By Ikenna Obianeri
Some students of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, on Thursday, staged a protest around the school over alleged sexual harassment and intimidation in the institution.
The aggrieved students, mainly females, called on the Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Charles Esimone, to release the Prof. Obi Oguejiofor panel report which indicted some members of staff.
As a result, they also petitioned the Federal Government to intervene to protect them against incessant sexual harassment which they claimed had been rocking the school in recent times.
The students wondered why nothing had been done to those indicted in the panel report.
One of the students, who gave her name simply as Ugonna, said, “The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, set up the Prof. Obi Oguejiofor panel to look into cases of sexual harassment when he assumed office, but before then, other panels had been set up that tried and equally indicted the culprits, yet, nothing was done.
“Why are they not being punished or sacked? Why is the VC sitting on and hiding the Oguejiofor panel report? Even the married women among us are not free from harassment,” she added.
In their remarks, the students threatened to make the institution ungovernable if the Vice Chancellor and the management failed to sack the indicted lecturers within two weeks.
Reacting to the development, some of the lecturers who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed fears that if nothing was done to their “randy” colleagues, the students would continue to be molested.
One said, “This issue has become an everyday affair in UNIZIK and the VC has refused to act on it.
“The ugly thing about it is that when the issue comes up, the indicted lecturers will go and start rolling on the ground before the VC and he will pardon them. They will now start boasting that nothing will happen. It’s so unfortunate.
Another opined, “The students, we believe, got the morale from the University of Calabar issue where the HoD was suspended and they are now querying why the same treatment cannot be given in UNIZIK.”
It was gathered that the school authorities had summoned a meeting of all the heads of departments and principal officers on Thursday to deliberate on the sexual harassment issue.
In a memo to that effect signed by the Deputy Registrar, Ogonna Nwokeke, and sighted by our correspondent, all the principal officers of the department will be meeting at noon to deliberate on the development.
Although the Vice Chancellor recently admitted to having such an issue in the institution, he said his management had stepped up in fighting the menace.
He said one of the lecturers in one of the departments in the school was sacked recently in the Law Faculty as a result.
Every effort to get the reaction of the Vice-Chancellor of the institution proved abortive as his telephone line did not connect.
However, when contacted on the development, Emmanuel Ojukwu, the Media Aide to Esimone, confirmed that the school had set up a sexual harassment committee which is treating the matter “very strictly”.
Ojukwu added that the bottleneck in tackling the issue of sexual harassment in the institution is that the students who levelled the allegations don’t usually come forward to testify before the panel.
He said, “We have a sexual harassment committee headed by a professor and UNIZIK is very strict when it comes to protecting students. If there is any case of sexual harassment, it will be treated very strictly and there will be consequences.
“First and foremost, there is no protest going on, maybe, there are some students silently agitating over one issue or the other.
“All cases of sexual harassment that were known to the institution, the institution has brought the culprits involved before the panel and cautioned them by giving them letters of warning and removing them from any official position they were holding.
“The reason for this is that the institution wanted the students who made the allegations to come forward, but they refused, so that is the hindrance. You know, the university has to be careful so that it does not miscarry justice, because if the lecturers concerned go to court, it will be a liability on the school.
“This is because the students who lay complaints don’t usually come forward to testify and what the institution has done is to warn the lecturers pending when the students would come to testify.
“The VC is meeting this afternoon with all the staff concerned to warn them that any act of intimidation or harassment will not be tolerated,” he concluded.