the hallowed precincts of our universities.
These monsters take sexual advantage of young naive female students in exchange for marks! Even when some of these girls excel, these bad men withhold their marks. Many of these sexual perverts unfortunately see the female students as part of the ‘incentives’ on their job. It is that bad!
There have been numerous reports, even with pictorial evidence, yet, even those randy lecturers caught pants down in the past have not been punished according to law! They had been able to get away with serial sexual harassment because it does seem that both the university authorities and the law enforcement agents tolerate this atrocious predatory behaviour.
If not, how many of them have been successfully prosecuted and convicted!
In 2021, three lecturers of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, were dismissed over alleged sexual harassment of students. Note, they were only dismissed, they were neither prosecuted nor convicted! In January 2021, it was the turn of Kaduna State University where it dismissed a lecturer for sexually assaulting a student. In June and August of the same year, University of Lagos and the University of Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, each sacked a lecturer over allegations of sexual harassment. The Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi in October 2021 sacked two lecturers over sexual harassment allegations. Also, an academic at Ignatius Ajuru University of Education was sacked for allegedly impregnating a female student. In June 2022, the Vice Chancellor, University of Abuja, Prof Abdul-Rasheed Na’allah, said two lecturers were dismissed over sexual misconduct. Interestingly, a 2018 World Bank survey discovered that 70 per cent of female graduates were sexually harassed in class by their classmates and lecturers.
There had been serious efforts in the past by the National Assembly to intervene and curb the trend. They made moves in 2016 but the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, objected to the Sexual Harassment Bill that had been tabled at the National Assembly. ASUU claimed that the bill will undermine the autonomy of universities and that it was also a violation of their rights as lecturers! One would have expected that lecturers at the citadel of knowledge would support wholeheartedly a bill that sought to criminalize sexual harassment in tertiary institutions!
Former Deputy Senator President Ovie Omo-Agege and 106 other senators sponsored that bill, which sought to prohibit sexual harassment in tertiary institutions in Nigeria. The Senate, in July 2020, passed the bill titled ‘A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment of students in tertiary institutions and for matters concerned therewith 2019.’ The bill, with 25 clauses, sought to promote and protect ethical standards in tertiary institutions. It also sought to protect students against sexual harassment by educators in tertiary institutions. It proposed up to a 14-year jail term for offenders. The bill was transmitted to the House of Representatives for concurrence. The House, in February 2022, passed the bill after the Third Reading. The then Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, later constituted a seven-man committee, headed by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central) to harmonise the two versions of the bill passed by both Houses before it was sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent. However, and sadly, the bill was not assented to by the former President Muhammadu Buhari until he left office! However, the issues the bill sought to address have refused to go away.
A 2021 study titled: “Sexual harassment on campus: A study in a Nigerian university,” indicated that out of the 1,408 students at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago Iwoye, who participated in the study, 849 respondents (60.1 per cent) agreed that there was sexual harassment on campus. Of the 849 students, 27.4 per cent described the behaviour as very rampant! Other patterns noted in the report include touching of intimate body parts in a disrespectful way, sending embarrassing photos, deceiving victims and taking them to unsafe places for sex. Similarly, between January 2021 and June 2022, there were several cases of sexual harassment involving lecturers in universities and polytechnics in the country.
Indeed, by all accounts, the rate of harassment is even increasing! The failure of Buhari to sign that bill into law says it all about the way Nigeria’s political leadership treats issues of sexual harassment. It was obvious
that there was not much pressure on Buhari to assent to the bill the way he was pressured to sign the 2022 Electoral Act.
The failure to sign the sexual harassment bill into law perhaps is one of the greatest disservices the immediate past administration did to the female gender in the universities. This harassment matter was once again brought to the front burner when students of the Faculty of Law, University of Calabar alleged that the Dean of their Faculty is the sexual predator troubling female law students. The law students mounted a protest rally in front of their faculty against the Dean. His alleged behaviour typifies all that is wrong with morality, discipline and law enforcement in our campuses.
It is indeed sad when authority figures abuse their authority and begin to prey on the children under their tutelage!
A press statement by Project Alert on Violence Against Women signed by the Executive Director, Josephine
Effah-Chukwuma indicated that the Dean of the Unical Faculty of Law had been suspended before for sexually harassing and terrorizing female students, so, he ought to have been dismissed since 2015 when he was first suspended for sexual misconduct. According to the statement, in 2015, the UNICAL graduating Law Class of 2004, all of whom are now Solicitors and Advocates of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, many of whom are practicing law within and outside the country, had written a petition to the then Cross River State Commissioner of Police. This was sequel to a reported case of sexual abuse by a 400-level female student at the time. In the petition they stated that Prof. Cyril Ndifon’s sexual harassment of female students, and his unscrupulous behaviour were a burden to both male and female students in the faculty.
The University of Calabar Authorities suspended him then, the Industrial Court of Nigeria upheld the suspension. Somehow, he found his way back to the university. This is in spite of the fact that the industrial court ruled against him when he approached the court for redress!
“And now, in 2023, here we are again. The students of the Faculty of Law, University of Calabar are crying out.”
How can we make our campuses safe for the female students and indeed how can the female Nigerian be protected from sexual predators? We need to revisit the Sexual Harassment Bill earlier passed by the National
Assembly and get President Tinubu to assent to it! It is heartbreaking to read the accounts of parents and these young university girls who have been traumatized by persons in whose presence they ought to feel safe! Unfortunately, there appears to be a sort of espirit de corp amongst the lecturers when it comes to these matters. They tend to protect and cover each other’s backs. This is the very reason why very little progress is made in this matter.
Furthermore, to avoid stigmatization and academic victimisation, many of these girls are unwilling and afraid to press charges. Therefore, the onus is on the law and the management of the universities to protect the young ladies that parents put in their care.
There should be zero tolerance of sexual harassment of our young daughters in public universities! Many parents I spoke to while preparing this column are so livid that I fear that they do not take law into their own hands!
May NIGERIA REBOUND