Outrage as sex-for-grades scandal rocks UNILAG

News

Nigerian universities caught global attention yesterday not because of academic breakthroughs that earned them some laurels; rather, the focus on the nation’s universities was triggered by the release by BBC African Eye of a video which vividly advertised the escapades of randy lecturers sexually harassing and propositioning undercover female reporters, pretending to be students and prospective students.

 

Wearing a secret camera, a reporter, Kiki Mordi, had visited Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu, a lecturer of the Department of European Languages and Integrated Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos (UNILAG), posing as a 17-year-old admission seeker. The clip went on to show the lecturer allegedly making sexual overtures to the reporter.

 

A lecturer at the institution’s faculty of science who pleaded anonymity told Huhuonline.com that many of his colleagues had become jittery, fearing that their sexual escapades might be blown open. The lecturer noted that the advent of social media had made it more difficult for randy lecturers to hide.

 

Last Thursday, at Bayero University Kano, Ghanaian investigative reporter, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, had told participants during a workshop on journalism “On Monday, October 7, the BBC African Eye will show another film on Nigeria. The lecturers seated here today might not be happy about this. The film is about sex for real and some Nigerian universities are featured in the film.”

 

Barely hours after the video went public, reactions took the online world by storm. Thousands vented their indignation on Twitter, with many hinting that the revelation is only a tip of the iceberg. The Foursquare Gospel Church issued a swift denunciation thereafter, asking Igbeneghu, said to be one of its pastors, to “step down from all ministerial assignments.”

 

A statement by National Secretary Rev. Ikechukwu Ugbaja, reads: “The general public is hereby informed that as holiness and Bible-believing church, we do not condone such heinous and unscriptural act among our ministers. We totally dissociate ourselves from the purported conduct of Dr. Igbenoghu and promise to take appropriate measure as soon as the ongoing investigation is concluded.”

 

Similarly, the University of Lagos in a statement by Principal Assistant Registrar (Communication Unit) Mrs. Taiwo Oloyede said the “management today (yesterday) suspended Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu who was caught in a sting operation by the BBC.” It said: “The University Management has ordered the shutdown of the Staff Club ‘Cold Room’ mentioned in the documentary for further investigation. The so-called ‘Cold Room’ is a Functions Room that may have been abused because this is a deviation from the purpose for which it was created (meetings, seminars, events, etc.).”

 

The institution assured members of the public: “Any other lecturer mentioned in the full version of the operation, which is to be aired later today, will also be suspended to ensure a proper investigation is carried out.” In a recent interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), UNILAG Vice-Chancellor Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe maintained that the institution has “zero tolerance for the ugly trend.”

 

He said: “Currently, there are cases that we are looking into and I want to say that we will not compromise standards, as we will ensure that we take appropriate actions.” Ogundipe said an investigation was ongoing on the case reported in 2018 by a blogger on alleged sexual harassment by a professor in the English department. He said a high-level probe committee made up of senior lecturers had since been set up and that the only setback was the inability to get the victim to show up.

 

“All efforts to reach her through the telephone lines made available to us proved abortive. The case is still open and ongoing, pending when we get all these facts. We are not going to cover anything up. As soon as she appears before the committee with established evidence, we will conclude the case and come out with a firm position.”

 

UNILAG don, Prof. Gab Babawale, told reporters that the university has a strong policy against sexual abuse and harassment and that anyone who violates the rules must face the penalty. Also, Prof. Muyiwa Awodiya noted that the lecturer’s alleged action is “shameful and condemnable”.

 

Reacting, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday joined other Nigerians in calling for an end to the sex-for-grades phenomena. Atiku on his Twitter handle said: “This is unacceptable and requires systemic strategies to put a deterrence to such behaviour. As a society, we cannot allow a trend that is psychologically abusive to young women to thrive. In fact, that’s a direct opposite of what a sound educational system represents.”

 

Saraki, on his part, wrote: “As a father, I’m appalled by the actions of lecturers captured in the exposé. We cannot allow this sort of deplorable behaviour to fester.” He appealed to the Ninth Senate to revisit the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Prohibition Bill “so that we can implement the institutional reforms necessary to safeguard our children.”

 

He also urged affected institutions “to conduct robust investigations, not only on the accused, but also for all other reports and complaints that come in. We need to believe victims and make institutions safer for our students.” Meanwhile, Igbeneghu has reportedly declined comment on the matter, urging inquiries to be directed to UNILAG’s information department in accordance with established rules.

 

This came as another lecturer at the University of Ghana threatened to sue the BBC. Ransford Gyampo, according to the video, had allegedly made sexual advances to an undercover journalist. Gyampo was reported to have said: “I am suing the BBC for defamation tomorrow. I have not involved myself in the BBC’s so-called sex-for-grades and will never do so. The lady involved in my informal conversation was not my student and she wasn’t also a student from the University of Ghana where I teach. I therefore cannot decipher how I could manipulate the grade of a non-student.”