Alleged Sexual Harassment of a Student by a Lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University
Pursuant to Section 2(f)(i) of the Consumer Protection Council Act
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has keenly followed a raging controversy regarding the sexually and emotionally abusive conduct of demanding, and or providing sexual gratification in exchange for favourable grades in school.
Although the widely discussed controversy underscores an allegedly pervasive practice, the current specific subject of discussion now, is a leaked and widely circulated audio clip that appeared to have captured a telephonic conversation or “negotiation” between a female student and a member of faculty at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife. The audio clip has been authenticated and both the member of faculty and student/victim identified.
The Council notes the prompt and urgent actions taken by the authorities of OAU and commends the responsiveness so far displayed, in addressing a rather insidious and predatory incident.
The Council further welcomes the expressed commitment of OAU to an open and transparent investigation, as well as the promise to publish the outcome of the investigation. The Council encourages OAU to ensure this investigation is broad, balanced and inclusive.
To promote confidence, equity and fairness, the Council recommends that OAU authorities, in handling this case, include people and views from all relevant stakeholders including faculty, professional disciplinary bodies, student representation, relevant civil society specializing in sexual harassment, gender objectification, consumer protection and relevant institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission and the Council.
Further, the investigative process must encourage both identified and anonymous contributions, while protecting the identities and confidential information of the courageous people who will provide information that assists the investigation where so desired by any informant, contributor or testifier. In addition, the authorities must provide necessary safeguards that, such persons are not otherwise victimised, “blacklisted” or subjected to any reprisal on account of their cooperation with the investigation.
A transparent, comprehensive and decisive approach to a matter of this nature is vital for reputation and quality of education. Failure to fully and sufficiently address the issue compromises the entire institution and victimizes not only the students who are directly solicited, induced or compelled, but others who decline, and those who are not considered or propositioned, because educational outcomes skewed by such factors operate to the disadvantage of all, especially where class rank is a factor in evaluating performance.
All relevant authorities in OAU and other institutions must assiduously address this conduct, or others ancillary to it in order to restore institutional reputation and ensure that students, being consumers of educational services, are able to pursue scholarship in institutions and on campuses that provide safe, secure and liberal environment where the relationship between faculty and students leads to robust and confident knowledge sharing.