National outcry over #SexForGrades scandal in UNILAG

• University, Foursquare suspend, probe randy lecturer

• It’s an epidemic — Atiku

• Fish out all indicted lecturers of face litigation —  SERAP

• Culprit appointed pastor in 2018 —  Foursquare

There was a meltdown in the social space on Monday as documentary evidence from British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) exposed a senior lecturer in Faculty of Arts in the University of Lagos, Dr Boniface Igbeneghu, allegedly soliciting for sex from a reporter from the medium, posing as a 17-year old admission seeker.

The undercover project codenamed BBC Africa Eye, designed to catch randy lecturers in the act, was also extended to the University of Ghana, with a professor of political science, Yaw Gyampo, also being indicted.

While the Ghanian professor denied any wrongdoing despite being seen in the viral documentary tacitly soliciting sex from the undercover reporter, different relevant authorities in Nigeria, are already moving against Igbeneghu.

Dr Boniface Igbeneghu, UNILAG, Forsquare, SexForGrades
Dr Boniface Igbeneghu

Though the lecturer has reportedly gone underground, his institution had suspended him, pending the outcome of a probe launched into the saga.

Prominent Nigerians have also reacted with strong words, describing the scandal as one too many.

The outrage in the public space also moved Igbeheghu’s church, Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria, to suspend him from ministerial duties, pending the outcome of another probe initiated against him by the church leadership.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has also weighed in, condemning the act and proffering solutions to how it could be curbed.

ALSO READ: #SexForGrades: UNILAG, Ghana varsity lecturers exposed in undercover video

In a statement from his media office, Atiku said he was outraged by the prevalence of sex-for-grades in public tertiary institutions across West Africa, adding that, “the sordid exposure in the BBC Africa Eye’s latest investigative documentary, is unacceptable, and requires systemic strategies to put deterrence to such behaviour.”

The statement from the Peoples Democratic Party presidential flag-bearer in the 2019 election signed by his media adviser, Paul Ibe further reads, “As a father and promoter of education, Atiku Abubakar believes that we should not 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.

“The overwhelming outrage, outpouring of examples and outright naming of perpetrators mean that unless something is done, and expeditiously too, young people might begin to take the laws into their own hands.

Moreover, there is a compelling need to focus on helping the victims to also cope with their turmoil – at least one person wanted to kill herself three times.

He recommends punitive, exemplary measures and swift continuous legislation to stem this “epidemic.”

“Going forward, there have to be checks and balances on the processes of communication between lecturers and students. Away from the dormant, inactive and often unenforced university codes of conducts, we can rely on technology to assist – pre-booked online appointments that show a record of visits on a central system that can also be periodically accessed for auditing can help in raising red flags.

ALSO READ: #SexForGrade: Don’t sweep under carpet, students tell authorities

“Atiku Abubakar is happy to share the experiences of how the American University of Nigeria which he founded has been able to maintain a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment.

It is worthy to note that AUN operates a strictly enforced Code of Conduct to which all lecturers, staff and students sign on to. Indeed, the Code of Conduct is explicit on what constitutes sexual harassment and how to report it.

“Once a matter of sexual harassment is reported by a student, directly or anonymously, a Disciplinary Panel is set up and hearing is set. Disciplinary actions against sexual harassment include Expulsion/Suspension.

The Judicial Affairs Department, a full-fledged Office which oversees students conduct, shares the Code of Conduct with students, parents, lecturers and staff at the beginning of each semester.

“The Code of Conduct is produced in hardcopy and online and can be accessed from anywhere through the university’s website.

And because of the seriousness attached to the matter of sexual harassment (ignorance is not considered a defence), the Judicial Affairs Department conducts a “Know Your Codes” campaign every semester. They go to the students’ hostels, classrooms, library, cafeteria, playgrounds, coffee shops etc, and extend the messaging, sharing posters and pamphlets, taking questions from students.

“Four Student Clubs – Women Leadership Council, Ethics Club, Rotract Club and the Leadership Club – have a mandate from the university to organize anti-sexual harassment seminars, which are funded by the university every semester.

To this end, the swift suspension and termination of the jobs of scores of lecturers implicated in various sexual harassment misdemeanour at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria is worthy of commendation and emulation by other universities.

“Meanwhile, the former Vice President is elated that the BBC Africa Eye is focused on investigative documentaries which outcome is reverberating across Nigeria and the African continent. It is obvious that “Sweet Sweet Codeine” by Ruona Agbroko-Meyer, alumni of Atiku Centre’s scholarship scheme, and whose investigative work for the BBC was nominated for last month’s Emmys Award has opened the floodgates to possible more Emmys nomination.”

Leading rights campaigner, Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP) also reacted by asking that all the lecturers fingered in the scandal, should be brought to book.

According to the message on its verified Twitter account, the body said, “We are asking UNILAG to immediately suspend Dr. Igbeneghu pending the outcome of any investigation and to identify all lecturers allegedly involved in this illegality and bring them to justice. If UNILAG fails to do this within 7 days, we will take appropriate legal action to compel them”

In a statement suspending the suspect from episcopal duties, the National Secretary of Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria, Rev Ikechukwu Ugbaja, described the act- though still allegation- as an aberration which he said the church authorities sternly frowning at.

According to him, as holiness and Bible-believing church, we do not condone such heinous and unscriptural act among our members let alone ministers.

“We totally dissociate ourselves from purported conduct of Dr Igbeneghu  and promise to take appropriate measure as soon as the ongoing investigations are concluded.”

When asked when actually Dr igbeneghu appointed as a pastor, he said it was just in 2018 but refused to tell Nigerian Tribune the parish he pastored.

He, however, pointed out that the lecturer-cum cleric had been asked to step down from all ministerial duties of the church.

The students of the institution have also demanded a full- scale and thorough investigations from the authorities of the institution into the sex allegations leveled by a self-styled female student of the university against a lecturer of foreign language (Frech) studies and former sub-dean of the Faculty of Arts of the university, Dr Boniface Benedict Igbeneghu.

They said the authorities must not in anyway sweep the matter, which is trending on the social media, under the carpet, noting that incidence of this manner is becoming too many in the institution.

It will be recalled that the same faculty of arts and English Language department specially is where Professor Awonusi who was alleged of similar offence last year is and with the investigations still inconclusive more than a year after.

The students gave the warning in their anonymous reactions to the sex scandal.

They told our correspondent who visited the university and specifically the Faculty of Arts on Monday with their names not to be in print that the university should take the matter very seriously and get to its root and punish the lecturer involved according to the dictate of the law of the university and that of the country.

They said the publication was enough evidence to nail the lecturer on what they called ignoble act.

Our correspondent, however, observed during the visit that the trending video was what many of the students especially females were watching in groups while some, especially in other faculties, denied having knowledge of the report.

Interestingly, the authorities of the universities and the academic staff union(ASUU) of the branch, the Chairman of the Governing Council of the university, Dr Wale Babalakin, and the Foursquare Gospel Church, have on separate capacities reacted to the allegation.

They all condemned the act and promised to ensure that the law takes its full course on the matter.

The branch chairman of ASUU of the university, Dr Dele Ashiru, told our correspondent at the secretariat of the union that the incident is very disturbing as he could not understand why any lecturer in UNILAG which prides itself university of first choice and nation’s proud could involve in sex for grades or any other unethical practices with the students or any other person.

According to him, though, the authorities are there to come up with what to do on the allegation, ASUU however, condemns in the strongest term the incident.

“We feel that lecturers remain in loco parentis to students and should, therefore, be able to conduct themselves not only in a manner that befits their profession but also that of parents- students relationship.

“So, we demand thorough investigations and no cover-up of the matter and also that a deserved punishment be given to whosoever that is found culpable of the act.”

He, however, said it wasn’t the fault of the authorities of the school that the previous sex allegation is still inconclusive but that of the victim who refused to come forward to help the investigative team in their work.

In his own reaction, Dr Babalakin equally told our correspondent that the university would conduct a thorough investigation into the matter and bring alleged perpetrator to book if found culpable of the offence.

He, however, re-emphasised that UNILAG had zero tolerance on sex and other unethical practices not only for lecturers but for other workers as well as students of the university.

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