Stories of sexual molestation are commonplace in Nigerian tertiary institutions. For many female students, it is a case of falling prey to a lecturer who is always on the offensive.
Oftentimes, male lecturers openly flirt with their female students in lecture halls, and sometimes boast about it that nothing will happen.
Over the years, Nigerian tertiary institutions have promoted and encouraged the culture of silence which, in many instances, has fueled cases of sexual molestation in the universities. Students are often afraid to voice out or report lecturers for fear of being victimised.
Many of the cases of sexual molestation that usually pass as sex-for-mark between a supposedly demanding lecturer and willing/unwilling female student is never reported to the school authorities. And, when cases of sexual abuse are reported, the victims are usually victimised by the society which further deepens the culture of silence among female students that have been molested by their lecturers.
Recently, the media was awash with reports on a female undergraduate (name withheld) who accused a lecturer at the University of Lagos, Akoka, simply identified as Kadiri, of rape.
The student said the incident occurred when she visited the lecturer in his office to sort out issues about her results.
In 2018, the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, was said to have dismissed a professor, Richard Akindele, for alleged sexual offences.
His former student, Monica (surname withheld), accused him of demanding five sex sessions in order to pass her.
Some weeks ago, there was a protest by Law students at the University of Calabar, culminating in the suspension of a faculty dean and setting up of a probe panel. The UNICAL incident has pushed the issue of sexual harassment of female students in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions back into public discourse.
The uprising against Cyril Ndifon, a law professor, and other dons at UNICAL has been followed by a similar protest at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, by students demanding an end to sexual harassment and intimidation.
In recent weeks, social media has been abuzz as different interpretations and reactions have been given to the UNICAL incident.
With each passing day, female students are becoming more endangered in institutions of higher learning across Nigeria. Often, there are reports of students complaining of lecturers’ harassment, with such becoming more pronounced, especially on social media.
Many believe that the practice is as old as the institutions themselves, but has only become more pronounced in recent times. This is not rampant only in higher institutions. It is a common practice in other sectors as long as male and female relationships are concerned.
Except in few cases, where the student in the middle of the drama is bold enough to come out and explain her ordeal to the public, most sexual harassments in tertiary institutions across Nigeria is unreported, mainly because the victim often does not have proof to nail the lecturer or is afraid of being victimised.
In some extreme cases when the situation becomes unbearable, many female students often change their institution.
Mercy, a banker, who does not want her full name in print, said: “I experienced it in my second year in the university, there was this lecturer that often gave me tough time each time he came to our class for his course.
“He wanted me to date him; students knew him on campus. Some students fell for him, but I was determined not to.
“In some instances, he asked me to take his book with him to his office after lecture and in such cases, he would want to rough-handle me in his office, I always resisted and ran out of his office.
“My continued resistance to his advances made him fail me in his course, and in another course, he gave me a ‘D’ score.
“I continued praying and avoiding him, luckily for me, he went on sabbatical the next year,” she said.
A former student, who pleaded anonymity graduated in 2007 from the department of Medical Laboratory Sciences, of a state university, narrated her personal experience with one of her lecturers.
“Our Head of Department (HoD) precisely fell in love with us (according to him) because he said he loved fair ladies; that is why he went to marry a fair woman and the woman gave him seven boys, no girl. So, anytime he sees us; he just says ah – my girlfriend, my girlfriend. He will call me my girlfriend,” she said.
However, a Lagos-based journalist, Eniola Daniel, said sex-for-grades or mark is an age-long tradition that will be hard to eradicate. According to him, the trend is not only happening in tertiary institutions but also in secondary schools.
“This is fueled by so many factors, including lazy students who just want to get a certificate to boast about being a graduate. Some lecturers could have been child’s predators but their backgrounds were not checked before being employed.
“Nevertheless, some lecturers are offered even if they don’t ask for it. Mostly, sex-for-grade often happens between dull or unserious students with lecturers, but we rarely hear about that,” Daniel said.
Another former student of LISCOTECH, Osun State, Modupe Oni, said that while not trying to victimise the victims of sexual harassment, the fact still remains that few female students are lazy to study hard to pass and as such prefer the sex-for-mark so that they can pass their courses.
“It is only when it is becoming too much that they cry out to expose the lecturers,” Oni said.
According to her, to curb the menace of sex-for-marks in tertiary institutions, students should study hard to pass their courses.
“A brilliant student who passes her courses doesn’t experience this because there is no place for the lecturers to demand such; it is only ‘olodo’ (lazy) students that fall victim,” she said.
Badru Saleh, a Lagos-based school proprietor, said teachers must not have carnal knowledge of their students under any condition.
According to him, sleeping with students for marks is a terrible offence, because lecturers are regarded as guardians.
“It means that you use your office to give undue advantage to some categories of students at the expense of others,” he said.
Saleh equally admitted that sex-for-mark is a two-sided scenario. He said that academically dull and wayward students sometimes seduce the male lecturers to pass, while some lecturers also coerce students to submit to their demands.
According to Saleh, the menace of sex-for-mark usually takes the form of a psychological, personality attack, deliberately finding fault in the target victim, which could also result in deliberate failure for students who refuse advances by lecturers.
“It’s commonly done to freshers and 300-level students. As for the freshers, the usual format is psychological, personality and intentionally picking holes in the targets. They become unsettled and want to seek the good face of the lecturer,” Saleh said.
He further said that students with low self-esteem also fall victim to these wicked lecturers. According to him, the usual tactics used for 300-level students is to fail them in CA and mark them down in exams.
“I have seen a case in a federal polytechnic where a lecturer deliberately gave a female student an extra year because he wanted to “enjoy” her more. The fear of not having an extra year sometimes will make the victim surrender to the lecturer,” Saleh said.
Pointing the way forward, Saleh said lecturers should see every female student as their daughters and sisters.
According to him, activation of feedback mechanisms to report such lecturers and instant expulsion from the institution are some of the measures to curb the menace.
He also suggested that disciplinary actions should be taken against lecturers caught-in-the-act. He said there will always be evidence against such lecturers.
“Calls will be made; voice notes will be sent. In polytechnics, their accomplices are the Course Representatives,” he said.
Other stakeholders have called for a collaboration among institutions, the federal and state governments to check the menace by taking immediate and long-lasting measures to stop the pervasive practice.
The situation appears to have defied the stringent campaigns being mounted against it by various non-governmental organisations.
A fresher female Law student of UNICAL, who pleaded anonymity, speaking about the incident in her faculty which led to the suspension of Professor Ndifon, said that having evidence to back up sexual harassment allegation is really what is needed to nail lecturers who are sexual predators but that it could be difficult.
“Imagine a lecturer telling you to carry his books to his office after lecture or probably you are the Course Rep and you think it’s normal and right.
“Most times, you never have the proof because you don’t enter a lecturer’s office with the idea of saying let me keep my phone to record. That’s not even in your mind at that time.”
But Joy Ugwu, a lawyer, said some students who complained of sexual harassment from lecturers often exaggerate the situation, noting that some students are looking for who to blame for their faults.
According to her, “I might be wrong because it never happened to me; I think victimisation is overplayed by many people.
“I think most students who give this kind of complaint are just looking for excuses. No lecturer ever victimised me and most of the grades I got in school were what I worked for. While in school, where I worked.
“While in school I got every grade from A-F and each was what I deserved. Most people would look for people to blame for their faults.
“My younger brother gave me a similar story that lecturers favoured girls, and all that. I just asked him, the guy who is first class range in your class was he favoured also? If some people can’t pass job aptitude tests, it’s because of discrimination; even if they can’t zip their pants, its victimisation?”
A lecturer with a university in Lagos, who spoke with BusinessDay on condition of anonymity, said that sexual harassment or sex-for-marks could be blamed on both the lecturers and the female undergraduates. He also said that there are cases of female lecturers doing the same thing with their male students, which people are not focusing at.
“The issue of sexual immorality has been there since time immemorial. It has to do with people’s level of spirituality. There is always the temptation to do evil, particularly in an environment where you see beautiful ladies, many of whom beg you to do it, even for free. It is indeed, a two-way thing. The university authorities have a lot to do to check it.
“I can also confirm to you that there are female lecturers sleeping with their male students, but nobody hears of it. Some of those women treat such male students as tomboys, even give them money, and generally kit them on campus. The world generally is a funny place. These things happen even in worship places where they should not even be mentioned. Until everyone comes to that stage where self-respect and respect for the Creator take pre-eminence, these things will continue to exist, but the level is what matters. We must not live and behave like animals,” the lecturer said.
Stakeholders proffer solutions
Ini-Nfon Eno, gender rights advocate, said even though the situation was there in tertiary institutions across Nigeria, in most instances, lazy students encourage it and also seduce their lecturers to get what they want.
She further said that the unfavourable economic condition in Nigeria had forced many students to do several bad things to survive on campus at the detriment of their studies.
“Sexual harassment of our females in tertiary institutions is happening; we just don’t hear it often, because before you cannot just come out to accuse someone; there should be evidence; that is the major problem. We get reports and work on cases, but we must admit that some of these harassments are caused by the students themselves.
“Because of the bad state of the economy, many students are doing all sorts of dirty things on campus to survive and sustain their studentship. These types of students don’t go to class or read; they want to sort the lecturer with money and anything to pass. We must admit that this is happening also.
Eno further suggested that tertiary institutions across the country should be encouraged to set up a desk and committee for reporting and dealing with such case.
Similarly, Professor of Law and former Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Joy Ezeilo (SAN), said all tertiary institutions must have a sexual abuse and harassment policy that handles sexual harassment and proffers sanctions within the university setting.
She also said that there must not be any sexual relationship between lecturers and students.
“If there are any relationships, there must be a policy of full disclosure. Once there is a full disclosure, that lecturer would have nothing to do with the grading or marking of the scripts of the student in question.
“But because of the kind of fiduciary relationship and the position a lecturer assumes, which is often that which is high and of trust, that position can easily be used to hamper the vulnerability of students. So, the problem is the lack of appropriate sanctions.
“There must be a policy with legal backing treating sexual harassment in schools. Assault is prohibited under the criminal law, but society must have a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment,” she said.
Considering the impact of sexual harassment on the victims which includes; health hard, depression, suicide, drug abuse and school dropout scenario, some experts have blamed the culture of silence, ignorance, and the lack of moral values and godly principles for the menace.