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See 35 Professors Dismissed by Universities, Polytechnics Over Sexual Harassment

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An analysis of media reports by Sunday Punch has uncovered the dismissal of no fewer than 35 lecturers from the nation’s tertiary institutions over the past five years due to their involvement in sexual misconduct.

This disturbing trend of sexual harassment has persistently plagued Nigerian higher educational institutions.

A 2018 survey conducted by the World Bank Group’s Women revealed that a staggering 70 percent of female graduates from these institutions experienced sexual harassment during their academic journey, with classmates and lecturers being the primary perpetrators.

In response to this crisis, the Nigerian Senate took action in 2021 by passing a bill that proposed severe penalties, including 21 years of imprisonment, for lecturers found guilty of sexual misconduct.

However, despite the passing of this legislation, Sunday PUNCH’s investigations reveal that most of the indicted lecturers were merely dismissed from their positions.

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A comprehensive review of the reports compiled by our correspondent reveals that Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife had the unfortunate distinction of having the highest number of lecturers indicted for sexual misconduct. Instances of such misconduct spanned various institutions and years:

See 35 Professors Dismissed by Universities Polytechnics Over Sexual Harassment1

In April 2018, OAU announced the indefinite suspension of Professor Richard Oladele, a Professor of Accounting, due to allegations of sexual harassment.

In 2021, the university dismissed three lecturers from different departments—English Language, International Relations, and Accounting—over similar charges.

In February 2020, OAU suspended a lecturer at the Centre for Distance Learning, Monday Omo-Etan, for sexually molesting a 19-year-old female student.

Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, was not exempt from these allegations:

In 2019, the institution suspended an associate professor, Monday Igbafen, amidst accusations of sexual harassment involving female students. Igbafen, who served as the AAU branch chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, claimed he was being framed by the vice-chancellor.

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Imo State University took action in September 2020, suspending two lecturers who were accused of sexual misconduct with female students.

In February 2021, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, suspended a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Tourism, Dr. Chigozie Odum, over allegations related to sexual misconduct.

The Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, followed suit in June 2021 by suspending a lecturer in the Department of Media and Theatre Arts for sexual misconduct.

In the same month, the University of Lagos announced the dismissal of two lecturers for similar offenses.

In August of that year, the University of Port Harcourt dismissed a lecturer from the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature for sexual misconduct.

In October 2021, the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi, announced the dismissal of two lecturers from different departments for sexual misconduct.

Additional incidents include a lecturer at Ignatius Ajuru University of Education who was dismissed for impregnating a female student, a lecturer at Kwara State University, Malete, who was dismissed for harassing a student in the Department of Pure and Applied Sciences, and a lecturer at Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Rivers State, who was dismissed for harassing a female student.

The issue persisted in 2022, with OAU launching a probe into allegations of sexual harassment against a professor in the Department of Linguistics and African Studies. In June 2022, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Abuja, Prof. Abdul-Raheed Na’allah, announced the dismissal of two professors for sexual misconduct.

In early 2023, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission arraigned Dr. Balogun Olaniran of Tai Solarin University of Education for allegedly demanding sexual gratification from a female student in exchange for altering her results in 2021.

The pattern continued as a lecturer at Kogi State Polytechnic, Abutu Thompson, was dismissed in March 2023 due to sexual harassment and victimization of a female student in the Department of Computer Science. In May, Ambrose Alli University in Edo State reportedly dismissed an unnamed lecturer over allegations of sexual harassment based on the findings of the institution’s Staff Disciplinary Committee.

Reacting, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) under the leadership of Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, the National President of ASUU, encouraged students to promptly report instances of sexual harassment to both school authorities and the student union.

He also highlighted the existence of an Ethics and Grievances Committee within ASUU that addresses such cases and mentioned the availability of anonymous reporting mechanisms on campuses.

The ASUU president said, “In the cases that happened in OAU and UNILAG, the lecturers were jailed, and in the case of UNICAL, the university has taken action and suspended him.

“If students have any issues, they should be reported to the Student Union as they did in Calabar, and if they have become notorious, what was done in UNICAL should be done and the university should take it up from them.

“The system follows the process, but the student has to report if there is a case. We are in a country where a criminal case must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but as a union, on all our campuses, we have an Ethics and Grievances Committee that anyone can go to to report any case.

“In many universities, we have boxes where students can write about the problem without having to put their names and drop them in the box. These boxes help to serve as checks, but many students are not willing to do so.”

Osodeke further noted that some universities had established dress codes for students while on campus as measures to reduce such cases.

“But they also arouse lecturers so it also works in two ways. A student coming to school scantily dressed. There has to be some dress code and many universities have now established dress codes to ensure students, both male and female dress decently and to also remove this temptation from the system.

“In the good old days, it could be controlled because all students lived on campus but today, 90 per cent of students live off-campus so one does not know what is happening,” the ASUU president stated.

In a conversation with one of our correspondents, Ayodamola Oluwatoyin, the Director of Programmes at Reform Education Nigeria, passionately urged President Bola Tinubu to take action and sign the sexual harassment bill into law. Oluwatoyin emphasized the transformative impact that such a move could have, emphasizing the pressing need to ensure the safety of students within educational institutions. He noted the unfortunate reality that many victims of harassment remain silent due to the fear of reprisal and other concerns.

Oluwatoyin stated, “The signing of this bill by the President would mark a pivotal moment. It is imperative that we create an environment in our schools where students feel secure. What’s even more disheartening is that some of these students, even when subjected to harassment, hesitate to come forward because of the risk of victimization and other barriers.”

He continued, “However, the presence of a robust legal framework and the knowledge that their colleagues are being held accountable for their misconduct would deter erring educators. Therefore, we earnestly call upon the President to endorse and enact this crucial legislation.”

Nafisa Atiku-Adejuwon, the Programme Manager for Gender Justice at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, urged educational institutions to take proactive measures to prevent survivors from being silenced and to establish safe and anonymous channels for reporting such incidents. She stressed the importance of fostering trust between university administrations and the student community.

“The response system must prioritize the well-being of survivors in a comprehensive manner, addressing both their mental and physical health needs with utmost seriousness,” Atiku-Adejuwon remarked. “This system should not be designed to merely improve the university’s image; it should be dedicated to the care and support of survivors.”

Similarly, Omolola Pedro, a passionate advocate for gender and child rights, expressed her concerns, pointing out that the absence of severe consequences for offenders often contributes to the perpetuation of such offenses. She highlighted that, in many instances, institutions merely resort to suspending erring lecturers as the highest form of punishment, which ultimately falls short of effective deterrence.

Pedro proposed the establishment of anti-sexual harassment committees comprising representatives from both the school authorities and the Students Union Government. She emphasized that these committees should operate independently and without interference to bring about meaningful change. Pedro noted instances where educators involved in misconduct were shielded from facing consequences due to their popularity or close ties with university leadership.

In conclusion, these voices collectively call for swift action and systemic changes to combat sexual harassment within educational institutions, emphasizing the need for legal measures, survivor-centered support systems, and transparent accountability mechanisms to protect the rights and well-being of students.

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