Saturday, June 22, 2024
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Prof. Ndifon, Dean, suspended by Unical authority following female students speaking out against sexual harrasment and intimidation

The need to have a sexual/harrasment register for lecturers or persons who work within the academia who enable the abuse of the rights of women and girls across secondary and tertiary institutions in Nigeria has become imperative in line with the VAPP Act (Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act) with a clear mandate given to NAPTIP (National Agency Trafficking of Persons) coming on the heels of the investigation into Prof. Cyril Ndifon.

While the University of Calabar management has proactively addressed the allegations of sexual harassment issue, it should be noted that, although Prof. Cyril Ndifon was suspended over the same issue in 2015 and reinstated, it begs the question of whether due diligence was carried out in the first instance based on rigorous anti-harrassment policies and protocols, or if it was a case of miscarriage of justice against the female students who spoke up against the violation of their human rights.

It should also be noted that two academic staff from the University of Abuja were recently dismissed due to sexual misconduct.

Sexual harassment and sexual gender violence is fast becoming endemic in institutions across Nigeria.

But what do you think can be done to discourage sexual misconduct on campuses as we read further on the decision taken by the authorities of University of Calabar against Prof. Ndifon?

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar (UNICAL), Prof. Florence Obi, has suspended and relieved Prof. Cyril Ndifon of his position as Dean of the Faculty of Law.

He has also been barred from entering the university’s campus except he is invited by the panel to be constituted to investigate various allegations of sexual assault against female students.

The suspension notice was conveyed in a letter dated August 17, 2023, and signed by the registrar of the university, Gabriel Egbe. The letter said he was suspended for alleged violation of the provisions of the extant laws and policies of the institution. Prof Ndifon, the first Prof of law from the state, was first suspended in 2015 by the school over a similar allegation of sexually assaulting female students.

VC: Students of Unical.

The letter said his suspension came as the Vice Chancellor was dissatisfied with his response to a query over the allegations. Part of the letter read, “Please refer to our letter Ref UC/REG/DISC.45A dated August 14, 2023, on your alleged violation of the provisions of the extant laws and policies of the University and your response to the said letter which was dated 16th August 2023.

“The Vice-Chancellor has gone through your written representations and is not satisfied with your explanations. She has therefore directed that you should be relieved of your position as Dean, Faculty of Law and placed on suspension while the matter is referred to a panel that will be set up to investigate these allegations. The relief of position as Dean, Faculty of Law and suspension from official duties takes effect from August 17, 2023.

“You are to hand over all the university property in your possession including all official responsibilities presently handled by you to the Sub-Dean of the Faculty before vacating office. You are to stay away from the university premises except while responding to an invitation from the panel investigating these allegations.”

It would be recalled that Students of the Faculty of Law staged a protest against Prof Ndifon for Sexually abusing female students.

The protesting students carried placards with inscriptions suggesting that their demand was based on the dean’s unbridled sexual harassment of female students.

Some of the inscriptions read “Professor Ndifon, let the girls with big breasts breathe. Stop suffocating us”, “We are tired of sucking dicks”, and “Professor Ndifon must go for our sanity.”

The protest was led by the president of the Law Students Association of Nigeria, LAWSAN, UNICAL branch, Benedict Otu.

Reacting to the students’ protest, Prof. Ndifon described the students’ allegations as “lies” by his detectors intended to destroy his good reputation.

He was quoted by Cross River Watch as saying, “Since I defeated some persons in an election that was keenly contested, to emerge as Dean of the faculty, it hasn’t been easy. I had skipped several booby traps.

“These allegations are baselessly masterminded by my detractor, who had vowed to ensure that my image is dragged into the mud just because I won the faculty elections twice.

“This won’t work. Colleagues of mine who are bent on tarnishing my reputation just to destroy me. The question is where are the victims of sexual harassment? Can someone harass girls without the ladies coming out to raise the alarm that they were sexually harassed?

“For Christ’s sake, I don’t teach Year 2 or Year 1 students, so I don’t know why they have chosen to drag my name into the mud. This was why I said earlier that the allegations were lies, cooked from the pit of hell, just to destroy a reputation that I had spent decades building.”

His plucky defence notwithstanding, the dean was suspended in September 2015 following a petition to the then Vice Chancellor, Prof. James Ekpoke for allegedly raping a student in his private office.

He sued the institution at the National Industrial Court in Calabar in 2016 but lost the case. The following year, he also attempted to stop the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, from investigating and prosecuting him for abuse of office before the Federal High Court, Calabar. However, the case was dismissed by the presiding judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo.

But in 2021, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Florence Obi reappointed and reinstated him as the dean of the institution’s faculty of law.


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