To distinguish between teachers at the secondary and tertiary levels of education in Nigeria, those who teach and conduct empirical researches in tertiary institutions are called lecturers. In other climes including the United States of America, every university teacher is referred to as professor whether he is of the rank of professor or not. Our discourse this week focuses on the very unbecoming attitude of lecturers in Nigeria, which is prompting us to suggest that some of them are in the wrong place.
A randy lecturer at the ObafemiAwolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife was recently suspended over allegations of sexual harassment. His fate was decided last week when the Governing Council of the university dismissed the affected staff, Prof Richard Akindele, for his involvement in a sex-for-marks scandal. The Vice Chancellor (VC) of OAU, Prof Eyitope Ogunbodede, who announced the dismissal in a statement, had on April 19, 2018 confirmed Akindele’s suspension pending the outcome of an investigation panel set up by the university to probe the allegation brought against Akindele by Miss Monica Osagie; a postgraduate female student at the OAU.
Miss Osagie had in April this year released a recorded telephone conversation which went viral on the social media. She had called the professor on phone to enquire about her case. Responding, the suspected lecturer told her that she would repeat the exam next academic session since she refused to take advantage of the opportunity he offered. “I gave you an opportunity and you missed it. Forget about it. You will do it next year”. When the student sought further clarifications, he (the lecturer) said “The other person came and I told her straight away because there is nothing I can do to bail that person out and her mark is even better than your own. The person scored 39 while your own is 33”.
What I found shocking and incredible in the lecturer’s scandalous conversation is where he shamelessly and audaciously asked the student why she mentioned to him that she was having her menstruation the day they met. A callous lecturer with this brand of insensitivity is not only a misfit in the society but also a huge embarrassment to the education system and a disgrace to the teaching profession. Even when the student replied, saying “I was really seeing my period”, Professor Akindele still insisted and asked, “And now nko?” The brazen extent to which Professor Akindele went with his profligacy is very unfortunate.
The VC of the OAU, Ile-Ife, said that the University Senate at its meeting on June 14, 2018 considered the findings of the committee set up to probe Miss Osagie’s allegations and was convinced that Prof Akindele had inappropriate relationship with Miss Osagie, the petitioner. The VC said this was established through various exhibits including their conversation in the audio recording, the lecturer’s reply to a written query issued to him, the oral evidence as well as the print-out of the whatsapp conversations tendered before the committee. The VC explained further that “Akindele was liable for all the allegations of misconduct leveled against him”.
In 2013, Professor F. D. Kolo was sacked by the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, after he was found guilty by a Jigawa Chief Magistrate Courto f enticing a married woman. Kolo was arrested with the woman who was his student at a hotel room in Jigawa State during a sting operation. The court was told that Kolo had been making advances at the woman despite several warnings by her husband. Kolo was convicted of the offence and sentenced to two months in jail without an option of fine.
It would be recalled that the Nigerian Senate in October 2016 passed a bill that sought to criminalize sexual harassment in tertiary institutions. The bill titled “Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Prohibition Bill, 2016” which was sponsored by (the now embattled) Senator Ovie Omo-Agege prescribed a 5-year jail term for lecturers convicted of sexual harassment of their male and female students. A fine of N5 million shall be paid in the alternative. The question is: How far has this law (if it has become an Act) been applied and to what extent is it deterring enough? The bill recommended expulsion or suspension for students whose claims of being sexually abused by lecturers are found to be false.
Sexual intimidation or harassment is one of the perverse nuisances that have refused to disappear from tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Other cutting-edge aberrations prevailing among some lecturers include extorting money in exchange for marks, certificate forgery and plagiarism.
Only recently, a lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and African Languages, University of Calabar (UniCal), Dr. Eyo Mensah, was suspended by the management of the institution. The registrar of the university, Mr. Moses Abang explained that the Vice Chancellor had ordered the immediate and indefinite suspension of the lecturer for his involvement in a case of certificate forgery to enable him face trial in a court of law. Dr. Mensah was dragged before the High Court of Cross Rivers State by the State’s Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) over a petition by the immediate past Vice Chancellor of UniCal, Professor James Epoke, bordering on certificate racketeering. He is accused of forging and selling certificates to students. Subhana-llahi!
Some Vice Chancellors have also had to deal with cases of plagiarism among their lecturers. A former DVC in one of the federal universities of technology in Nigeria was demoted from the rank of professor by several grades for his complicity in a case of plagiarism.
Lecturers have remained undeterred probably because existing laws meant to check these irregularities are weak. The worst punishment culpable lecturers receive is dismissal from service. Yet, they are easily re-employed by other institutions. Daily Trust reported on November 20, 2014 that the Federal University Dutsin-Ma had become a safe haven for dismissed lecturers. Owing to the damage these lecturers do to students and the system, I recommend the establishment of an Educational and Academic Crimes Commission (EACC) to fight the ills perpetrated by lecturers.
A lecturer who wants to be rich through extortions; or seeks promotion through plagiarism; or prefers to settle his erotic desires through the harassment of female students is actually in the wrong place. Universities should be a decent place for modest persons whose obligations do not include going after wealth or young girls. Indecent lecturers are advised to repent before Allah’s wrath (mentioned in Qur’an 35:45) catches up with them. May Allah (SWT) guide us against becoming slaves to our instincts, amin.