Richard Akindele’s sacking holds lesson for others

In a strong statement that lecturers who abuse their powers on campus would no longer have a field day, the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife last week dismissed Professor Richard Akindele, a senior lecturer in the Department of Accounting, for gross misconduct after he was found liable for sex-for-mark scandal with a postgraduate student, Miss Monica Osagie. According to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Eyitope Ogunbodede, the Joint Committee of Council and Senate of the university which probed the allegation against the professor recommended his dismissal. It is a commendable decision by the OAU authorities.

While demanding sexual gratification for marks from students may be a more blatant manifestation of the moral decadence that has afflicted the nation in recent years, there should be no excuse for such irresponsible behaviour from those who are paid to teach our children. Yet, for years, this social malaise had straddled our tertiary institutions, threatening the future of many female students who are usually held to ransom by ignominious randy lecturers, intent on having illicit sex with them. In several cases, many of these female students have had their academic carrier extended, and sometimes truncated, because of their refusal to succumb to such demand for sex.

Ordinarily, the internal rules and regulations of the tertiary institutions would have been sufficient to rein in these sexual abusers. Unfortunately, the malaise is so endemic that even those at the highest levels of most institutions are believed to be neck deep in the unwholesome practice of demanding sexual gratifications for marks. In several instances, heads of departments to whom students report the harassment; and members of panels to which the reports were referred for investigation, were themselves involved in the abuse. That then explains why for years, gangs of sexual abusers who acted as though above the law have been allowed to operate freely on the campuses of most institutions of learning in Nigeria.

It is indeed very depressing that the campuses of our institutions of higher learning ordinarily considered as sane and safe havens for the acquisition of knowledge and inculcation of character have been taken over by predators who are paid to impart knowledge. In the instant case at Ife, Ogunbodede said the lecturer acted in a way that is seen to have compromised his position as a teacher and examiner given the manner he was negotiating with Monica about examination scores and inducement of favour for the alteration of examination scores. “He offered to change Miss Osagie’s purported 33% result to a pass mark in consideration for sexual favours, this was established in the audio recording which he admitted,” the statement said.

However, beyond the dismissal of the randy professor at Ife, it is time for the National Assembly to revisit the “Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution: Prohibition Bill, 2016” which was passed by the Senate in 2016 but still awaits the concurrence of the House of Representatives. Although the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) opposed the bill at the time, we consider it important as it prescribes a five-year jail term for lecturers convicted of sexual harassment of their male or female students. In the alternative, anyone found guilty of the offence is liable to a fine of N5 million. The bill also protects innocent lecturers by prescribing suspension or expulsion for any student who is found by a court of law to be liable for false accusation.

While the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, has done the correct thing regarding Professor Akindele, it is important to recognise that there are many lecturers like him on our various campuses. This is the time to begin to call them out!