• No sanction too harsh for indicted lecturers, says MSSN
Olaleye Aluko and Sodiq Oyeleke
The Academic Staff Union of Universities has said its ethics committee in every public university always warns lecturers to protect students rather than molest them.
The union stated that where cases of sexual harassment were established against its members, it would not protect such persons since it had repeatedly issued warnings on the matter.
The National President, ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, stated this on Thursday in an interview with one of our correspondents, adding that it was, however, necessary to give to lecturers and students fair hearing concerning allegations of sexual harassment.
Two senior lecturers of the University of Lagos have been suspended for sexually harassing British Broadcasting Corporation undercover reporters, who pretended to be in need of favours from the dons.
Reacting to the development, Ogunyemi, said, “Where cases of sexual harassment are established against our members, the union does not protect anyone. We constantly warn our members and we tell them that they have to protect the students and not harass them.
“Accusations or allegations of sexual harassment are not new and we have taken steps to curb the incidence. Our union has an ethics committee.
“The ethics committee in every branch has for a long time been sensitising our colleagues and students. We accept that lecturers are parent substitutes and owe the students a responsibility to protect them.
“We recognise that lecturers can harass the students rightly or wrongly.
“Again, our members are part of the universities’ larger disciplinary committees and we use those structures to discipline errant members. When these things happen, we don’t condone them. But we also give room for fair hearing because as students are making allegations against lecturers, lecturers too are making allegations against the students.
“So, members of the public must listen to our members and give them fair hearing too.”
Meanwhile, the management of UNILAG has been challenged to make reports of investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against its lecturers public.
The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, made the appeal in a statement to commemorate the 2019 International Day of the Girl Child.
The UNILAG management had earlier said it had commenced investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against two of its lecturers, Dr Boniface Igbeneghu of the Department of European Languages and Integrated Studies, Faculty of Arts, and Dr Samuel Oladipo of the Department of Economics, Faculty of Social Sciences.
The President, MSSN, Lagos, Saheed Ashafa, expressed concern over the abuse of female students.
He noted that no sanction would be too harsh for indicted lecturers.
He urged the management of the institution to ensure that justice prevailed with regards to the allegations against the lecturers.
Ashafa stated, “On the specific matter of sex-for-grades, we posit that all extant and emerging cases must be duly and justly prosecuted without any fear or favour to all parties involved. (Reports on) investigation into pending cases must be made public when concluded. Higher authorities must supervise and ensure that justice prevails.
“We are deeply disturbed by the plethora of abuse to which our girls are being subjected, especially in Nigeria. We wish to emphasise that no sanction is too harsh for teachers or lecturers, who coerce students into sexual ‘contract’.”
Ashafa described the continuous bullying of female students in schools and higher institutions as worrisome.
According to him, many students are denied their fundamental human rights in schools.
He said, “Violation of their rights to education, freedom of religion, thought and expression has become worrisome and highly depressing.
“It is pertinent to note that many of our girls are bullied by apparently more powerful teachers across the levels of our educational system in the country. The perception that restricts sexual abuse of girls to only higher institutions of learning is half-truth.
“Government and its agencies must protect all girls from the various forms of oppression they pass through in the process of being educated. Avoidable emotional trauma being inflicted on our girls must be stopped forthwith.”