Soiled Ivory Towers: Nigerian campuses as haven of corruption

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* How lecturers, management, students trade in crime

Nigeria’s tertiary institutions, expected to be the home of ethical values and moral uprightness have, surprisingly, steeply degenerated to havens of corrupt practices. From sale of examination questions, sexual harassment to direct cheating in examinations and fraudulent contract awards and procurement processes, among others, the institutions are now better described as cesspits of debauchery. In this report, MOJEED ALABI, presents with graphic details, how the development has contributed significantly to the dwindling fortunes of the education sector in the country and consequent breeding of unemployable graduates.

Rachael Bakre (not real name) was one of the many students of the Department of Creative Arts, Faculty of Art, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, who, dressed in white T-shirts, trooped out en masse on Tuesday, June 25, 2013, to publicly accuse their lecturers of sexual harassment, victimisation and corruption.

Bakre, a 100 level female student, in Visual Art, described the protest as an “explosion of a bottled-up anger,” saying she had been a victim of sexual harassment in the department.

“The protest was a good opportunity for me to yell at two of my lecturers who had tried to abuse me. One teaches Music while the other takes Drawing, and it all happened during my first semester on campus.

“The Music lecturer would ask us to come to his office to buy his text book in person, instead of the usual practice of giving them to our class governor. That day, because we were already aware of his antics, I went there with a male friend who I had instructed to barge in five minutes after I had entered if he did not see me.

“Expectedly, I was standing right in front of the man in the office and rather than bringing out the list for me to write my name and pick a copy of the book, he kept staring at my chest, uttering some stupid things. Before long, he stood up and was approaching me. Just as he was about sitting on his table to face me, my friend barged in, shouting; “come out, come out,” as if we were late for an appointment,” Bakre narrated.

“The Drawing lecturer had asked me to come to him anytime I would be free for about five hours, and I wondered what I would be doing with a lecturer for such a long period of time. Because I did not honour his invitation, he scored me “C” in his course while someone I used to teach Drawing got “A.” But I am unfazed,” she added.

These and many other instances had informed the sudden protest by the students including males and females; the development that caught the management of the university unaware.

In its response, the university set up a sixman fact-finding panel headed by Prof. A. I. Mowete of the Department of Electrical Engineering. Mrs. Aderonke Ademola of the Faculty of Business Administration is the Secretary of the panel with four other professors from other faculties such as Law, Sciences, among others, as members.

The panel, which has three weeks to submit its report, is to look into various allegations of misconduct against some staff of the department; to look into the remote and immediate causes of the students’ demonstration; any other cause or related matter on the management of the Department of Creative Arts and Courses or Programmes of students and to consider any other related matter referred to it.

The immediate past Registrar of the institution, Mr. Oluwarotimi Shodimu, in an interview with National Mirror, said if something close had not happened the students wouldn’t have come out themselves the way they did.

“Many lecturers often make claims of being harassed by students too but I fault the lecturers because they are more mature and should know how to deal with such temptations. I can tell you that the university will deal with any individual found guilty of the allegation,” Shodimu stated.

The scenario painted above is just a tip of the iceberg consideriang the high rate of corruption being perpetrated on campuses including those regarded as faith-based where a lecturer told National Mirror that; “Holy lands are not after all wholly holy.”

At the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, in Osun State, Shola Lawal, a Masters student of the Department of Economics is very unhappy that his being the best in his class during his graduation in 2008 on the same campus could not yet earn him job offer.

His anger was ignited by the fact that his classmate; Dominic Grace (not real name) who was discovered to have been helped by a lecturer to jack up her grade from Third Class to Second Class (lower division) now works with the university’s teaching hospital, also in Ile-Ife.

Investigation by National Mirror revealed that Dominic was one of the many students of her set who benefited from the “magnanimity” of their course coordinator, who for reasons best known to him manipulated their marks to avoid making them repeat a year.

The crime, which involved an Economics lecturer (name withheld), developed into a major issue that led to the sack of the lecturer in question, but the beneficiaries’ results were never recalled.

The lecturer, a PhD certificate holder, described by the university as one of its best young brains, was discovered to have collected nothing in return for the criminal act from the students but had done it to avoid mass failure.

After four years of thorough investigations, he was found culpable of the crime and eventually sacked, but National Mirror investigations revealed that he has since found his way back to the university system with his absorption into the University of Lagos as a senior lecturer in the Social Sciences.

At the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, Adebisi Raphael (not real name), a 300 level student of the Department of Educational Management, in the Faculty of Education, avoided registering for a course; Administration of Primary and Secondary Education, because according to him, the character of the course handler (name withheld) was questionable.

According to Raphael, merit is strange to his class. “It is an open thing in his class. In fact, each grade has its price; N5,000 for “A” while “B” is N4,000. And my mates are so used to it that they do not see anything wrong with it.”

National Mirror’s investigations revealed that the lecturer is just one of the many corrupt officials in the 30-year-old state-owned university. In fact, one of the former students of the Department of History and International relations on the campus narrated the story of one lecturer, a Phd holder (name withheld) in the department and concluded that; “As long as we have the likes of him in our society, and especially within the academic system, we have no hope in this country.”

The former student, who prefers anonymity, narrated how this lecturer would boast in class that since his former lecturers were too strict with him, no student would pass through him without paying through his nose.

“He would give you exams that do not relate to what he taught you, just to make sure his students failed. And expectedly, whenever we went to check results, there would be mass failure, then his agents would approach us to pay certain amount of money. Once you pay and you go back to check your results, you are sure of good grades,” he explained.

According to findings by National Mirror, the situation is worse in most of the Eastern and Northern academic institutions where sales of examination questions, sexual harassment and the resultant effect of violent cultism are found to be very rampant.

At the acclaimed Nigeria’s largest university, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, one Prof. David Kolo was recently dismissed from the institution for sexually harassing one of his female students.

The dismissal followed the endorsement of the recommendation of a disciplinary committee set up to investigate Professor Kolo of ABU’s faculty of education by the governing council of the university.

Kolo was earlier sentenced to two months imprisonment by a court in Jigawa State, after he was found guilty of attempting to force his female student to accept his sex advances. The student, who is a married woman, had through her husband informed security agents.

According to a newspaper report, an impeccable source, close to the ABU’s governing council, said the council had, during its meeting, approved the dismissal of the professor.

“You know the professor was queried by the university authorities but he refused to answer the query. He also refused to honour the invitation of the disciplinary committee that was set up to investigate the issue. The committee was left with no option than to present its report to the governing council after investigation,” the source was reported to have stated.

The chairman of the university’s Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Muhammad Kabir Aliyu, had reportedly stated that ASUU is a responsible organization, and as such it frowns on any act that would demean the association.

“I heard about the setting up of the council committee and the invitation extended to the Professor, but I am not a member. We always advise our members not to engage in acts that would demean their character and that of our organization. Therefore, we are not happy with what the professor did. I am not in town, so, I did not hear about the dismissal,” Dr. Aliyu reportedly said.

Some students of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), in Borno State, who are currently running Masters programme at Uthman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, are experiencing hard times following what some of them described as strict stance of the university’s lecturers, saying, they were not as randy and corrupt as those in UNIMAID.

Similarly, and not long ago, students of Cross River University of Technology, CRUTECH, numbering about 2,000, blocked traffic at Eleven-Eleven Bus Stop on their way to the Government House in Calabar, to register their grievances against what they described as sexual harassment by lecturers on their campus.

The situation was also not that palatable at Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, Edo State, in 2010, when a lecturer in the Electrical/ Electronic Department of the stateowned institution, Engr. P.O. Otubu was filmed while having sexual intercourse with one of his students, Ms Judith Okosun, a 400-level student of the department.

The video was recorded when Judith reportedly found out that Otubu had failed her in a course after she forcefully had sex with him. The lecturer later told Judith that he forgot her matriculation number promising to give her a better grade after another opportunity. An enraged Judith then engaged her friends to videotape an encounter with the lecturer, after she reportedly tried in vain to get the university to intervene on her behalf.

Governor Adams Oshiomhole immediately ordered the university authorities to investigate the matter which led to Otubu’s dismissal.

Very recently too, authorities of Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado-Ekiti, dismissed three of its senior academic staff for alleged offences of manipulation of examination scores and plagiarism, among others.

According to the university’s Deputy Registrar (Information), Mr. Ajibade Olubunmi, Dr. Henry Iwarere of Accounting Department was found guilty of alleged case of manipulation of examination scores while Dr. Funmilola Omolara Agbebi of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences was found guilty of allegation of plagiarism. Dr. Bamidele Amigun of Chemistry Department was accused of failure to return to the university after the completion of his sponsored PhD degree programme in a South African university.

Just as the students of many tertiary institutions have turned into scammers duping both local and foreign victims, the situation is said to be worse at Lead City University, Ibadan, Oyo State and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, also in Oyo State, where many students live in opulence; the product of their fraudulent activities.

A postgraduate student of LAUTECH’s Faculty of Agricultural Science, who currently runs his PhD programme on the campus, said he had to purchase a power generating set for his supervisor before his first degree project could be approved.

In fact, a recent probe panel at a new generation bank in Ogbomoso revealed that many bank officials were conniving with scammer students to receive cash and goods from their foreign victims channelled through phony accounts in the bank.

“In fact, some of us, especially those on foreign transaction desks were sacked while others were suspended,” a bank official who preferred anonymity disclosed.

Apart from the case of sexual harassment, plagiarism and manipulation of grades, recent investigations by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) revealed over 50 other corrupt practices being perpetrated in the universities.

ICPC, in its report, said based on intelligence, petitions, complaints and public comments against Nigeria’s university system, invoked its statutory mandate from Section 6 (b-d) of its enabling law to undertake a comprehensive research which it codenamed; University Systems Study and Review (USSR).

According to the study, which was conducted in conjunction with National Universities Commission (NUC), some of the corrupt practices include non-adherence to the carrying capacity set by the NUC; nonadherence to rules and regulations guiding admission; political interference in the admission process; inadequate funding which encourages universities to engage in over enrolment of students in order to generate IGR; sale of examination questions; writing of examination by proxy and even sales of bed spaces by students, among several others.

The investigation team, led by NUC’s former Executive Secretary, Prof. Peter Okebukola, considered three institutions – University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State; and Salem University, Lokoja, in Kogi State – as test cases based on proprietorship classification of federal, state and private respectively.

“There are other corrupt practices like the delay of students from graduating due to poor record keeping and deliberate victimisation by officials; manipulation of internal examination processes; delay in take-off of lectures and non-completion of syllabus by lecturers; non-adherence to students/lecturer ratio resulting in over-crowding of classes; lack of commitment to work by the lecturers and continued defiance by institutions of the ban on satellite programmes/campuses by NUC,” the report said.

The ICPC Chairman, Ekpo Nta, who expressed surprise at the level of the rot in the university system, said the situation whereby Nigeria’s tertiary institutions expected to be at the vanguard of ethical education to correct the ills of the society have themselves become the haven for corruption was unacceptable.

“And quite unfortunately, sexual harassment seems to rank extremely very high among corrupt practices uncovered in our universities,” Nta stated at a recent media briefing.

The Vice-Chancellor of Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijagun, in Ogun State, Prof. Oluwayemisi Obilade, while lecturing at the Obafemi Awolowo University established the Women Against Rape, Sexual Harassment and Exploitation, following the case of a female student, who was gang-raped on the campus.

Speaking on the rampant cases of sexual harassment against female students by lecturers, Obilade told The Associated Press that her organisation has “helped hundreds of female students and the odd- male – who had been attacked by students or harassed by lecturers,” adding that students had been raped in libraries, reading rooms and in their own dorms.

“Some lecturers see young girls as fringe benefits… We’ve had cases where the girls have complained and the heads of their department have called them and said, “Give him what he wants,” Obilade stated.

However, a lecturer at the Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, Prof. Kayode Soremekun, has rated contract manipulation by university officials as the most dangerous form of corruption affecting the standard of university education in the country.

He said; “Vice-Chancellors keep fleets of cars; appoint many aides and run their offices like typical Nigerian political office holders, awarding contracts without following due process and as a result lowering the status of the university system.”

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Posted in Nigerian Newspapers. A DisNaija.Com network.

Source: National Mirror Newspaper

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