Six months after a student of the University of Lagos accused a lecturer of sexual harassment, the institution has failed to act decisively on the matter.
In May 2018, the school was brought into public limelight after 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”.
However, six months after the allegation was made, UNILAG has failed to disclose measures taken to put the matter to rest and also failed to update the public on the scandal.
The student who released semi-nude photos of the lecturer through Linda Ikeji’s blog said the lecturer was used to molesting students and that she was reaching out to the public to curb his excesses.
Reacting to the allegation levied against him weeks after, the lecturer, in an interview with New Telegraph, said he was blackmailed, insisting he did not sexually harass any female student.
“It is blackmail,” he said. “The said pictures were taken about four years ago. But sometimes 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 matter disgusted many Nigerians. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) also reacted via an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
The National President of the union, Biodun Ogunyemi, said the union has always warned its members not to put themselves in situations that will be difficult for the union to defend them.
“As a union, we do our best to make sure that our members keep to the expectations of parents and students relationship at universities,” Mr Odugbemi said. “We have always implored them not to put themselves in situations that will be difficult for the union to defend them.”
He said when lecturers are proven beyond reasonable doubt to have acted below expectation, the union will not obstruct justice.
“We have never done that and will not do that,” he said. “If the suspect has been taken through due process, our union will not stand against justice. That is the standard rule.”
Actions, Inactions Of UNILAG:
Following the incident, UNILAG on May 31 in a release signed by Taiwo Oloyede, its spokesperson, 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,” the statement read. “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.”
It then called for submission of memoranda by members of the public which lasted a month.
On July 16, upon enquiry by PREMIUM TIMES, Mrs Oloyede told our correspondent that the panel had given an interim report.
She, however, requested PREMIUM TIMES to download the report from the website of the university.
The report indicated 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.
It however added that “claims by Ms. Nwana and Linda Ikeji Blog could not be substantiated, because of their repeated absence at the panel’s enquiry sessions”.
The institution further said the attempt to get the duo to make representations at “the sessions did not yield a desired results”.
However, the university promised to continue with its investigation.
On October 10, after other schools such as the Obafemi Awolowo University and Lagos State University punished lecturers indicted for similar sexual misconduct, PREMIUM TIMES reached out to UNILAG since its failed to update the public on its investigation.
Mrs Oloyede, in a telephone interview then 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.
Again, PREMIUM TIMES called the institution on Thursday to get an update on the matter.
The school spokesperson rather than responding to PREMIUM TIMES questions, instructed our correspondent to send a text message which she is yet to respond to over 24 hours later.
Students and some lecturers who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES suspect the university may not take any further action on the lecturer’s case.
A student from the same department of the indicted professor who spoke with our correspodent under the condition of anonymity said the ‘position’ of the lecturer may make it difficult for the school to sanction him.
“You see, this man we are talking about is not just like every other lecturer. We are talking about someone who was once a Commisioner of Education and also a vice chancellor of a university in Ogun. I don’t think lecturers have been sanctioned for such in this school. At least, I’m in my finals.”
Another student, a campus journalist who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, believes justice may not be served.
“We have had series of sex scandals reported to us,” he said. “But as students, there is limit to what we can report. You know that you are first a student before you are a campus journalist. Let’s see how this goes but I don’t see positive results from the present things we can see.”
A non academic staffer in the school who simply identified himself as Razaq when PREMIUM TIMES visited the school said: “There was a time the scandal was at its peak but nothing was done. Let’s hope this does not end up like others.”
Sex-for-mark practice is a common problem in Nigerian institutions which over the years may have been encouraged by Nigerian universities due to failure to appropriately sanction erring lecturers.