The probe panel set up by the University of Calabar to investigate allegations of sexual harassment of female students, misconduct and abuse of office by the suspended Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof. Cyril Ndifon, has adjudged him guilty of “gross misconduct.”

In a report of the panel obtained by CITY LAWYER, the panel “established the serial violations of some of the extant rules and regulations.” The report is titled “REPORT OF THE PANEL SET UP TO INVESTIGATE ALLEDGED  (SIC) MISCONDUCT, SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND ABUSE OF OFFICE LEVELLED AGAINST PROFESSOR CYRIL OSIM NDIFON, SUSPENDED DEAN OF FACULTY OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF CALABAR.”

The panel was regaled with accounts of sexual harassment by 10 current and former students of the university, even as one of the witnesses, a 200-level student, told the panel that the suspended Dean told her that “she would be answerable to every sexual call put across to her….” CITY LAWYER participated in some of the panel’s hearings via the Zoom platform.

According to the report, “Prof. Ndifon called her to come to the office the next day and when she came, he locked the office and brought out his penis and told her that if she sucked his penis, he would accept her into the Faculty. After much pressure from the suspended Dean and feeling frustrated, this survivor gave in and sucked his penis and almost got choked as Prof. Ndifon held her head while forcing his penis into her mouth.”

The panel report also contains details of “24 mobilized students for law school Admission whose results were not cleared,” indicating that the Nigerian Law School list from the university may have been rigged by the suspended Law teacher.

In one instance, the panel stated that “This candidate’s name is not in the screened list of the final year law students. However, she is mobilized for law school.” In another case, the panel stated that “Further (name withheld) did not take Jurisprudence a core course but is mobilized for law school.”

On “Major Misconduct,” the panel “established that the suspended Dean, Prof. Cyril Osim Ndifon was using his official position to both intimidate and bargain for sexual favour from female students in the Faculty of Law.”

Turning to “Gross Misconduct,” the panel “established that the suspended Dean had been involved in students’ exploitation. Elaborately, he had been perpetrating cruelty against students by forestalling the graduation of especially some female students at the appropriate time by withholding and refusing to release their results and threatening some that they would never graduate from the Faculty or go to the law School.”

The panel also “established that the suspended Dean was compelling the law students to pay for a Faculty Journal that was non- existent for three consecutive academic sessions.”

The panel recommended “That the suspended Dean of law should face the statutory Disciplinary Committee of the University of Calabar for appropriate sanctions applicable to acts of both Major and Gross – misconduct. The panel makes this recommendation in view of Prof. Ndifon’s antecedents in the Faculty of Law, which from the testimonies given by both staff and students are in clear violations of the extant rules and regulations governing the conditions of service of staff of the University of Calabar. He has used his position as a lecturer and his position as Dean of the Faculty of Law for non- edifying purposes, frustrating, traumatizing and jeopardizing the future of some of the students, as well as the lecturers.”

It also recommended that “The suspended Dean should be made to refund over three million naira (N3m) realized from the payments made by the law students for the Law Journal which he neither published nor gave to the students.

“That the acting Dean should without delay arrange internal defense for Barrister Anne Eruegi Agi to defend her Ph.D and encourage same to put in for promotion in the next promotion exercise.

“That the university should make a rule to stop lecturers from asking students to come and see them at odd (after official) hours and if need be, encourage the culture of not locking their offices when consulting with students. This is consistent with global best practice.

“The university should bend backwards so as to come to the aid of some law students who have been roaming around because of the lapses in the Faculty of Law over the years. There should be a call for such to come for supplementary examinations or mop up. This will go a long way to help the University gain the confidence among stakeholders and prove to the wider society that the University cares and is not indifferent.

“Further steps should be taken to clean up the mess in the Faculty of Law. The seeds of discord planted over the years need to be uprooted. The culture of borderization seems to be entrenched both among staff and students. Such is unhealthy for academic standards, discipline and merit…. It is indeed possible with God on the side of the University for old things to pass away and for everything to become new in the Faculty of Law, University of Calabar, Calabar.”

The report stated that Ndifon “was properly invited thrice by the Panel to come and defend himself but he failed to appear. The invitations were done through written memos, text and WhatsApp messages, as well as radio announcements. The panel had to rely on his responses to the 10 point query issued to him by the University as guidance.”

One of the terms of reference for the panel was “To thoroughly investigate cases of sexual harassment and molestation levelled against the suspended Dean of Law by female students and others who may have felt victimized.” Regarding this term of reference, the investigation panel received sworn statements from students and alumni of the Faculty of Law, University of Calabar, three written and signed statements from other survivors of same. Five alumni gave evidence via zoom while four current students appeared in person and gave evidence as follows ….”

CITY LAWYER recalls that some students of the Faculty of Law had protested alleged sexual harassment and other infractions by the suspended Dean of Law.

Though Women Affairs Minister, Mrs. Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye had told CITY LAWYER that Nigeria’s First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu had waded into the matter, UNICAL Vice Chancellor, Prof. Florence Banku Obi told CITY LAWYER that the university would leave no stone unturned to get to the root of the allegations.

According to Obi who spoke while receiving the report, copies of the report will be submitted to Ohanenye; Education Minister, Prof. Mamman Tahir (SAN), and the National Universities Commission (NUC).

To download the report, click here.

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The United Nations has raised an alarm over widespread sexual and gender-based violence inflicted by Boko Haram.

In its latest report on Torture in Nigeria, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) also expressed concern over allegations of sexual violence against women and girls committed by the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) officers.

According to the report, while the Committee welcomed the adoption of the Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP), it “regrets that it is not applicable in all states yet. It takes note of other administrative interventions of the State party, including declaration of the state of emergency by the governors on gender-based violence, the establishment of gender-based units by the Ministry of Justice, and creation of sexual and assault referrals centres.”

Turning to sexual violence, the CAT said it “remains alarmed by the ongoing widespread sexual and gender-based violence inflicted by Boko Haram and the lack of protection from the reported kidnappings of girls and boys by armed groups between 2014 and 2021,” adding that “The Committee is seriously concerned at the allegations of sexual violence against women and girls committed by CJTF officers, in particular in Bama Hospital and Secondary School camps, and sexual exploitation and abuse in the state-run camps for internally displaced, informal camps, and local communities in Maiduguri, Borno State, and across the northeast.”

On female genital mutilation, the UN Committee said it is “alarmed” that the practice continues to be practised “without any effective steps taken by the State party to eliminate it. It is also concerned at the high rate of maternal mortality often resulting from rape, impeded access to contraception and the criminalization of abortion, except for the purpose of saving the life of the mother, as it pushes women into illegal and unsafe abortions endangering their health and lives (arts. 2, 12–14 and 16).”

On the way forward, the Committee urged the Federal Government “to continue its ongoing efforts to combat all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, especially those cases involving actions or omissions by State authorities or other entities which engage the international responsibility of the State party under the Convention.”

It however stated that the government should “Strengthen efforts to enact the Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Act in its whole territory;

“Take effective steps to protect internally displaced persons, especially women and girls, to prevent and eradicate female genital mutilation and provide protection measures for girls at risk, and ensure effective investigations into all cases of gender-based violence by State and non-State actors, prosecutions and redress to victims, including adequate compensation and access to medical services and counselling, and provide details on those case,” and
“Ensure access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and decriminalize the voluntary termination of pregnancy in cases where carrying a pregnancy to term would cause the woman considerable suffering, where the pregnancy is the result of rape, and where the pregnancy is not viable.”

On death penalty, the Committee noted the 2003 recommendation of a national study group on moratorium of death penalty and the “alleged absence” of executions since 2016, but “regrets that death sentences continued to be pronounced in 2019 and 2020.”

It also noted the enactment of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, in particular section 12(2)(c) that provides for commutation of death to life sentence for prisoners who have spent more than 10 years on death row as well as periodic reviews carried out by the Presidential and State Committees on Prerogative of Mercy.

The Committee however “regrets the lack of official number of persons on death row – some reports estimate 2,700 – as well as details on application of the commutation provision and pardons granted in the whole territory. The Committee is distressed by reports that capital punishment can be imposed in twelve states under sharia jurisdiction for offences, such as adultery, apostasy, witchcraft, or sexual relations between same sex persons, among others, including on juveniles, due to the vague definition of the child by puberty, despite the State party’s statement that death sentence cannot be imposed on person younger than 18 years of age (art. 16).”

To curb the malaise, the Committee urged the Federal Government to “Prohibit immediately the death penalty for all persons under the age of 18 in compliance with federal law, including in the states under sharia jurisdiction.”

It also urged the government to “Commute all death sentences already handed down to prison sentences as provided by the Nigerian Correctional Service Act; consider declaring an official moratorium on the death penalty for all crimes in law in the whole territory; consider ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and, provide details on commuted sentences and granted pardons.”

The UN Committee said it “is deeply concerned about the prevalent use of corporal punishment of children in private settings, such as home and other alternative care, provided for in law (section 295 of the Criminal Code applicable in the southern states and section 55 of the Penal Code in northern states).”

On the Child Rights Act 2003, the Committee regretted that it “has not been transposed in the legislation of all states. The Committee notes particularly the sections 11 and 221(1)(b) of this Act, the former prohibiting torture and ill-treatment and the latter corporal punishment for criminal offences. It is distressed by reports that the former provision is not interpreted as prohibiting corporal punishment of children in the aforesaid settings and that corporal punishment on persons under the age of 18 as a sentence for crime can be still imposed in states under sharia jurisdiction (arts. 1, 2, 4, 11 and 16).”

It urged the Federal Government to “Take further steps to enact the Child Rights Act 2003 in the whole territory, align the interpretation of its section 11 with the international standards, and explicitly prohibit in law and practice the corporal punishment of children in all settings, through acts or omissions by State agents and others who engage the State’s responsibility under the Convention, as a sentence for a crime or for disciplinary purposes.”

The government should also “Promote positive non-violent forms of discipline as an alternative to corporal punishment and conduct public awareness-raising campaigns about the harmful effects of corporal punishment, including of children.”

On impunity, the Committee against Torture noted the “great scale” of allegations and complaints of torture, ill-treatment and gender-based violence by non-State actors and State officials, including police, SARS, military and CJTF, that have been made, “the reports that the police oversight mechanisms, including the Police Service Commission and the National Human Rights Commission, remain ineffective, and the fact that numerous commissions of inquiries and panels at federal, state and military level were established to no avail, the Committee is deeply concerned at the lack of accountability due to a limited number of reported disciplinary measures and criminal prosecutions, which contributes to an environment of impunity (arts. 1, 2, 4, 11-13 and 16).”

It urged the Federal Government to “carry out prompt and effective investigations vis-à-vis the allegations of abuses committed by State and non-State actors.” The government should “Provide comprehensive information on precise disciplinary and criminal punishments handed down against police, SARS, CJTF and military suspected or convicted of engaging in torture, ill-treatment, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, among others, as well as against non-State actors;

“Take immediate measures to ensure the operationalization of effective and independent police oversight mechanism;

“Ensure that the judicial commissions or boards of inquiries are not merely established and used to replace proper criminal justice processes and ensure that there is no institutional or hierarchical relationship between the body’s investigators and the suspected perpetrators of such acts;

“Ensure that, in cases of alleged torture or ill-treatment, suspected officials are suspended from duty immediately for the duration of the investigation, to avoid the risk that they might otherwise be in a position to repeat the alleged act, commit reprisals against the alleged victim or obstruct the investigation,” and

“Ensure that training on the provisions of the Convention and the absolute prohibition of torture is mandatory for law enforcement and security forces personnel, prison staff, medical personnel, judges, prosecutors and lawyers and that the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Istanbul Protocol) is made an essential part of the training.”

The Committee against Torture is a United Nations body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by its State parties. The Committee against Torture is composed of 10 independent experts who are persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights. The Committee is currently chaired by Mr. Claude Heller.