It was in 2018 that Adaora (surname withheld) was admitted to study English and Literary Studies at the Akwa Ibom State University, Ikot Akpandem, Akwa Ibom State. She had earlier sat the United Tertiary Matriculation Examinations three times to study at the University of Uyo, Uyo, without success, before she decided to go to AKSU.
Just three months after school resumption, a part-time lecturer started harassing her.
The first day he saw her, she said he spanked her buttocks, as she walked passed him in a busy hallway. He apologised, saying it was a mistake.
Again in class, she said he came close and sat on the same desk with her while lecturing, giving her seductive gestures.
“He was not a small boy. This man should be in his 50s. He made life a living hell for me at AKSU,” she added.
According to Adaora, when he eventually made his first attempt to speak to her, he asked to see her in his office.
Although it was a shared office, she noted that the other lecturer was out on a Sabbatical leave at another university.
“Immediately I walked in, he stood up, locked the door, and began to push his body against mine. I was scared. I was around 20 years old then. I was confused. I saw this man as a father.
“I ran towards the door to open it because the key was still at the lock but he laughed and told me to come back. He said he was only playing with me. That was the beginning of my problems,” she added.
She said she spoke to a senior colleague, who told her the man was fond of doing such to ladies, warning her to beware.
When the first semester results were released that year, she failed his course.
She was sure she wrote something convincing that would earn her a pass grade, so she wrote to the school’s exams board for a re-mark. She even claimed to have paid some money to another lecturer to ‘facilitate’ it.
But, an approval came in the second week of the second semester. Her scripts were re-marked and she was awarded a ‘D’ grade. Still not convinced, she said she spoke to a female lecturer who told her to get evidence if she wanted to make a complaint.
Her time eventually came in Year Three, when the man, now a full-time lecturer with the department, took another course and made her a group leader in one of the assignment groups.
She claimed he sent her erotic messages, threatening that she would not graduate if she did not ‘surrender’.
Adaora said she went back to the female lecturer, who told her there was still nothing she could do despite showing all the messages.
She also got information about two other ladies, one of whom was already married with two kids, whom the man allegedly harassed the previous year and they filed a petition to the school.
“Till today, that petition did not see the light of the day. I wrote about four other follow-ups. The other ladies even petitioned the gender unit of the university, but nothing was done.
“I am married now with a daughter, and I am even scared to let my daughter stay alone with a neighbour because I don’t know what these men are capable of. If a man that old can look at a 20-year-old virgin girl then and say he wanted to have me, I wonder who is safe from their fangs,” she said.
When our correspondent called the number said to be attached to the Directorate of Information, Public Relations and Protocol of AKSU, the line rang out. Text messages sent to the phone line were also not responded to as of press time.
With each passing day, female students are becoming more endangered in institutions of higher learning.
On Wednesday, The PUNCH reported how a female undergraduate student (name withheld) accused a lecturer at the University of Lagos, Akoka, simply identified as Dr Kadiri, of rape.
The student said the incident occurred when she visited the lecturer in the office to sort out issues about her results.
A non-governmental organisation, Inclusive Social Welfare and Empowerment Foundation, where the victim reported the case, said rather than the lecturer attending to the undergraduate’s result issues, he allegedly raped her on August 16, 2023.
Our correspondent gathered that InclusiveSWEF reported the case to the Gender Unit of the state police command and through the OC Gender, the state CP, Idowu Owohunwa, issued a warrant of arrest for the lecturer through the High Court and involved the Vice Chancellor of the university.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin, confirmed the incident, saying, “He is to appear in court in the coming days.”
Reacting, the spokesperson for UNILAG, Adejoke Alaga-Ibraheem, told PUNCH Metro that the university was aware of an investigation involving an employee of the university.
She said, “The UNILAG management, on August 28, received a letter from the Nigeria Police Force, inviting an employee of the university for questioning. The employee was immediately informed of the development and advised to comply.
“On August 29, the employee complied. While we are not yet privy to the full details of the incident that led to the arrest of the employee; we are fully aware that the investigation is ongoing and we are cooperating with security agencies to ensure that the matter is resolved in the interest of justice.”
Weeks before this, students of the University of Calabar, Cross Rivers State, lamented how a professor and former dean of the Faculty of Law allegedly sexually harassed them.
Protesting the harassment, the students demonstrated with placards and urged the university’s management to intervene.
The dean has been suspended by the varsity’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Florence Obi, and replaced with a female lecturer.
All principal officers of the faculty, who were men before, were replaced with females.
The authorities at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, also officially removed lecturers indicted of sexual harassment from their various official positions at the institution.
This was disclosed in a press statement issued by Dr Emmanuel Ojukwu, the Special Adviser on Public Relations and Special Duties to the Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Charles Esimone.
Although in the statement, Ojukwu did not mention the names of the indicted officials, he said there was an ongoing investigation concerning alleged sexual harassment by some lecturers, while insisting that there was no protest at the institution.
“Unfortunately, the students who alleged sexual harassment were not forthcoming to testify before the investigation panel.
“However, the vice chancellor additionally summoned the affected departments to a meeting where he expressed the university’s displeasure and warned lecturers and staff to desist from all actions that would bring the name of the university to disrepute.
“He warned that the university management would severely punish erring staff, especially those who are molesting or sexually harassing our students,” part of the statement read.
In 2018, the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, was said to have dismissed a professor, Richard Akindele, for alleged sexual offenses.
His former student, Monica (surname withheld), accused him of demanding five sex sessions to pass her.
She recorded their conversations, the audio of which shocked the nation. An Osogbo High Court later sentenced Akindele to a two-year jail term.
In 2018, an Associate Professor of Economics at the Lagos State University, Ojo, was entrapped with the help of an NGO, after he allegedly demanded sexual favours from a female student.
Fellow students also caught an accounting lecturer at the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, literally pants down as he attempted to harass a female student.
Studies conducted under the auspices of the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation revealed in a 2019 report that sexual harassment of female students results in outcomes ranging from shame, loss of self-esteem, unwanted pregnancies, poor academic performance and, in some extreme cases, suicide.
The report said sexual harassment experienced at university could lead to psychological, emotional and physical harm, as well as negatively impacting victims’ studies.
“In one study, of those students who had experienced sexual violence, 27 per cent contemplated suicide or self-harm, 15 per cent developed an eating disorder and 15 per cent abused alcohol or drugs. Fifty per cent experienced a negative impact on their academic performance and 11 per cent indicated that the progress of their studies was delayed,” the report noted.
Dons, CSO proffer solutions
A professor of law and former Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Prof. Joy Ezeilo (SAN), said all tertiary institutions must have a sexual abuse and harassment policy that handles sexual harassment and proffers sanctions within the university setting.
She also noted that there must not be any sexual relationship between lecturers and students.
“If there are any relationships, there must be a policy of full disclosure. Once there is a full disclosure, that lecturer would have nothing to do with the grading or marking of the scripts of the student in question.
“But because of the kind of fiduciary relationship and the position a lecturer assumes, which is often that which is high and of trust, that position can easily be used to hamper the vulnerability of students. So, the problem is the lack of appropriate sanctions.
“There must be a policy with legal backing treating sexual harassment in schools. Assault is prohibited under the criminal law, but society must have a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment,” she said.
Sighting what happened with the Spanish football coach, Jorge Vilda, who was sacked by the Royal Spanish Football Federation, Ezeilo, who was a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons in Africa and former Commissioner for Gender and Social Development, Enugu State, said, “The Western system did not need the footballer in question to petition. All she said was that the kiss was not consensual and everyone saw that kissing her on the lips, even though in the mood of celebration, was inappropriate.
“She said she felt vulnerable and everybody rallied around her. FIFA did not need to sanction the chairman of the Spanish Football Association no matter how powerful the position is in the scheme of things.
“But if that same situation had happened in Nigeria, many people would say it was just an ‘ordinary’ kiss.”
According to her, society has reinforced impunity and stereotypes that women are sex objects or bonanza for people who come into contact with them, especially within the academic institution.
Also, a Professor of English and Vice-Chancellor, Ahman Pategi University, Patigi, Kwara State, Mahfouz Adedimeji, said sexual harassment in varsities had become a big social issue in Nigeria.
In an interview with Saturday PUNCH on Thursday, he said, “It is not only in universities. We find it (sexual harrasment) even in secondary schools, religious places, and social media.
“It is a reflection of what the society has become. Society is so filled with sexually provocative messages. I believe that the social media and the entertainment industry are contributing to it. Nothing is seen as successful today until the female body is objectified.
“We have realised that people appear to be under a lot of social pressure. We are not ready for that conversation. Even when universities take the steps to give a dress code, we are still going to find some people say that their rights are being infringed upon.
“That is why I said the issue of sexual violence in Nigeria has reached an alarming stage, and until everyone in Nigeria considers it a social problem that we all have to sit down to address, we are going to be waiting to witness another calamity.
“It was Calabar, Cross River some time ago. It is Lagos today. It may be another university tomorrow. We do not regulate what goes out in terms of music, videos, skits, and the like. However, this does not justify the recurrence of the issue.
“I would suggest that the family, which is the smallest unit of society, train girls who would be modest and decent in their outlook on life. Also, girls must not be timid to speak up in cases of sexual harassment.”
He noted that the laws had to be stiffer for perpetrators of sexual crimes, as, according to him, most of them feel they could go scot-free after committing the crimes.
Also commenting, a professor of Sociology at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Ifeanacho Ikechukwu, said handling sexual harassment was an intricate issue.
He said, “One cannot objectively discuss the matter without looking at both sides of the argument. We know that what we now see as modernisation has turned into something else.
“It is unfortunate that some of these cases of harassment are found among lecturers who are professors and highly-placed academics who should know better. By the time one makes a calculation, as a reasonable person, factoring in the shame accusations of sexual harassment bring to one’s family, society, university and career, one would decide to stay off and far away from sexual abuse.
“Sexual harassment negates humanness. It is blackmail. It shows that the perpetrators lack something as a person. It may be that these lecturers in question are suffering from some kind of personality disorder or inferiority complex. As a professor or doctor, one should begin to look back and advise younger colleagues on how to steer clear of sexual harassment.
“There are a lot of health implications that may come out of these sexual abuse cases. How can a lecturer who has put in close to 27 years in the service of a university and has risen to the rank of a professor lose themselves because of sex?
“In cases when these things happen, I am sure the accused would begin to regret.”
He added that lecturers were like parents to their students, noting that they should serve as role models and not predators.
Also commenting, the Chief Executive Officer, Bible Society of Nigeria, Pastor Samuel Sanusi, noted that any society that neglects God and morality would always have issues like sexual harassment.
“The fact that someone is a lecturer does not automatically make that person God-fearing or moral. Anyone who does not fear God can do anything. The only solution to any challenge is doing the will of God.
“God abhors sexual harassment. It should not be found in schools. Some of these lecturers engaged in these acts claim to believe in God but they do not act like they know God at all.
“God urges us to love our neigbours as ourselves. These lecturers would not want their daughters to be molested by their teachers. Why do it to other people’s children?
“These lecturers would need a total surrendering to God and seek spiritual counsel,” he said.
An Islamic scholar, Adulhakeem Alaran, said the Holy Quran frowns at all forms of sexual harassment.
“When I hear cases of lecturers, especially of Muslim faith, harassing their students, it breaks my heart because it shows that they were yet to understand the teaching of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
“The laws punishing sexual offenders must be stiffer and victims must not be shamed,” he added.