Richard Akindele deserves what he got

In a bid to put an end to what has become an epidemic of shame on the campuses of institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, Justice Maureen Onyetenu of the Federal High Court in Osogbo, Osun State, on Monday sentenced a former Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) lecturer, Richard Akindele, to two years in prison for demanding sex for marks from a student. With that, the professor becomes the first university lecturer in the country to secure a jail term for sexual harassment of students. We hope the sentence will help to deter other predators on our campuses.

Akindele, a senior lecturer in the Department of Accounting, had been dismissed in June this year by the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife for gross misconduct after he was found liable in the sex-for-mark scandal involving 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.

As we have stated on this page on several occasions in recent years, while demanding sexual gratification for marks from students may be a more blatant manifestation of the moral decadence that has afflicted the nation, 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 randy lecturers. 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.

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. 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 Akindele saga, the Ife authorities said the lecturer acted in a manner that compromised his position given the manner he was negotiating alteration of examination scores in exchange for sexual favour.

Arraigned on 19th November by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) on four counts of alteration of age and demanding sex to pass his student, Akindele had changed his plea in the course of the trial. But the trial Judge rejected a suspended sentence and plea bargain which the defendant’s counsel, Francis Omotosho, argued for, on grounds that such leniency should be premised on public interest. “The menace is getting to secondary and primary schools. I am a pastor and a counsellor. I know the mental torture many of our female students have been subjected to by the likes of the respondent. The adverse effect of such action is huge. Many of his likes have been awarding marks to those students that are ready to warm their beds, thereby releasing half-baked graduates into the society,” Justice Onyetenu said.

While no statement can be stronger than the one made by Justice Onyetenu, it is important to recognise that there are many lecturers like Akindele on our various campuses who abuse their powers. This is the time to begin to call them out!