…As Buhari calls for urgent action to address sexual harassment against students***
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has called for thorough investigation and appropriate sanction for lecturers indicted in the alleged “Sex for Grades” scandal in order to sanitise the university system.
ASUU University of Lagos (UNILAG) Branch Chairman, Dr Dele Ashiru, told the newsmen on Tuesday in Lagos that the union was against all forms of unethical practices, including sexual harassment.
Ashiru was reacting to a viral British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) investigative video which showed some lecturers of Universities of Lagos and Ghana sexually harassing female students.
“As a union, we are against all unethical practices among colleagues, including sexual harassment and even abuse.
“The development is very disturbing and unfortunate. We have appealed to colleagues to understand that as lecturers, we stand in ‘loco parentis’ (in the place of a parent) to these students and must not be perceived in any way of not being protective.
“We condemn this act of shame in its entirety and want the matter to be thoroughly investigated and appropriate sanction carried out on all those found culpable,” the ASUU Chairman told NAN.
On his part, Chimdi Maduagwu, Professor of English, also in UNILAG, said there was need for a social re-orientation of the lecturers and others.
According to him, it is about social scrutiny, urging for enforcement of self discipline, especially among the academic staff.
“There must be a way to look into and touch these things and water them down.
“Some of us tend to be weilding so much powers in the positions we find ourselves that we loose control even when there is absolutely need to draw the lines.
“An average lecturer could be so powerful that he sees himself as having all the powers to fail or award grades at his whims and caprices.
“I believe that quality assurance can take adequate charge of some of these ugly trends,” he said.
Meanwhile the university of Lagos had since issued a statement, suspending one of the lecturers indicted in the saga.
The UNILAG Spokesperson, Mrs Taiwo Oloyede, said in the statement: The University of Lagos management has suspended Dr Boniface Igbeneghu of the Department of European Languages and Integrated Studies, Faculty of Arts.
“He was caught in a sting operation by the BBC titled: ‘Sex for Grades’. The trending video chronicled cases of sexual harassment of female students by some lecturers in some West African universities, including of Lagos.
“Management at its emergency meeting of Oct. 7, suspended Dr Igbeneghu from work immediately and barred him from the university academic areas while the suspension subsists unless invited by panel constituted by the institution to investigate the matter.
“In addition the management has ordered the shutdown of the Staff Club ‘Cold Room’ mentioned in the documentary for further investigations. 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 and events,” the statement read.
It stated that the university was embarrassed by the development and therefore dissociates itself totally from the acts and any other inappropriate behaviour of staff with female students and vice versa.
“As a reputable institution and one of the foremost universities in Nigeria and sub-Sahara Africa, we are highly embarrassed by these allegations and we will do all that is necessary to ensure that this menace is checked and flushed from our institution.
“We have zero tolerance for such unwholesome behaviour and we will continue to work hard to protect the interests of all our students,” it stated.
In the meantime, First Lady, Aisha Buhari, has called for urgent action to address sexual harassment against students.
Buhari made the call during the exclusive screening of the BBC Africa Eye ‘Sex for Grades’ documentary on Monday night in Lagos.
The First Lady lamented that the issue of sexual harassment against women was not unique to universities, but has become prevalent in the society, including religious settings.
Buhari represented by Mrs Aisha Rimi, a lawyer, condemned sexual harassment against students, saying it was unacceptable as the nation’s educational system had suffered many setbacks that had hindered its development.
“This simply has to change. It is no longer enough to sweep allegations under the carpet or force victims to withdraw their allegations, victimise or stigmatise them,” she said.
She stressed that there are laws to protect victims of sexual harassment and abuse, but such laws cannot operate except victims speak out to get justice.
Buhari advised women that their dignity and self respect should outweigh whatever challenge they face, stating her support to ensure a sexual abuse free society for women.
She commended the BBC team for their hard work, bravery and tenacity to expose the ills facing students in the country’s tertiary institutions.
Also, Mrs Bisi Fayemi, Wife of Ekiti Governor, said that it was time to speak up, speak out and stand by victims of sexual abuse, saying the culture of silence must end.
According to her, universities should have clear sexual and violence policies that will protect students and the sanctity of the educational system.
Fayemi called for a sexual offence register that would contain list of indicted lecturers, thus preventing them from moving to another university if sacked from one, to commit similar atrocity in another institution.
She stressed the need to be accountable for the well being and care of the young ones, ensure justice for survivor of sexual abuse and the political will to prosecute and punish offenders.
Fayemi urged the society to desist from shaming survivors of sexual abuse, rather name, shame and punish offenders to serve as deterrents to others.
Mrs Toun Sonaiya, Chief Executive Officer, WFM Radio, said that everyone should collectively amplify their voices against issues of sexual harassment and abuse against girls and women.
She advocated for a safe environment that would enable women share their experiences without fear, and ensure diligent investigation and prosecution of offenders of such allegations.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that “Sex for Grades” is a 53 minutes documentary that exposes alleged sexual harassment against students by lecturers in the University of Lagos (UNILAG), and University of Ghana, Legon.
The documentary features the personal story of Kiki Mordi, an investigative journalist with WFM Radio, who worked with the BBC Africa Eye team to expose the ills in the Universities, based on her personal experience of sexual harassment by lecturers.
During the year long investigation, journalists posing as students made secret recordings of male academics who harass and abuse young women.
The investigation was conducted by BBC Africa Eye to expose the problem of sex for grades faced by students in many higher institutions.