Sex-for-mark Scandal: One year after, UNILAG keeps mum over allegation against professor

University of Lagos (UNILAG). [Photo credit: Students Nigeria]
University of Lagos (UNILAG). [Photo credit: Students Nigeria]

One year after a student of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) accused a professor in the school of sexual harassment, the institution has refused to publicly speak on actions taken on the matter.

In May 2018, Joy Nwanna, a student of the institution, accused Olusegun Awonusi, a professor of English and former Vice Chancellor of Tai Solarin University of Education, of “habitual sexual harassment”.

This was the period when four other lecturers were sacked for similar acts. They include Richard Akindele, a professor at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU); and three lecturers of the Lagos State University: Ayoola Odubunmi, an associate professor of economics; Isiaka Ogunwande, an associate professor of chemistry and Emmanuel Gbeleyi, a lecturer in the department of anatomy.

Despite proactive steps by other institutions, UNILAG has refused to speak on measures taken to put the matter of Mr Awonusi, a former education commissioner in Ogun, to rest.

Several efforts by PREMIUM TIMES, over the past few months, to get updates on this have been unsuccessful.

Backstory

In her allegation against the lecturer, the student released semi-nude photos of the lecturer through Linda Ikeji’s blog saying the lecturer “was used to molesting students and that she was reaching out to the public to curb his excesses.”

Weeks after the outburst, Mr Awonusi, in an interview with New Telegraph, said he was blackmailed, insisting he did not sexually harass any female student.

“It is blackmail. The said pictures were taken about four years ago. But sometime ago, I received a message from a particular lady, saying she was in possession of my unclad photos and that I should pay her N400,000. The lady said if I did not pay the money, she would go public with the photos. I think this is what she had promised.”

This action drew the attention of many Nigerians who expressed disgust. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) also reacted to the sex-for-mark menace.

The national president of the union, Biodun Ogunyemi, said the union had always warned its members not to put themselves in situations that will be difficult for the union to defend them.

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“As a union, we do our best to make sure that our members keep to the expectations of parents and students relationship at universities. We have always implored them not to put themselves in situations that will be difficult for the union to defend them.”

He said when alleged lecturers “are proved beyond reasonable doubt to have acted below expectation, the union will not obstruct justice.”

“We have never done that and will not do that. If the suspect has been taken through due process, our union will not stand against justice. That is the standard rule”

‘Defiant’ UNILAG

After condemnation by Nigerians, on May 31, 2018, the institution in a statement by its spokesperson, Taiwo Oloyede vowed to “thoroughly investigate the allegation”.

“The management has a zero tolerance for allegations pertaining to sexual impropriety and has a well-established policy against such practices. We wish to reassure all our stakeholders, students, parents, members of staff and the general public that management will not treat this matter with levity,” its statement read then.

Its then called for submission of memoranda by members of the public which lasted for a month.

PREMIUM TIMES reached out to the school on July 16, 2018 and was informed that the panel had issued an interim report.

According to the report, the panel was able to establish that the student involved is Joy Nwana, who graduated from the Department of English in the 2015/2016 academic session but said: “claims made by Ms Nwana and Linda Ikeji Blog could not be substantiated, because of their repeated absence at the panel’s enquiry sessions.”

The institution said the attempt to get the duo to make representations at “the sessions did not yield the desired results.” However, it promised that the university would continue with its investigations.

In October 2018, Mrs Oloyede, in a telephone interview, said she had no new information on the scandal.

“After the press conference the VC held (July), I have not heard anything about the matter,” she said.

Since them, Registrar Yetunde Ogunlewe and Mrs Oloyede have refused to respond to PREMIUM TIMES enquiries on the matter.

They have failed to respond to several calls and text messages.

Meanwhile, a top official of the university who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent “not to expect much from the school.”

“Not that the institution cannot deal with the act but the person involved is…. You know a former Commissioner and Vice Chancellor. Also, the girl is scared to come to the panel. Without the girl, nothing could be done,” he said.

Sex-for-mark practice is a common problem in Nigerian institutions, which over the years may had been encouraged by Nigerian universities due to their failure to appropriately sanction erring lecturers.

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