Sex-for-marks scandal at Ife University

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WIDELY regarded as one of Nigeria’s best tertiary institutions, the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, is battling to save its image over an ongoing sex-for-marks scandal. A female undergraduate of the institution has accused a lecturer, who is also a professor, of harassing her for sex to upgrade her failure in a recent examination to a pass grade. She blew the lid on the scandal by posting the salacious details of their telephone conversation online. To restore its hard-earned reputation, the OAU authorities should diligently pursue the ongoing investigation into the case to its logical end.

As expected, the disclosure has generated instant outrage, being about the sexual exploitation of vulnerable female students by randy lecturers. In a post that has gone viral on the social media, the lecturer allegedly pointedly demanded sex from his student, in a bid to upgrade her score of 33 to a pass mark. The negotiations eventually broke down when the lecturer insisted that he had to sleep with the girl five times. “Prof, you know what? Let me fail it. I can’t do it (sex) five times…” the lady said.

This is the height of debauchery. Evidently, a mentor has transformed to a tormentor; a teacher becoming an abuser of his student. Soliciting sex from a young lady, probably the age of his daughter, renders him unfit to be in an academic environment. If the allegations prove conclusively true, he should not only be sacked, but should also be prosecuted in the court.

It is disconcerting, but the brutal truth is that female undergraduates suffer gross sexual abuse in virtually all our tertiary institutions. Randy lecturers pick out female students and deliberately fail them. To pass their examinations, many of the female undergraduates are forced to either provide sexual favours to their teachers or pay them cash. This is sickening. After graduating, some of these ladies are traumatised and scarred for life. The racket should be smashed to save female students from lecherous teachers.

This misconduct is not limited to OAU. Last October, a married lecturer at the Cross River State College of Technology, Ogoja, was seen in a video that went viral soliciting sex from a female student assigned to him for her project. He was arrested by law enforcement agents. Another was caught in his underpants with an Auchi Polytechnic student. The lecturer claimed that it was a set-up. In 2005, the Lagos State University, Ojo, sacked a lecturer, who was also caught in his underpants in a Lagos hotel room in the process of having sex with a 200-level undergraduate.

The OAU incident is one of the reasons the social media is so relevant today and should be widely embraced to expose the atrocities of lecturers who are neck deep in these unholy liaisons. Before the social media became widespread, female students suffered in silence, not having enough evidence to nail their torturers.

For long, female students bore this debauchery at the Auchi Polytechnic. However, in April 2016, after this newspaper published a stirring story on the nefarious activities of the lecturers, who insisted on sex- or money-for-marks, the Ministry of Education, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the State Security Service and the National Board for Technical Education stepped in. At the end of their investigations in December 2016, the Federal Government sacked 12 of the lecturers accused of soiling their academic robes with promiscuity and extortion.

That was a landmark action by the government. We recommend that those indicted should be denied the opportunity of teaching in other tertiary institutions. If enforced, it is capable of making those trafficking in sex on our campuses to think twice. This is critical because in spite of government’s action in the Auchi case, sexual harassment has not abated in the ivory tower. Therefore, the argument that female undergraduates deliberately entice or seduce their lecturers to pass them or give them grades they do not deserve is a red herring. A fit and proper lecturer should not be distracted by such temptation.

The current case is a serious test for the OAU authorities: the whole world is waiting to see how they will handle it. Students don’t generally want to report their harassment, fearful of the impact on their education, careers and personality. The OAU’s claim that the affected student was not ready to testify should not be used as an excuse to drop the case.

At the University of Cambridge, students are given the privilege to choose for their complaint to be heard in a way that suits them.  We share the view that universities should report serious offences, such as rape, sexual assault and corruption, to the police, and should not be limited by their own investigations. With the support of the security agencies, the investigators will have access to the call logs of the lecturer with the mobile telephone operators.

Since it was stated in the conversation that only two students failed the course, it is easy for the investigators to narrow down their search for the alleged victim without necessarily exposing her to public ridicule. The lecturer’s claim that he was invigilating an MBA exam in Moro that day is another clue that could be pursued.

Ideally, it is a thing of pride and a privilege to be a professor. It is an opportunity to mould the character of the youth. University education is not about learning alone but entails building up character. However, this is impossible with the lewd environment in our schools. For OAU to retain its motto of, “For Learning and Culture,” it must deal with this case expeditiously and establish a framework to eradicate sexual abuse by morally depraved lecturers.

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