A BBC documentary has detailed a slew of sex-for-grades stories emanating from universities in Nigeria and Ghana through its ‘Africa Eye’ initiative.
“Sex for grades, university professors sexually harassing and blackmailing their students,” the documentary begins in chilling fashion.
A student of the University of Lagos (Unilag) can be seen saying: “this thing has been going on for years. And every single year, every single department. Every single student. There’s always a story.”
Going underground and a Pastor who risked it all
To get the stories of sexual harassment out, BBC reporter Kiki Mordi and her team went undercover, speaking to lecturers and students in Nigeria and Ghana, while arming themselves with body or spy cameras.
Professor Boniface Igbeneghu, a Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts; and a former Sub Dean of the University of Lagos (Unilag), could be seen in the documentary trying to sexually harass a BBC reporter who poses as a 17-year-old, while sharing tales of sex for grades with her.
Boniface is also a Pastor of the Foursquare Gospel Church.
The “17-year-old” wanted placement in Unilag and Boniface, strutting around the place with a pot belly, could be seen asking her to be obedient and telling her there will be consequences if she doesn't continue to see him afterwards.
“I can call you to come any day and if you don’t come, I know you are gone,” the Unilag Professor threatens.
Dr Paul Kwame Butakor of the College of Education, University of Ghana, was also seen in the footage, applying to be a female student’s ‘side boy’ or ‘assistant boyfriend’.
A serial offender?
According to the BBC, students of Unilag have long alleged that Prof Boniface was in the habit of sexually molesting and abusing students, applicants or freshers for grades.
“He’ll tell you to come to the office and he’ll lock the door,” one student says of Boniface.
Another female student of Unilag laments that “nobody wants to believe victims. Nobody wants to do anything. It is crazy. I know a lot of people have been abused.”
Prof Boniface could be seen telling the undercover BBC reporter shortly before wrapping her in a forced embrace: “Do you know I’m a Pastor and I’m in my fifties? What will shock you is that even at my age now...if I want a girl of 17, all I need is to sweet-talk her. I’ll get her.”
One student says of Boniface: “He was preparing for Bible study, he was groping me and writing down scripture…”
After pouring a glass of wine for the undercover journalist, Boniface was seen saying: “Switch off this light. Lock the door. I’ll kiss you for a minute.” And then he smacks his lips and 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…,” Boniface shares.
When he switches off the office light, he wraps himself around the journalist and makes to kiss her. When she stiffens, he asks her not to be afraid and then lets out a wicked guffaw as she emerges from the bathroom.
On one occasion, as the undercover journalist asks why it is seen as normal for ladies to have sex with lecturers for grades, Prof Boniface says: “Is she not paying for it..with her body?”
Denial and statements
According to the BBC: “Dr Butakor vehemently denies any amorous behavior with our reporter or any student, saying he follows all university harassment and misconduct rules. He says he had no intention of dating her or circumventing university process to secure placement for her in return for sex.
“The University of Ghana says it considers allegations of misconduct leveled against Dr. Butakor to be extremely disturbing. It has a proactive policy on sexual harassment and is committed to rooting out the problem.”
For the Unilag professor, the BBC says: “Despite repeated requests, Dr. Boniface has not responded to the allegations against him.
“Unilag told us it dissociates itself from the alleged behavior of Dr. Boniface and that it has a zero tolerance towards sexual harassment. It did not comment on the so called ‘Cold Room.”
Not a new thing
Allegations of sexual harassment in Nigerian Universities have been around for decades and almost every graduate of the nation’s institutions has a story to tell on the disturbing subject.
In 2003, Nigerian rapper Eedris Abdulkareem did a song on the malaise which he called “Mr. Lecturer.”
There have also been stories in the local press of lecturers sexually harassing students and threatening them with failing grades if they refuse to sleep with them, for years.
Given the prevalence of the sex-for-grades syndrome in Nigerian universities, the Nigerian senate passed a bill criminalizing sexual harassment in tertiary institutions in October of 2016.
The bill which was put forward by Ovie Omo-Agege prescribed a 5-year jail term for lecturers and educators convicted of sexual harassment of their male or female students.
The bill also recommended expulsion or suspension for students whose claims of being serially abused by lecturers or educators are found to be false by any competent court.
In the alternative, the bill also proposed a fine of N5million in the event that the accused person is convicted by a competent court of law.
The bill is however yet to be consented to by the House of Representatives, a step required before it is sent to the Executive for assent.