A senior lecturer in the Department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Adebayo Mosobalaje, has been found guilty of ‘sexual misconduct’ by the school’s authorities.
The lecturer was specifically accused of breaching the provisions of the university’s Code of Conduct “in the manner he related with a student of the department, Rachel Momoh.”
A verdict passed by the university’s joint committee of council and Senate noted that “in the process of its deliberations, the Committee FOUND Dr Mosobalaje culpable and was deserving of the highest punishment of dismissal.”
But in its recommendations, many feel the committee was lenient with the lecturer as his punishment included a warning letter, and forfeiture of cumulation of half of his salaries which have been continued to be held by the university since he was suspended.
The committee also said he should not be allowed to hold any management position on the campus for the next five years.
Also, he will not be promoted for two years.
These recommendations, which formed a subject of debate at the Senate meeting of the university last week, led to a division among members in attendance.
While some endorsed the recommendations, others queried the reasons behind the committee’s alleged inconsistency.
They asked why the committee allegedly ‘bent the rule’ when it already concluded that Mr Mosobalaje’s culpability “was deserving of the highest punishment of dismissal.”
The critics cited other similar cases in the past and how the offenders were sacked.
But the university’s public relations officer, Abiodun Olarewaju, confirmed that the recommendations were endorsed by the Senate and would be passed to the university’s governing council for final approval whenever it reconvenes.
“The Senate’s decision is still subject to the ratification or modification by the governing council. So it is not the final decision. And until then, I think it will be preposterous to make any comment on this,” the university’s spokesperson said.
The embattled lecturer has also refused to speak on the matter, saying “it is a decision for the university to make.”
Meanwhile, some of the concerned individuals who are unhappy with the development have accused the university management of succumbing to pressure from unnamed quarters.
According to these sources, the accused only surrendered himself to the university’s probe after some “influential figures” intervened.
After he was indicted by the investigative panel, the embattled lecturer sued the university and the pending matter barred the joint committee of the council and the Senate from sitting over the case when it attempted to do so on February 11, 2019.
Multiple sources both within and outside the campus, who do not want to be mentioned due to what they described as the sensitivity of the matter, confirmed what they described as undue pressure being put on the university by the alleged influencers.
“Yes, he withdrew the case only after he got the assurance that he would not be dismissed. You know, while the matter was in court, he was enjoying half of his salary without working because he had been suspended. So, it is the council’s decision he must be waiting for now,” one of the sources said.
According to the details of proceedings of the meeting of the joint committee of council and Senate, which held on November 18, 2020, a copy of which PREMIUM TIMES obtained, the university’s vice-chancellor, Eyitope Ogunbodede, “received a written report of sexual harassment bordering on unsolicited, unwelcome and subtle sexual overtures recorded in an audio device against Dr Mosobalaje.”
The report, which was passed to the vice-chancellor through an internal memorandum, was dated July 5, 2018.
Based on the report and his subsequent responses, an investigative panel was set up by the vice-chancellor to probe the matter.
The lecturer, who was then a member of the university’s governing council representing the convocation, was forced to resign from the council and also suspended by the management.
The panel’s report, which reportedly indicted the embattled lecturer, was again referred to the joint committee of the university’s council and Senate.
The joint committee of the council and Senate, which was chaired by Felix Madubuike, a professor, also has as members, Kunle Sanni and Oluyemisi Obilade while the director of the university’s directorate of council affairs, identified simply as A. Ajibola, served as the committee’s secretary.
Mr Sanni, the chairman of the Muslim community in Oyo State, was an external member of the council while Mrs Obilade, a professor and former vice-chancellor of Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ogun State, represented the Senate on the council.
Findings by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that sometime in 2017, Ms Momoh, with matriculation number, EGL/2013/216, visited Mr Mosobalaje’s office for further instructions on her final year project work, but the lecturer allegedly requested a date with her.
The conversations were recorded by the student who reportedly submitted them at the university’s gender unit as evidence of the allegation of sexual harassment and misconduct.
The university’s chief law officer, Yinka Ayantola, a deputy registrar, told the committee that a review of the matter indicated that “Mr Mosobalaje related with Miss Momoh in a manner inconsistent with his role as lecturer and as such related with Miss Momoh in a manner inconsistent with his role as an academic staff(er).”
He said; “Asking a student on a date by her supervisor was an outright breach of the Code of Conduct for University Community; and the conversation between Dr Mosobalaje and Miss Momoh had sexual connotations and pressure.
“The audio recording of Dr Mosobalaje pressurising Miss Momoh did take place as admitted by Dr Mosobalaje himself. Dr Mosobalaje got Miss Momoh alone in his office by sending her to buy food for him; Dr Mosobalaje had ‘power over’ Miss Momoh at that particular time.
“The recorded conversation where Dr Mosobalaje stated that ‘I can’t rape you showed that the situation had sexual undertones which implied that if Miss Momoh did not succumb to his sexual advances, it may affect her project.”
He added that the lecturer’s explanation that he wanted to marry Miss Momoh was an afterthought, saying his conduct brought disrepute to the university.
According to the document obtained by this newspaper, the lecturer denied culpability, saying he had planned to marry the student, and that they were both adults.
The lecturer, who appeared before the joint committee of the council and Senate with his lawyers, Olufemi Akintomiwa and Oluwakunlewa Okediran, said since there was no letter of complaint from Miss Momoh, there was no case to answer before the committee.
But the committee insisted that the lecturer had a case to answer.
“Would proposition a student who came to discuss a project with her supervisor not put undue sexual pressure on her? Would there not be a negation of roles for an examiner who was also in loco parentis asking the same student on a date? What was going on when you (Dr Mosobalaje) said “ I can’t rape you.” Why did you (Dr Mosobalaje) have to propose to a student when she came to him for supervision?”
All eyes on governing council
Meanwhile, attention has now shifted to the newly inaugurated governing council of the university.
The immediate past governing council which was led by a former lecturer of the university and renowned journalist, Yemi Ogunbiyi, had initiated the probe but could not conclude it.
Meanwhile, the new governing council, which is chaired by a popular businessman and boardroom guru, Oscar Udoji, is expected to sit and review the Senate’s submission in September.
OAU and sex scandals
Since 2018 when the story of sexual harassment allegations against a professor of accounting at the university’s faculty of administration, Richard Akindele, went viral, the institution has regularly been in the news for the same reason.
Mr Akindele, who was dismissed by the university, was also eventually found guilty and sentenced to two years imprisonment following his prosecution by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC). He has since been released.
There is the unresolved case of a lecturer of International Relations, Bisi Olaleye, and another at the school’s centre for distance learning, Monday Omo-Etan.
The university’s spokesman could not give an update on the two lecturers’ cases when asked.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported the suspension of the two lecturers at different times when they became public, and the university’s restated commitment to rid the campus of those it described as sexual predators.
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