Two female students of Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic accuse HOD of sexual harassment
Two female students of Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic Unwanna, Afikpo in Ebonyi State, have accused their HOD of sexual harassment.
The ladies who are said to be Higher National Diploma (HND II) students of Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Oko Janet Osinachi and Egwu Gladys, alleged that the institution’s Head of Department of Marketing (HOD), School of Business Studies, Ezumah Chris Obi has invited them to hotels at different times with the intent to sleep with them, before he would pass them in his courses and their final year projects which he is supervising.
While the HOD accused of sexual harassment has denied the claims, and further disclosed that the students chose to meet him at the hotels and that nothing close to their allegations ever happened, the two female students of Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic recounted their ordeal to a News Telegraph Correspondent.
22-year-old Janet who was admitted to the school through direct entry, said;
“I had my ND at the Federal College of Agriculture, Ishiagu in Abakaliki.
When I resumed to the Unwana Polytechnic and I went to the Department for registration, I was directed to see the HOD in the office, and after necessary courtesies, he asked for my number which I gave. “Ever since then, he kept calling me but I was always avoiding him. I was shocked when I checked my result in the course he took us in Second Semester in HND I, which was Distribution and Management Logistics, and I failed the course. But, I didn’t go to him to complain, so I repeated the course this year.”
When it was time for Project Writing Course in First Semester of HND II, Janet said the HOD grouped her among those he would supervise, and then there was room for close contact again. She further narrated: “Like my other colleagues, I suggested my project topic, but the HOD cancelled it. I went with another one the second time, he still cancelled it. He then advised me to write on my file that I was requesting him to help me with a project topic. And, I did just that.
When I took my file with the request to him, the HOD then told me that he would speak with me on phone. So, later that evening, on March 21, 2018, he called me on phone and said I should see him at P-Noble Hotel in Afikpo, some kilometres away from Unwana. Even though I was shocked, I summoned courage and went.
“When I got there, he asked me where I was coming from. I lied to him that I was coming from home and that I live with my parents. I said I was cooking for my mother that day. I lied so that he would know that my mother would be waiting for me to finish the cooking. Then, while still there he sent the topic to me on my phone.
“He then told me that I failed his course in First Semester and I said yes. He said I caused it and that if I had complied I would not have failed. I said I was sorry. He said as the HOD he has the power to make the decision either to let me graduate or not. He said he was giving me the last chance and that if I failed to give him chance this time, he would treat me like a stubborn fly.
That was the exact statement he made. I said okay sir. Then he told me that there was a burial ceremony he wanted me to accompany him to at Ohofia in Abia State the following day. I told him it would be difficult because I didn’t know what my mother would say. Then I lied to him that my mother was calling me and so I had to go.
The following day, I sent him a message that I could not make it because my mother did not agree that I should go. He did not reply the message.” According to Janet, on another day, the lecturer called her around 10am to see him at another place called Maria Island Resort, which is said to belong to popular American returnee in the community, Maria Nwachi nee Egwu, who is also known as “Afikpo Chic.” On getting to the resort, she said she was directed upstairs to the compound and that as soon as she entered the room, she saw the HOD sitting on a chair. She added: “Before setting out to meet him, I told my elder sister who kept monitoring me.
She initially said I should not go because we already got to know that the HOD was living at the resort. At that stage I didn’t want to involve my parents because I thought it was something I could handle by playing him and that he would forget it. So, he asked me to sit and I sat on the bed but near the door.
He started to discuss with me, lit his cigarette and started smoking. On my failure to attend the burial ceremony with him, he said I was a bush girl and that why should I have told my mother that I would be accompanying a male lecturer to a party? He said why didn’t I lie to my parents. And, at point I replied I didn’t remember to lie. He said even if he was my mother would he have allowed me? “Thereafter, he demanded for what I had written and I gave the file to him. He looked through and dropped on the bed.
Then, he stood up and was moving close to me, so I stood up and started begging him to forgive him. Then he requested for my phone and that he wanted to delete his number from my phone. I think he thought I was recording him but when I gave him the phone he did not see anything recorded and dropped my phone on the bed. He held my hand and I began to cry and knelt down. He asked me to stand and started telling me how much he loved me and how he would make sure I become the envy of everyone in the school. I then told him I was engaged to my fiancé and told him his name – Ekenna Okeke, a non-academic staffer, who works in Administrative Section.
He was angry and said the guy is a boy to him and that how could I ever thought of ending up with such a man that has nothing to offer me. I told him the guy had been trying for me since and that I don’t want to disappoint him. He then said even if anything should happen, the guy would not know anything. I said no, and that I could not lie to the guy.
“Then because I told my elder sister before coming, she started calling me and I said my mother was calling me. He then said I should touch him and I said no. Then he held me very tight and said I should not open my mouth. As soon as I wanted to cry out, he said everything was over and deleted his contact on my phone.
He said I should never disturb him again and that henceforth, he would start treating me like an enemy.”
Janet who disclosed that the HOD refused to check her project and usually shouts and chase her out of his office when she comes for correction, was able to complete the work with the help of other lecturers without the approval of the supervisor.
Gladys who not progressing in her project work also approached her to know why. Upon interaction, they discovered they were enmeshed in same issue. Gladys disclosed that her own ordeal began after the lecturer started asking her out, just after she enrolled for her National Diploma in 2013.
“He collected my GSM number and was always calling on phone. One weekend he called me and said I should come and spend the weekend with him. He said did I know who was speaking and he introduced himself, and said I should be prepared to come to wherever he was to spend the weekend with him but I refused. So, since then he didn’t disturb me again.
She said they never had anything together until she returned for her HND programme in 2017.
She explained: “When I returned for my HND and he was already the HOD, he told me if I remembered that we had an unfinished business and that he believe that I am already mature enough now. Then he collected my number and each time he called he would ask me to meet him in his apartment and I would say okay, but I would not go. “So, when we were grouped for project supervision, I found myself in his group and then came another round of troubles. While attending to others he would always chase me out of his office.
“When I discussed with one of my lecturers I was advised to honour his invitation so that we could even know what he wanted. So, sometimes in September this year, I went to him at the Maria Island Resort. As soon as I sat down, he wanted to grab me, I stood up and said I was not well.” Meanwhile, when the HOD refused to present the duo for Project Defence between November 6 and 7, they came together and began to cry profusely. While crying, some of the lecturers advised them to take the matter up. Janet recalled:
“Those lecturers, who I wouldn’t want to mention their names, advised me that if I have anybody to run to I should do so on time, and that without that, the man would deal with me as he had vowed. So, I had to call my elder sister, Mrs. Ada Chioma, a business woman, who graduated from the school.
She came around and in the process the Deputy Rector (Academics), Elder Ibiam, got to know and told me to make it official.”
Gladys also explained that her elder brother, Mr. Ogbonna Egwu soon learnt of the development and called the HOD and that the lecturer became incoherent on phone.
“He told my brother that I paid my school fees late and that was why he didn’t allow me to defend my project. But my brother said I was one of the first to pay fees because he was the one that paid for me,” 26-year-old Gladys said.
The incident was reportedly shared on Enugu based Dream FM Radio Station, and it compelled the institution’s management to commission three lecturers to quickly assess the two students’ projects and grade them without the external supervisors.
Following the deputy rector’s advice, both Janet and Gladys also submitted written petitions dated November 7, to the management of the institution through the Offices of the Dean, School of Business Studies and the Dean of the Students’ Affairs. Meanwhile, when New Telegraph spoke on phone with the HOD on Friday evening, November 30, he said he was not comfortable discussing the matter at the time because he was at a conference, but denied the allegation.
He said: “My reaction is that I don’t think they are correct. They said they didn’t defend their project or what? Well, like I said before, I don’t think such thing was the problem. Such thing never happened.
“Did I invite her to a hotel or she sought to see me on her own? I think I am not really comfortable to discuss that right now because I am at a conference. I said I am not comfortable to talk now, I am at a conference. So you can call me on Tuesday.”
The Rector on his own part said:
“About three weeks ago, and precisely on November 9 when I was leaving Afikpo to lead the Polytechnic Bursar to World Accountants Conference in Sydney, Australia, I received a call that something like that was happening and I said I would be coming back the next day and that when I come back I would know what to do.
“But, as I was coming back and I was at Owerri, heading back to Afikpo, I received another call that there was a radio programme discussing the same matter. However, I must say that we have laid down procedures in the polytechnic. If a female student claims she has been sexually harassed or otherwise, she should first of all complain to the HOD, but if the HOD is involved she should complain to the Dean of School, and Director of Academics and then the Deputy Rector (Academics).
If there is a formal complaint, it would form the basis for us to take action. “If she doesn’t want that channel, she can go to the Dean of Students’ Affairs and put her petition down in writing and from that channel it would get to me for further necessary action.
“As we speak, it is over three weeks now and I have not got any formal complaints about it. I could not have just reacted to what is on social media and begin to investigate. So, I won’t say I have not heard about it, but not formally. I did not listen to the phone-in programme on the radio but people who listened to it told me.”
It was gathered that Janet who was informed of the Rector’s stand on the allegation, had on the same day sent a text message to the Rector to complain and followed it up with an official petition, however the Rector remained silent
The Rector’s perceived nonchalant to the matter, it was learnt, might have confirmed some lecturers’ position, alleging the management is incapable of looking into the case because HOD is a relationship of the wife of the Rector. Some of the lecturers, who craved anonymity, confirmed the promiscuity of the HOD, who they said hailed from Arochukwu community in Abia State.
“His family members are settled abroad and he lives very recklessly here in Nigeria. Many students have suffered in silence under him, and he has given bad name to polytechnic. But, who dare talk? He is untouchable,” one of the lecturers said..