Story by Kunle Falayi - Punch, Nigeria
|Dr. Akin Baruwa|
For nine days, Shola (not real name) was in pain. The abdominal pain she endured felt as if a knife got stuck in her.
She was scared but she had no choice but to endure the pain since she couldn't imagine telling her parents the unimaginable trauma she had been subjected to that led to the pains she was going through.
"How could I face them? How could I tell them that the man they handed me over to, to help process my admission, had raped me?" Shola said.
But then, much as she tried, she couldn't continue hiding her ordeal, especially when the pains had become unbearable. Shola's parents eventually got to know what their daughter had passed through in the quest of trying to become an undergraduate.
Eighteen-year-old Shola is one of the numerous hopeful candidates, wishing to secure admission into the University of Lagos. But her score of 211 in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination fell short of the requirement for Mass Communication, which was her choice.
Her father, who resided in Abesan Estate in Ipaja area of Lagos, had done all he could to ensure that her daughter would become a university student this year but all his efforts seemed to be futile.
"Someone told me to send her UTME registration number. He checked on the university website and said she was not eligible. Not convinced, I went to the school myself to check and it was the same problem.
"I had to start making calls to other universities where she could secure admission and someone told me she they could be helped to gain admission into the Olabisi Onabanjo University with that score.
"As soon as the UTME result was released around May, I informed a friend of mine who lives within the estate, who is a lecturer at UNILAG. I took my daughter to him and he promised that when it was time for the post-UTME examination, he would help her out with the process."
The friend Shola's father mentioned is Dr. Akin Baruwa, a lecturer in the Department of Accounting, UNILAG, who is also a chairman of one of the community development committees of Abesan Estate.
Shola's father explained that when she realised that her result was not being accepted as eligible for Mass Communication, he went back to Baruwa on July 22, 2015 and the lecturer told him to bring his daughter the following morning so he could take her to campus and see how he could help.
"He said they had to take off very early the following morning. I did not suspect anything unusual about that timing because I trusted him. By 4am, I woke my daughter. We prepared and I took her to Baruwa's house. I did not opt to follow them because I trusted him. I did not imagine that anything untoward could happen," he said.
Baruwa and Shola took off from Abesan about 5am. She would later return home by 11am. His daughter was noticeably moody as she came home. Two hours earlier, Baruwa had called the father and told him that he had done all he could but that it did not seem her admission would be possible.
"When he told me that, I believed he had done all he could and told my daughter to come back home," he said.
But it was not the same Shola that home that came back. She was moody and noticeably quiet. She went straight to her room and locked the door.
In company with child rights activist, Mrs. Esther Ogwu, whom the case was reported to by the family, our correspondent spoke with Shola in private to give details of what actually happened in Baruwa's office that day.
It was obvious the girl was trying hard to stay composed. While she spoke, her right hand would go to her lower abdomen occasionally. When asked about it, she explained that she was still feeling some pain, which had reduced a lot since she got treatment.
Shola said on Thursday, July 23, 2015, as her father handed her over to the lecturer, she still did not suspect anything until they got to around Maryland.
"While I was inside the car, he started to touch my hair and rub my head. I was very surprised and I brushed off his hand. He never tried it again till we got to UNILAG," Shola alleged.
According to her, while they were on the way, Baruwa was showing her different parts of town, telling her about places she did not know.
She alleged, "While we were on the way, he asked if I go out at all and I told him I don't usually go out. And he would show me a place and say 'This is Maryland o. You may not know since you don't go out.' Then he took me to the Yaba College of Technology. He drove inside and showed me the place. We later proceeded to UNILAG.
"When we got to his office, it was about 6.30am. The offices in the building were deserted. He said he liked to be early to avoid traffic. He told me to sit on the couch in his office.
"I noticed he was restless. He would stand and go outside sometimes. He asked if I wanted anything, I told him I was fine. He put on the television; I told him I was okay. He put on the air conditioner and I told him I did not want that.
"He had already heated water and made Coffee, which he offered to me. I told him I was okay and really did not need that. He then put the hot Coffee on the table. Later, out of respect, I took the cup and sipped a little. I started to feel drowsy not long after that. I did not know why."
According to Shola's narration, Baruwa later took her to see a female official in another building who examined her documents and explained further that there was little that could be done on her admission.
Baruwa reportedly said she might have to opt for diploma.
Shola claimed that when they went back to his office, the lecturer kept her document on his table.
She said, "He kept standing and moving around the office. Later, he went outside and when he came back inside, he locked the door and kept the key on his table. I did not know what was happening.
"A moment later, he told me to pick up a paper for him beside the couch. As I bent down to pick up the paper, he pushed me into a corner of the couch and held me down as he forcibly removed my trousers and underwear."
Our correspondent asked at this point if Shola made any attempt to shout to alert anybody nearby.
She claimed that she actually screamed but that the way he held her down did not allow her voice to be as audible as she had wanted it to be.
Shola claimed, "If people were around the office, they would have heard me shout. He held me down, and pulled down my trousers and underwear. I screamed and begged him to leave me alone but he did not.
"After he had his way, he released me. As soon as I pulled up my trousers, I grabbed the keys to the door and rushed out while he was dressing up. He was walking behind me as I walked downstairs from his office. He said nothing as I walked away crying. He later went back."
Shola's father told our correspondent that he had been able to secure a place for her to write her post-UTME examination for an admission into OOU but the young girl has refused to go.
When our correspondent asked Shola why she refused to go, she said "How can I be sure that this same thing would not happen there? I don't know anybody there. If it happens again, where would I run to?"
Our correspondent tracked down Dr. Baruwa a day after speaking with Shola and he gave his version of the encounter.
According to him, he indeed had a sexual encounter with Shola but it was "consensual."
The lecturer, who seemed to be in his early 40s, told our correspondent that he made the mistake of not doing enough to resist the temptation of 'sleeping' with Shola.
Speaking with our correspondent in the front of his house out of earshot of his wife and two children, Dr. Baruwa said, "I swear to God that the girl agreed to everything that happened. She was a chatty girl, who did not show any shyness.
"It is true that I took her to YABATECH and showed her places. What is not true is that I deliberately took off from home because of any plan to do anything bad to her. I took off from home that early to avoid traffic.
"When she was in my office, she was the one telling me to be free with her. I realised that I needed to lie down a little and did not want my shirt to be rumpled. When I pulled it off, she even told me not to mind her presence that since it was my office, I could do whatever I wanted.
"When we first got to the office, she lay on my chest and was even playing with my manhood. That was why I could not resist it. After we came back from seeing the woman who was supposed to help with her admission, she was about to go when I told her to give me a hug. It was that which now led to the actual sexual encounter.
"When I realised that I could not resist her, I had to tell her to let me put on a condom. The truth is that, while I was putting on a condom, she stood by and waited. I did not actually penetrate. When she was saying 'it's enough, it's enough' and complaining that her tummy had started hurting her, I stopped."
Baruwa explained that Shola's father had sent a cryptic text message to him (days later when he learnt of what happened to his daughter), saying that he had learnt of what he did to his daughter.
"I know I betrayed his trust but nobody would understand it was consensual. I would have reached out to him to beg him if I think it would solve the problem," he said.
When told that Shola went through more than a week of excruciating abdominal pain, Baruwa explained that if Shola left him the day of the encounter with any sign of hurt, he would have reached out to her to find out how she was doing.
Two days after our correspondent spoke with Baruwa, he was arrested by the police and the case is being investigated at the Isokoko Police Division, Agege, Lagos.
The case has also been reported at the Office of the Public Defender under the Lagos State Ministry of Justice. The Director of the OPD, Mrs. Omotola Rotimi, said the case would be followed to its logical conclusion.
Director of the Esther Child Rights Foundation, Esther Ogwu, a social worker handling the case, said when the case was first reported to her, the health of the girl was her immediate concern.
She said, "I had to refer them to the Mirabel Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Lagos so that she could get comprehensive treatment. This case is just another reason for girls and young women to be cautious of the issue of sexual assault.
"I believe this lecturer had been doing this in the past. It is necessary for girls to be aware and know what to do when in a potentially dangerous situation where they may be assaulted.
"I don't expect him (the lecturer) to admit that he raped her. I knew he would say it was consensual, but I suspect that this is not the first time he would do such thing. Let the law take its course because we don't know how many other girls are being saved because this case is coming out to the public."
Baruwa was arraigned before an Ikeja Magistrate's Court, Lagos on Thursday. He has been remanded at the Kirikiri Prison.
UNILAG, I was also a victim of sexual harassment
Written by Olabisi Deji-Folutile
UNILAG, I was also a victim of sexual harassment
Written by Olabisi Deji-Folutile
I am a product of the University of Lagos and proudly so too. I feel good when I introduce myself as an ex-Akokite. I naturally align myself with anyone working for the progress of my alma mater and resist anything that could tarnish its image. That was why I joined other great Akokites to resist the unpopular decision of former President Goodluck Jonathan to rename the university. And I'm glad we succeeded.
For me, securing admission to the 'flagship' of Nigerian universities was no mean feat. I did not only burn the midnight oil, I tried 'burning' some in daylight just to get in. My cousin who was a UNILAG student then had told me that the university was very competitive. He said I needed a minimum of nine points in my Advanced Level result to qualify for admission. God's grace coupled with my hard work helped. I got 11 points. So I had a smooth cruise to my dream university.
However, whatever fond memories I have of my alma mater now are sometimes marred by the ugly incident of sexual harassment I was forced to endure on campus. Of course it is always good to bury our painful pasts in the ocean of forgetfulness, because that is where they actually belong, I sometimes struggle to do so. I feel a gush of disgust whenever I hear about cases of rape or attempted rape on any campus in the country. So you can imagine how saddened I was when I read reports of a teenager raped while seeking admission to UNILAG.
To think that an innocent teenager could be defiled within the walls of a university community is sickening. And seeing that all that the university could do in this case was to simply disown the lecturer alleged to have perpetrated the heinous act is shocking. Shortly after the university's denial of any deal with the rape suspect, another lady, now married, accused the same lecturer of attempting to rape her.
It is ridiculous that at a time when universities across the world are thinking of better ways to handle cases of sexual harassment, the best UNILAG could do to protect its own students is to engage in unnecessary defence almost to the point of stupidity.
In my time, there were no official channels of reporting erring lecturers. All I could do was to ask some people to appeal to my lecturer to leave me alone. Unfortunately, some of the people I asked to help me told me to give my lecturer what he wanted. It was that bad.
Though I was not raped, I was seriously harassed if you consider what constitutes sexual harassment in universities in other climes. For example, in Harvard, any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive, that it interferes with or limits a person's ability to participate in or benefit from the university's education or work programme or activities is defined as sexual harassment. My supervisor refused to guide me through writing my final year project because I did not allow him to sleep with me. Imagine that.
UNILAG was setting up a panel to investigate a case that it had technically denied existed. To help the university in facing reality for the sake of others who are probably suffering in silence, I would like the authorities to know that I was a regular student when I was sexually harassed on its campus. My lecturer then was a full-time lecturer. And despite being desperate for help, I couldn't get any.
There is no point playing the ostrich in this matter. UNILAG cannot afford to bury its head in the sand. Sexual harassment is not peculiar to Nigerian universities. It is a well established phenomenon. It happens even in well-established universities all over the world. A recent survey by the Telegraph in the UK found that one in three female undergraduates has some experience of sexual assault while on campus.
Also, a survey of 2,126 students of Cambridge University by the Women's campaign last year found that more than three quarters of the students had experienced harassment while 30 per cent said they had been sexually assaulted. At Egerton University in Kenya, at least two female students are said to drop out of school yearly due to the problem of sexual harassment.
The only difference between universities in the developed ones and the ones in Africa is that while they are taking pragmatic steps to solve the problem, African universities are pretending as if it does not exist. But the earlier the students are protected, the better for everyone.
Both Harvard and Cambridge have well documented policies on sexual harassment. They consider it a serious offence. Everybody is well-protected - both the lecturers and the students. Apart from their well- articulated policies, they also provide counselling services for traumatised victims. In spite of these provisions, their students are still complaining and they are asking for better policies. They think what the universities are using as working documents should be reviewed in conformity with the latest dynamics of the problem. To them, the policies are 10 years out-of-date.
Nigerian universities should emulate their counterparts in the developed world by formulating policies and procedures for responding to cases of sexual harassment. They should establish formal channels of communication where students can report cases of harassment.
Students should know where to go for help when they are harassed by randy lecturers. They should have access to names, emails and phone numbers of people that could be contacted when in trouble. Victims should also be assured of being protected and that they will not be victimised.
Nigerian universities should understand that those who engage in acts of sexual harassment are not likely to stop unless they are challenged. If the lecturers know that their jobs would be on the line if caught, they will exercise some caution. But as long as they think the system is there to protect them, they will continue to perpetrate this heinous crime against women.