Why A Female Student’s Victory In The OAU Sex-for-Marks Case Was Necessary

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EducationLaw

Richard Akindele, formerly an accounting professor at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), has taught his last academic class.

He will spend the next two years in prison, after pleading guilty to soliciting gratification and coercing sex from his student in order to improve her test score. The student, Monica Osagie, had agreed to Akindele’s lawyers’ application for a plea bargain. However, Justice Maureen Onyekenu rejected the terms which included a suspended sentence, community service and an option of a fine, per CNN.

It brings an important case to an end almost in record time, compared to typical Nigerian court cases. Beyond that, the episode is significant in some other ways.

Accounting For Predators

OAU fired professor Akindele one month after Osagie’s interview with CNN. The University launched an investigation and, dismissing his claim that the student tried to sexually harass him, promptly showed him the door.

Universities are called ivory towers not just because they shrink from sharing their knowledge publicly but also due to secrecy. But in this case, OAU showed an openness and immediacy that is often lacking when students make such reports. A breath of fresh air, to an extent.

Evidence Will Be Believed

Again, OAU confirmed that the voice on the tape Osagie made was Akindele’s. Without that kind of authoritative pronouncement, the ICPC’s prosecution of the case would have been less smooth and less quick.

This was not a case where a mistrial occurred due to tampered or inconclusive evidence. Not everybody in a crime scene (like Osagie’s recorded telephone conversation with Akindele) will have the luxury of initiating evidence-gathering. But anything that can lend near irrefutable credence will always be valuable.

Sending a Message

Justice Onyekenu could have let Akindele do community service, or pay a fine. Osagie had agreed to it and the mere fact of his sack, prosecution and guilty plea would have sent a message. It is arguable that a mildly severe sentence was in the student’s better interest seeing she appears to be, unfortunately, having troubles with employers.

But Akindele got the full thrust of Iustitia’s sword.

As Justice Onyekenu put it, prison time is necessary to cast light on “the mental torture many of our female students have been subjected to by the likes of the respondent”. Nigeria’s epidemic of half-baked graduates, in the Justice’s opinion, has been aided by dark antics such as Akindele’s.

It is not yet uhuru but deviant lecturers across the 36 states will see what happened to a professor in a professional discipline at a first generation school and, hopefully, zip it.

Focus on Education

Majority of academic staff of Nigerian Universities are still on strike, busying themselves with other endeavours. Nearly three of the last 15 months have been spent on strikes. How much education is really done in Nigeria? Besides quantity, though, what can be the quality of education in a hostile environment for women? What is the quality in schools where lecturers threaten male students with failure for being too friendly with the “fish” on their radar?

Interactions between faculty and students should produce scientific knowledge. Education budgets need to be improved, but not for lecturers to be able to seek other inducements to upgrade student’s scores (Osagie’s score of 45 in Akindele’s course was a pass mark).

Lots of water pass under the bridge in the name of insufficient funds. But if lecturers devoted more time to knowledge production and inspiring innovation, Nigeria will be better for it.

An Era for Policies Against Sexual Harassment

Combined with the Market March at Yaba which has started yielding positive results, it feels like the time for an anti-sexual harassment movement has arrived in Nigeria. It’s coming a full year after the #MeToo movement shook mighty tables in the US, but that it’s happening is good news.

Expect government organizations, companies, schools and all workplaces to key by reviewing their policies. OAU gains a somewhat positive image for dealing with this but there are critical profit-and-loss implications when a private company is involved. If this wasn’t the case before, the virality that comes with digital technology and social media will make it so.

Technology-enabled reporting mechanisms will become more mainstream, even if technology can also be manipulated. In any case, this should spur protections running both ways, for women and men, children and adults, victim and accused.

Minimizing drama is important for profits, but also for preserving the value of hard work and protecting individual dignity.

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