It’s unfortunate Women Affairs Minister threatened female students not to speak up against sexual abuses Prof Ndifon – UNICAL Vice Chancellor

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar (UNICAL), Professor Florence Bisong, has raised the alarm over threats by the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy Ohaneye, to the female students of the university who were testifying before the panel investigating allegations of sexual harassment against the Dean of the institution’s Faculty of Law, Professor Cyril Ndifon.

The Vice Chancellor said that the leaked audio of the minister threatening to personally jail a female student if she does not keep off the case is a disturbing dimension to the ongoing probe.

This comes after SaharaReporters reported how the minister, in a leaked telephone conversation with one of the female law students who are claiming to have been raped by Prof. Ndifon warned the student to keep off from the case or she (the minister) would personally send her to jail if she lies against Ndifon.

SaharaReporters had reported that among other things, the minister had told the female student on the phone, “If your VC makes you to go and lie against somebody, you will go to jail, trust me. I want you to be very careful because your future is at stake. You can’t join anybody and maltreat a fellow human being and equally nobody wants you to be maltreated…

“I have contacted your VC, I don’t know what her plans are, I don’t want to quote anybody, I don’t equally want to condemn anybody or judge anybody.

“But I want you to be very careful because this thing is going to prove fire. If I were you, as you have already said to me, nobody raped you, nobody sexually harassed you, keep off from this case if I were you.”

But Vanguard reports that while speaking in her office on Friday on the leaked audio threat by the minister, the UNICAL VC said while the School’s management was trying to deal with the issues within procedural laws and administrative resolution, the minister’s audio threat to institute legal action against anyone who lies before the panel crept up, bringing a completely different angle to the matter.

Prof. Bisong said, “A new dimension has unfortunately reared its head in a way that has left us nonplussed with the leaked viral audio of intimidation and jail threats from the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Uju Kennedy, on a few girls who were bold enough to come out to testify on an alleged age-long sexual harassment of female law students against Professor Ndifon.

“While I do not consider it expedient to respond to the disturbing audio, I wish to generally state that the students of the Faculty of Law on their own wrote and submitted a petition and protested against the suspended Dean. And as I know, those who have testified before the panel on both sexual harassment and other violations were not prompted by anyone.

“The University should rather be commended for being on the right path, which is directed towards academic excellence, and creating an environment that is key to their survival in an “oppressive and dominant patriarchal culture that yields little or no space for women”.

According to the VC, Prof Ndifon was being investigated on a plethora of issues and not just sexual harassment and it is hoped that at the end of the investigation, the outcome will be helpful to the University and society at large.

She noted that, “to demonstrate the Management’s interest in ensuring an objective, unbiased investigation, we accepted the request from some agencies and groups to serve as observers. Consequently, on the panel are representatives from Public Complaints Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Nigeria Bar Association, Nigeria Police, Federation of Female Lawyers and University of Calabar Alumni

“We thought we were giving our colleague a fair opportunity to defend himself by instituting an investigative panel, and at the end, if he is found culpable, he will be brought before a disciplinary panel headed by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics”.