There are fresh twists to the allegations of sexual harassment rocking the Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic in Ebonyi State as reported last week. While the victims are crying out over threat to their lives, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project SERAP has petitioned the Minister of Education and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). However, the management of the polytechnic is yet to take any definite action on the matter.
Following last week's exclusive report by New Telegraph about sex scandal at the Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwanna, Afikpo in Ebonyi State, the two female students involved — Oko Janet Osinachi and Egwu Gladys — have raised the alarm over sefety of their lives.
The students, who accused a lecturer and Head of Department of Marketing, School of Business Studies, Mr. Ezumah Chris Obi, of sexually harassing them and subjecting them to other forms of abuses, are now crying out for help over alleged threat to their lives and an atmosphere of insecurity around them.
On December 4, the New Telegraph had exclusively reported the allegations against Obi, who was alleged to have consistently invited the female students to hotels at different times and attempted to sleep with them without success.
As a result of their refusal to cooperate with him, the lecturer had allegedly denied the students the opportunity to defend their projects before external supervisors and insisted they would not graduate from the school except they agreed to sleep with him.
But, following the publication, the lecturer and some of his allies, including students of the institution, have continued to mount pressure on the two students to withdraw their petitions on the matter, which were addressed to the management, promising that doing so would not affect their studentship.
This is as the institution’s management, led by its Rector, Venerable Ibe-Enwo Ogbonnia, has failed to take any definite action on the matter two weeks after the report was published, and despite the fact that copies of the students’ petitions on the matter were forwarded to him.
Meanwhile, the Rector had claimed the victims hadn't lodged an official complaint on the matter, hence the institution could not act.
However, two weeks after acknowledging receipt of the petition through our reporter, all that the Rector has done is to invite one of the female students, Oko Janet, to his office for confirmation of the contents of the petition.
The second victim, Egwu Gladys, said management was yet to either invite her for briefing or reply her petition, which she claimed was submitted as far back as November 7.
The students said apart from receiving strange calls from unknown sources on the matter, their guardians had also been receiving calls from allies and friends of the accused lecturer, who were threatening them to advise their wards to withdraw the case.
They also claimed they had been attacked by some of the institution’s students, with a warning to desist from bringing down their lecturer.
They added that some other persons had blamed them for crying out loud, saying they had tarnished the image of the institution by their action, and that they should have just carried their cross without bringing the name of the polytechnic into disrepute.
Janet said: “It has been very difficult for us since the matter was reported in the newspaper. While some commended us for being brave enough to cry out, others have particularly attacked us for tarnishing the image of the school.
“There have been many stories about us with some even tongue lashing us for our action. But each time I wanted to regret my action, my spirit tells me that my integrity as a woman matters and anything suffered in the defence of this integrity cannot be too much to bear. I am only bothered about my security because there have been several strange calls on my phone and strange movements around me.”
She recalled how one of her classmates called and began to talk rudely to her, condemning the decision to make the matter public, adding: “But my mother took the phone from me and warned the caller very seriously. In fact, I have since deleted the person’s number from my phone.”
In her case, Gladys explained that a certain individual had called her mobile line, claiming he was a secret police officer investigating the matter and asked her to meet him at a specific location.
“I was surprised and I had initially agreed to meet the person at 2 pm the following day. But when I discussed with my family members and guardians, we agreed not to meet anybody anywhere,” she explained.
However, in fresh twist to the matter, a non-governmental rights group, SERAP has petitioned the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and ICPC to urgently intervene in the matter.
In the petition signed by its Senior Legal Adviser, Mrs. Joke Fekumo, SERAP urged the Minister to, as a matter of urgency, ensure that the allegations are properly investigated and reports of the investigations made public.
It noted that the rising cases of sexual harassment on the campus calls for urgent attention of the ministry and other relevant stakeholders, saying if not urgently addressed, the fate of female students will continue to hang in the balance.
Fekumo said: “On Thursday, two letters were sent out on the matter. One was to the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu and our prayer was that he should urgently commissioned full investigation into the allegations of the issues of attempted rape, sexual harassment and intimidation of the two female students. We urged the Minister to use his good office to ensure that these allegations and all other forms of human rights abuses are impartially investigated and that anyone found guilty is punished.
“We also urged the Minister to ensure adequate protection for the safety and security of the two students, and that he should ensure an end to sexual harassment and victimisation of the students by the lecturer (Obi). We also pleaded with the Minister to take urgent step to address these issues.
“The second petition was addressed to the ICPC Chairman and we copied the Rector of the polytechnic the two letters. The case of sexual harassment is part of other offences captured in the Acts establishing the agency, and we feel the speed with which it intervened in the case of the OAU should be replicated in this case. Apart from relying on the New Telegraph report, we also interacted with the female students and captured all these in our letters.”
Meanwhile, when New Telegraph called the Rector, he said the institution was following due process on the matter, but he refused to say the specific steps so far taken on the matter.
In fact, text messages sent to his mobile phone were not replied.
Similarly, the accused lecturer refused to pick our reporter’s call and did not reply messages sent to his mobile line for his comments and to clarify his rumoured suspension as the HOD by the management.