In a year-long investigation due to be released on Monday, a BBC Africa Eye investigation, using undercover reporters posing as students, has revealed how female students are blackmailed and sexually harassed by male lecturers in exchange for better grades and mentorship.
The BBC invited PREMIUM TIMES for an exclusive viewing as well as an interview with Kiki Mordi, the lead reporter of the investigative documentary on Sunday.
The award-winning Africa Eye team focused its investigation on two of West Africa’s leading universities – the University of Lagos and the University of Ghana – to expose how the epidemic of sex for grades have left several victims traumatised for years.
The documentary also focuses on how lecherous academics target the most vulnerable female students – those struggling with studies, seeking admission or in search of mentors.
Through the use of secret cameras, the undercover reporters captured the gut-wrenching and cringe-inducing dialogues of four predatory lecturers from both institutions as they attempted to cajole and manipulate the undercover journalists into engaging in sexual acts with them.
Perhaps the most shocking case of the four instances of sexual harassment featured in the documentary was the case of Boniface Igbenegbu, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Arts of the University of Lagos, who tried to manipulate an undercover reporter posing as a 17-year-old girl seeking admission into the university.
According to laws of Lagos State, where the age of consent is 18, Mr Igbenedu qualifies as a paedophile.
Mr Igbenegbu, who happens to be a pastor of Foursquare Gospel Church, a church with more than 8 million members worldwide, was identified as a known sexual predator on campus, and he left no one in doubt about his notoriety as he started making conversations of sexual manner during his first meeting with the undercover reporter. On their second meeting, he was asking the reporter details of her sexual history while promising not to tell her mother.
His case also highlights how randy academics groom students for sexual gratification. Mr Igbenegbu first offered himself as a spiritual and academic mentor. But on subsequent meetings with the undercover journalist, he threw caution to the wind, relentlessly cajoling the reporter into engaging in sexual acts with him.
In one such meeting, Mr Igbenegbu, who has been a lecturer in the university since 1992, in a flippant manner, justified sex for grades, thus revealing how normalised the menace has become in the academic community.
The documentary also included an interview with one of Mr Igbenedu’s former students who said she was abused for several years by the academic who also promised to pass her over to another of his colleagues after he was done with her.
The Cold Room
Unaware that he was being filmed, he also revealed how lecturers take female students to a sanctuary of some sort inside the university’s Senior Staff Club, nicknamed the ‘Cold Room.’ He described the ‘Cold Room’ as a dimly lit room where lecturers engage in forms of casual sexual acts with students.
Mr Igbenegbu even attempted to re-enact what happens in the cold room in his office with the undercover reporter, by switching off the light and inviting her to kiss him.
The case of Samuel Oladipo of the Economics department of the University of Lagos shows how university campuses are viewed as a place where female students are easily ambushed for predatory academics. While he was not specifically targeted by the Africa Eye team, he approached the reporter, Kiki Mordi, while the team was reporting on the university campus, and made sexual advances towards her with the promise of helping her with her studies.
Mr Oladipo then invited her to the Cold Room and subsequently made sexual advances at her.
“My wedded wife”
At the University of Ghana, popular academic and political commentator, Ransford Gyampo, promised to help the undercover journalist with her postgraduate studies and national service. No sooner had they met, he promised to marry her. He took her to a mall, where he bought her shoes and asked her if she has been “violently kissed” before.
He also referred to the undercover reporter as his “wedded wife”. When confronted by the BBC, Mr Gyampo, a professor of Political Science, denied he was manipulating the undercover reporter. He said he calls all his female staff his “wedded wife” and accused the BBC of entrapping him.
Paul Butakor, a lecturer in the College of Education of the University of Ghana, repeatedly begged the undercover reporter to allow him to be her “side guy”. Showing her his wedding band, he told her that his wife was out of the country. He said if men could have “side chicks,” then a lady could have a side guy.
“A source of change, a voice for voiceless young women”
PREMIUM TIMES also spoke to Ms Mordi, the lead reporter of the documentary, who herself had suffered sexual harassment as a university undergraduate for two semesters until she was forced to quit when she could no longer bear the trauma.
Ms Mordi drew a parallel between sexual exploitation in the society and sexual exploitation in universities.
“There is a line that can be drawn from the society hypersexualising young female students, from sexual harassment to seeing them as a pool of young guys to be exploited using power influence or whatever.
“If it happens in a small space where lecturers see them (female students) as meat, people in the larger society also see them as meat,” she said.
When asked what she hoped the documentary will achieve, drawing from her own experience, she said she hopes the documentary will be a voice for voiceless young girls.
“I see a new sense of commitment. It was a lot of work from a lot of fine journalists from Nigeria, from Ghana, we all work together to produce this piece, I feel confident as well, I am hopeful that it will be a source of change. I am also hopeful that it will be a voice for a lot of voiceless young women. Someone like myself a couple of years back who didn’t have anyone to stand up for her.
“I will have to admit that working on it was really hard. I had to confront a lot of personal things but it was very necessary. I have come out on the other side renewed. I am not a new person entirely, but I am a refreshed person. I have healed. In a sense, it was very important for me to go through this process which in a sense it was hard. It was very very hard but it made me confront some of my own personal demons.
“I just had to remind myself that I was woman, I am used to placing everything behind me and used to be this person who is a robot doing her job but this was peculiar for me because I had to remember I was a human being and I have to accept that I actually did go through it. It was me. Not just Kiki Mordi, the journalist, it was Kiki Mordi, the person,” she said.