Wednesday, October 23, 2019
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‘Sex for grades’ culture in West African universities exposed

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A BBC documentary titled ‘Sex for Grades’ has exposed the extent of systematic sexual abuse against female students in West African universities. Although cases have been reported they are almost always dismissed due to lack of evidence causing an endemic that has left students vulnerable and unprotected.

A new undercover BBC report titled, ‘Sex for grades’ has verified allegations of sexual misconduct in some Ghanaian and Nigerian Universities. Led by BBC reporter Kiki Mordi, who as a university dropout due to similar instances knows first-hand the devastation of sexual harassment, goes on to reveal the under belly of the region’s most prestigious universities.

After gathering dozens of testimonies, BBC Africa Eye sent undercover journalists posing as students inside the University of Lagos and the University of Ghana.

The documentary details that, University policies typically forbid lecturers from having sexual relationships with students when they are in a position to influence their education or career. Additionally, flirtatious behaviour is considered misconduct.

However, this does not stop them from harassing female students and forcing them into compromising situations. In the documentary we see instances of derelict educators brazenly soliciting, pushing and threatening for sexual favours from the seemingly vulnerable students.

Professor Boniface Igbeneghu, a Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts; and a former Sub Dean of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), who also happens to be a Pastor at the Foursquare Gospel Church could be seen in the documentary trying to sexually harass a BBC reporter posing as a 17-year-old.

In the portion of the documentary where the Prof. appears, he is seen pouring a glass of wine for the undercover journalist, before instructing her to, “Switch off this light. Lock the door. I’ll kiss you for a minute.” he then goes on to share stories of how lecturers sexually molest female students in the University Staff Club.

“There is the upper part of the staff club where lecturers romance students. They take girls there, touch their breasts and body. They call it Cold Room…”

Another educator, Dr Paul Kwame Butakor of the College of Education, University of Ghana, was also seen in the footage, applying to be a potential female student’s ‘side boy’.

In the documentary he is recorded saying, “How many guys have told you are beautiful today? Let me be your side guy. Men have side chicks… Maybe you’ll be my side and I’ll also be your side,” Dr. Butakor said.

He then went on to offer the undercover student a National service work placement in his department even though the deadline the deadline for applications had passed.

Read: George Weah is Guilty of Not Doing His Job As President of Liberia.

Institutional reactions

The expose had forced the University of Lagos (UNILAG) into ‘action’. The university issued a statement saying, Management at its emergency meeting of October 7th, 2019 suspended Dr. Igheneghu from work immediately and barred him from the university academic areas while the suspension subsists… In addition to this the University management has ordered a shutdown of the Staff Club ‘Cold Room’ mentioned in the documentary for further investigation.

“As a reputable institution and one of the foremost Universities in Nigeria and Sub-Sahara Africa, we are highly embarrassed by these allegations and we will do all that is necessary to ensure that this menace is checked in our institution.”

The Foursquare Gospel Church has distanced itself from Professor Boniface Igbeneghu actions saying in a press release, “The general public is hereby informed that as a holiness and Bible believing church, we do not condone such heinous and unscriptural act among our ministers. We totally dissociate ourselves from the purported conduct of Dr. Igbeneghu and promise to take appropriate measure as soon as the ongoing investigation is concluded.”

“Meanwhile the pastor in question has been asked to step down from all ministerial assignments.”

Individual reactions

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar joined other Nigerians in condemning the culture of sexual abuse saying on his twitter page, “I have just read the story on #SexForGrades across public tertiary institutions in many West African countries. This is unacceptable and requires systemic strategies to put a deterrence to such behaviour.”

“As a society, we cannot allow a trend that is psychologically abusive to young women to thrive. In fact, that’s a direct opposite of what a sound educational system represents.”

First Lady of Ekiti State, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, also said during the exclusive screening of BBC Africa Eye undercover investigation documentary that she suffered sexual harassment as an undergraduate in the university.

I was also a victim of sexual harassment in my university days, but I was lucky not to have given in to the demands of sexual predators. While watching the BBC’s undercover investigation, I cried and laughed. I cried at what the young ladies were passing through at the hands of lecturers and I also laughed at the audacity these sexual predators have.

I think it is time to speak out and also support victims of these atrocities. This has to end.

She went on to urge states and higher learning institutions to create a robust sex offender register to not only shame sexual predators but also prevent them from going on to be perpetrators in other places.

Watch the full documentary here:

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