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UNIZIK Students Take a Stand: Protest Against Sexual Harassment and Demand Release of Panel Report from VC

Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, witnessed a fervent display of dissent on Thursday, as a group of students orchestrated a protest against the alleged culture of sexual harassment and intimidation deeply entrenched within the institution’s fabric.Primarily comprised of female students, the protesters directed their demands towards the institution’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone. Their foremost request was the immediate disclosure of the findings from the Prof. Obi Oguejiofor panel, a report that reportedly implicates certain members of the university staff in wrongdoing.Simultaneously, the students issued a petition to the Federal Government, imploring its intervention to counteract the persistent wave of sexual harassment they claim has inundated the campus in recent times.Curiosity shrouded the students as they questioned the lack of action taken against those implicated in the Oguejiofor panel report. Expressing their perplexity, Ugonna, a student, highlighted the Vice-Chancellor’s establishment of investigative panels to address sexual harassment cases, yet lamented the apparent lack of tangible outcomes or punitive measures against the accused individuals.Ugonna emphasized, “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.”The atmosphere grew charged as the students, with a sense of determination, issued a stern ultimatum to the Vice Chancellor and the administration. Their ultimatum outlined a two-week window for the termination of employment for the lecturers implicated in the scandal.Reacting to the mounting tension, a number of lecturers, who chose to remain anonymous, voiced concerns that unless swift action was taken against their “misbehaving” colleagues, the cycle of harassment would persist unabated.One lecturer revealed, “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.”Adding to the discourse, another lecturer noted, “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.”Amidst these escalating tensions, the university administration took steps to address the matter. A summoned meeting of department heads and principal officers convened on Thursday to deliberate on the gravity of the sexual harassment issue.In an official memo signed by Deputy Registrar Ogonna Nwokeke, a noon meeting was convened to delve into the situation’s complexities.Although the Vice Chancellor acknowledged the presence of the problem within the institution, he asserted that his management had escalated efforts to combat the menace. He cited the recent dismissal of a lecturer from the Law Faculty as evidence of the institution’s action against perpetrators.However, reaching the Vice Chancellor for further comment proved unsuccessful, as his phone line remained unresponsive.In response to the unfolding events, Emmanuel Ojukwu, the Media Aide to Esimone, confirmed that the university had established a rigorous sexual harassment committee to address the matter with utmost gravity.Ojukwu acknowledged that one of the chief challenges in addressing this issue is the reluctance of students who make allegations to come forward and testify before the panel.He stated, “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.”Clarifying the ongoing situation, Ojukwu noted, “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.”He elaborated that this cautious approach was due to the students’ reluctance to testify, as the university sought to avoid potential legal entanglements.In conclusion, Ojukwu emphasized, “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.”


Ademola Adeyemi

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