As the campus of the Edo State-owned Ambrose Alli University in Ekpoma boils with tension over the sex-for-grade scandal there, the lawyer to the 400-level Mechanical Engineering student at the centre of it, Judith Okosun, today told SaharaReporters that not only had the authorities of the university and the police had been aware of the scandal since July 21 2010, they had tried to cover it up.
This assertion is contrary to the statement made by the university Public Relations Officer to Saharareporters last weekend that they didn’t know about the scandal until it was published on the Internet. The state government then instructed the authorities to probe the incident immediately, and to report by today.
Ms. Okosun’s Benin-based lawyer, Tom Oaikhinan, told Saharareporters that as soon as the incident happened on July 17th 2010, the authorities were alerted to it. He said the police stepped in took statements from both the student and Professor P.O. Otubu, the lecturer who is at the center of the sexual harassment allegation.
He said as soon as the case was brought to his attention he called on Mr. Otubu ascertain what had happened. The lecturer, he said, was unwilling to discuss any details; he wanted the case settled without any further investigations.
Mr. Oaikhinan stated further that following the publication of the video of the encounter; the police turned around to demand of his client a further statement. But he said he resisted and instead wrote a petition to the Edo State governor, who is the Visitor to the university, this morning.
Narrating to Saharareporters what transpired, he said Judith had not given in to the sexual advances of the professor at all, contrary to the impression that has been circulated that he slept with her before. “What happened is that when engineer P.O. Otubu failed her in his course, Judith and her classmates went to meet him to ask why he failed her in her course but he wouldn’t allow others into his office, requesting instead to meet my client (Judith) alone in his office. He asked her for her phone number and told her that she will pass the course if they can become romantically involved.”
Mr. Oaikhinan added that after the lecturer had obtained his client’s phone number, he started sending a series of amorous text messages to her and pestering her. “When Judith would not give in, he promised to see her in her room to change the marks. But my client was frustrated, and planned to expose the harassment. When he came into her room, he started getting aggressive with her, leading to a scuffle that attracted other students to the scene.”
Asked why the lecturer was forced to sign a cheque under duress, he said it was never under duress, stating that he signed the cheque for Judith in order to get away with his crimes of sexual harassment. He said Mr. Otubu promised N500, 000 to Judith to buy her silence and that the N100, 000 cheque was his down payment. “The cheque was Judith’s strong evidence that the lecturer was in her room and tried to buy her silence after she protested against his antics, and the police in Ekpoma have the cheque as we speak,” he told Saharareporters.
Continuing his account, he said that after Judith resisted his attempt to force her, he tried to flee the scene naked, but that the other students didn’t let it happen because they want to put an end to chronic problem of sexual harassment in the university. The lawyer disclosed described Judith (who is his own niece), as an “honest and ambitious” student who went to study engineering in order to prove the point that females can do great things in life. He lamented that “randy lecturers” in Nigeria’s higher institutions of learning simply ruin the lives of the young female students and “our chauvinistic society provides support by claiming that my client was a cultist, kidnapper and extortionist.”
Saharareporters also spoke with the police public relations officer, Peter Ogboi, but he denied that the case was ever reported to the police, claiming that only an anonymous caller made him aware of the case on Friday night. Asked if the police prosecutes cases of sexual harassments in the state, he denied any knowledge of any active or rested case, but quickly added that students are free to come to the police to report cases of sexual harassment.
When our reporters reached the Chairman of the Ambrose Alli University branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Sunny Ighalo, he said the lecturer in question had not reported any case to the union, but admitted that his union was aware of the video since it had appeared on the internet. He further confirmed that the police had begun investigations. When we asked to speak with Engineer Otubu, he said he didn’t have his phone number.
Mr. Oaikhinan however said that Judith response to a query sent to her by the university authorities would have to follow the outcome of his petition to the governor. He promised to protect his client and urged other female students with similar experiences to speak up.