The Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Professor Florence Bisong, has raised an urgent alarm over threats by the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Uju Ohaneye to the female students of the institution who were testifying before the panel investigating allegations of sexual harassment against the Dean of the university’s Faculty of Law, Professor Cyril Ndifon.
The Vice-Chancellor described as a disturbing dimension, the minister’s leaked audio message that has gone viral where she was threatening one of the female students with jail, asking her to keep off the case.
The minister in the leaked telephone conversation with one of the girls claiming to have been raped by Ndifon warned the girl that she would go to jail if she lied against Ndifon.
In the audio message, the minister told the female student
Full text of what the minister said as recorded in the audio:
“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. The day I spoke with you, I recorded what you spoke and you told me the whole truth. 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 if she makes you to go there, she is recording whatever you people are saying in that panel and if she records you and I bring my own and get you contradicted and this man has gone to court, my ministry will join them and make you go to jail so that you will be an example to others. So I want you to be very, very careful. You are telling me if your VC permits you before you can come and see me, there is nothing she can do to you, she is not the one paying your school fees. So face your future by standing on the truth at all times. Save my my number, when you have time to visit me, I will find a way to empower you people so that your life will be easier for you. I am a minister, I am above her by position, you know that. So don’t go and do anything that will put you into a very big trouble that will scandalise you in the whole world because this matter has gone far and beyond. Now, I won’t play what you people said to me except when you people try to deny it, that is when I will play it. I will conceal it because it’s something you told me in confidence. So, I am warning you to keep off from lying against anybody”.
Asked about the leaked audio last night, the minister simply said ‘Please, the investigation is ongoing. Let’s allow them to finish their work. Thanks.’
However, speaking in her office on Friday in the light of the minister’s phone call, Prof Bisong said while the School’s management was trying to deal with the issues within procedural laws and administrative resolution, the minister’s audio threatening to institute legal action against anyone who lies before the panel crept up bringing a completely different angle to the matter.
“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 which is key to their survival in an “oppressive and dominant patriarchal culture that yields little or no space for women”.
Prof Ndifon, according to her, 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 added 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 Layers and University of Calabar Alumni
“We thought we were doing our colleague a fair opportunity to defend himself by instituting an investigative panel and at the end if he is found culpable, he would be brought before a disciplinary panel headed by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics”.
Recall that students of the Faculty of law had, last month carried out a peaceful protest alleging that the Dean of the Faculty, Prof Cyril Ndifon, was sexually molesting them while over 15 victims of the said allegations said they were willing to testify against the suspended Dean in court.
Following the female students’ allegations, the Management of the University of Calabar, suspended Prof Ndifon, for alleged violation of the provisions of the extant laws and policies of the institution.
The suspension, conveyed in a letter by the University Registrar, Mr. Gabriel Egbe, took effect from August 17.
According to the letter, the suspension came on the heels of the Dean’s response to a query earlier issued to him by the University Management. Dissatisfied with his response, the Vice Chancellor, according to the letter, has relieved Prof. Ndifon of his position as Dean and placed him on suspension, while the matter was referred to a panel
‘Stay away from UNICAL’
The letter read: “Please, refer to our letter Ref UC/REG/DISC.45A dated August 14, 2023, on your alleged violation of the provisions of the extant laws and policies of the University and your response to the said letter, which was dated 16th August, 2023. The Vice-Chancellor has gone through your written representations and is not satisfied with your explanations.
“She has, therefore, directed that you should be relieved of your position as Dean, Faculty of Law, and placed on suspension, while the matter is referred to a panel that will be set-up to investigate these allegations.
The relief of position as Dean, Faculty of Law and suspension from official duties takes effect from August 17, 2023. You are to hand over all University property in your possession including all official responsibilities presently handled by you to the Sub-Dean of the Faculty before vacating office.
You are to stay away from the University premises except while responding to an invitation from the panel investigating these allegations,” management stated.
Professor Ndifon was first suspended in 2015 but was later reinstated after police gave him a clean bill after investigation.
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