Campus campaigns against rape and assaults intensify

For many years, cases of sexual harassment and rape were swept under the carpet by Nigerian universities. But times have changed. Female students, supported by parents and civil society groups, are hitting back and universities have introduced rules to combat sexual assault.

Two recent, controversial cases of alleged rape involving academics have attracted media attention. They have jolted university authorities and civil society, prompting institutions to take measures to prevent reoccurrence.

Appallingly, in the past male students and academics who committed sexual assaults were even hailed by some as ‘heroes’ while female victims were seen as individuals with weak characters.

According to Nuratu Abubakar, a neuropsychologist at a private clinic in Lagos, high profile rape cases abroad – such as recent incidents in cities in India – “have encouraged Nigeria’s female students to speak out on such issues”.

Alleged rape at Calabar

At the University of Calabar in the Niger Delta, police arrested the dean of law, Professor Cyril Ndifon, for an alleged sexual assault on a female student. He was later released.

The case that led to the arrest involved a law student who sat a one-hour test Ndifon had set for students on a Saturday. Two lecturers supervised the test, but 20 minutes before the end the dean reportedly entered the hall and told the students to stop writing.

He allegedly approached the law student in question and tore her answer sheets. As she left the hall, he instructed her to accompany him to his office to copy her answers into another booklet.

According to a statement by her mother, when alone with the dean in his office, the student was raped. She went to the police, where a medical examination confirmed that she had been raped.

Media reported some students accusing Ndifon of demanding ‘sex for grades’ and of attempting to assault them sexually. A member of the university’s governing council, Ndifon was suspended from the body.

Case at Lagos University

At the same time, another alleged rape case occurred at the federal University of Lagos, in Nigeria’s economic capital.

Dr Afeez Baruwa, a project supervisor in the university’s Distance Learning Institute, was reportedly approached by the father of an 18-year-old girl to assist his daughter to gain admission.

It is alleged that in a written statement to the police, Baruwa confessed to having sexual relations with the young woman but said it was consensual. Baruwa looks likely to stand trial.

Last week Lagos University Vice-chancellor Rahamon Bello said that Baruwa was not an employee of the university, and so it could not directly punish him, according to Punch newspaper.

Baruwa had undertaken undergraduate and masters studies in the Distance Learning Institute and had been engaged as a project supervisor, but did not have an office and was supposed to work off-campus.


Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the visitor of all public universities, has ordered the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, or ICPC, to investigate Ndifon and Baruwa for alleged abuse of office.

“The ICPC is involved in this matter on the basis of abuse of office by these lecturers. They would not have had access to those female students if they did not occupy sensitive positions in the university system,” said Ekpo Nta, the ICPC chair.

Geraldyn Ezeakile of the Nigerian Feminist Forum called on the Committee of Vice-chancellors of Nigerian Universities to put in place rules and regulations to protect female students from sexual assaults.

Professor Oluwole Amusan, vice-chancellor of Adeleke University in Ede, announced that the university council had decided to grant the rape victim of Baruwa a four-year scholarship to study the same course she applied for at Lagos in his university.

According to reliable sources, the Academic Staff Union of Universities has ordered its ethics committee to look into the two cases and come up with proposals aimed at preventing recurrences of rape, and appropriate sanctions against the erring academics.