Sex for Grades: undercover inside Nigerian and Ghanaian universities – BBC Africa Eye documentary


Sex for grades.
University professors sexually harassing and
blackmailing their students.
This thing has been going on for years and
every single year, every single department,
every single student, there’s always a story.
We all hear about it.
But it’s almost never proven.
The very first advice I got was don’t ever
go to your male lecturer’s office alone.
It’s as if almost everybody in Nigeria and
Ghana knows somebody who’s been sexually
harassed by a lecturer.
Nobody wants to listen, nobody wants to believe
victims.
It’s crazy.
I know a lot of people that been abused and
nobody’s trying to do anything.
For the past year I’ve been working with
BBC Africa Eye to build a team of female investigators.
For the first time ever, we planted journalists
posing as students inside our top universities
– the University of Lagos and the University
of Ghana – to secretly record men who sexually
harass and abuse your sisters, your friends,
your daughters.
A lecturer will tell her if you don’t sleep
with me I will not give you mark.
Who are you?
It’s about dehumanising your fellow human
being, I mean I’m a human being.
I have rights, to my body.
You will be shocked by what you’ll see.
Professors.
Senior lecturers.
Grooming and seducing students.
When somebody’s trying to pressurise you
for sex in exchange for marks it is a criminal
offence.
My name is Kiki Mordi.
Lecturers who harass their students, I want
you to know.
Africa Eye has been watching.
This is WFM 91.7.
My name is Kiki Mordi and today on the Woman
Agenda we’ll be speaking on sex for grades,
abuse of trust, verbal harassment.
We all hear about it and joining us in this
conversation is Professor Olanrewaju Fagbohun,
of the Lagos State University.
Good afternoon sir.
Good afternoon.
So as the head of a university how severe
would you say the problem of lecturers sexually
harassing students is?
The challenge is much more than what we are
treating it at the moment…
Ok.
…which is why all of us must be on the alert
and all of us must take it very seriously.
Alright.
The challenge is much more.
I take this issue seriously.
I was sexually harassed by a lecturer at university.
It has been happening across West Africa for
decades.
We are dealing with an epidemic here.
You know the thing about sexual harassers
they groom you.
You see that word groom, and groom not in
a positive sense.
They take time to pick their victims, you
know, and then wait for access and opportunity
to strike.
Thank you very much.
It is 21 minutes to three.
Academic institutions are meant to educate
and protect our girls.
But have become hunting grounds for the sexual
gratification of men entrusted to teach.
Our investigation began at the University
of Lagos or UNILAG.
It’s one of the most prestigious in the
country.
Welcome to the University of Lagos.
Welcome to the University of Lagos, the university
of first choice and the nation’s pride.
Everyone wants to get into UNILAG.
Some of the most powerful and most influential
people in Nigeria went to UNILAG.
Awazi is a popular radio host in Nigeria and
a former UNILAG student.
Like many young women who study here, she
says she was sexually harassed by a lecturer.
One minute you’re there an innocent undergrad
just trying to pursue an education or whatever
the next minute a lecturer is asking you out
on dates.
My lecturer asked me out on a date.
Yeah and I was what, 16?
What?!
Yes.
I’ve worked with a couple of NGOs over
the years and the severity of this is crazy.
It’s just been so normalised.
Let’s bear in mind that the age of consent
in Lagos is 18.
People get into uni 16, 17.
Some people if they’re really smart, some
people 15.
That makes them incredibly vulnerable to predators.
Everything is just set up against you.
For more than a year, myself and an Africa
Eye team have investigated sexual harassment
by UNILAG lecturers.
We interviewed dozens of current and former
students.
We had eyes everywhere.
To protect our sources and our undercover
operatives, we designed these masks to disguise
their identities when appearing on camera.
We are taking a lot of risks shooting this
film.
And a lot of the ladies that we are going
to be speaking to they want their identities
hidden.
These masks, I want it to represent strength.
I want it to represent power.
One name kept coming up in our research.
A senior lecturer in UNILAG’s Faculty of
Arts, a former sub-dean, and the head pastor
of a local branch of the Foursquare Gospel
Church.
His name is Dr Boniface Igbeneghu.
Several current and former students claimed
they had been abused or harassed by Dr Boniface.
Two of them agreed to speak to us on camera,
on the condition we hide their faces and their voices.
He is a respected lecturer.
He’s risen to be one of the top guys in
the department and so he comes across as a
father figure that wants to protect you and
help you through your journey in school, while
he has ulterior motives.
He always seemed really friendly.
But eventually I could notice how vindictive
he could be.
Ok.
He comes to you and he tells you he is a pastor
so you don’t even see the danger in him.
So what kind of things would he do?
He would tell you to come to his office.
He would lock the door.
Sometimes he would want to grope you.
Sometimes he would want to dry hump you.
He likes to pick on struggling students because
he knows that they are very vulnerable and
there’s nothing they can do.
I would try not to aggravate him, because
anything can happen.
I would beg, I was usually kneeling down,
I would just beg him, and say please sir,
please sir, so….
You’re doing well, okay?
You’re doing so well.
He doesn’t have that power over you anymore…
Do you want us to pause?
Alright pause.
Sorry.
Sexual harassment is actually naked abuse
of power and betrayal of public trust.
It cannot be consensual

because the power relation is not balanced.

Somebody has all the power, the other person
has little or no power.
UNILAG only published a robust sexual harassment
policy in August 2019 after years of delays.
It bans lecturers from a wide range of inappropriate
behaviours – from making suggestive compliments
to grooming to sexual contact.
They are not supposed to be predators, hunting
those young ladies or destroying their destinies…
To expose Dr Boniface we needed someone smart.
Someone who can convincingly pretend to be
someone she is not.
We call her Kemi.
I’m an angry Nigerian, a woman who is angry
about the level of sexual violence against
women, especially in universities.
It’s something that has become so normalised.
Imagine how insane that is.
I really wanted to do something about it.
First approaching Dr Boniface at his church,
Kemi posed as a secondary school graduate,
the daughter of a widowed mother, who wanted
admission to UNILAG to study in his department.
She also pretended to be 17-years-old – under
the legal age of sexual consent in Lagos.
Two days after making contact, Dr Boniface
invited her to his UNILAG office for
a tutorial.
At all times our undercover operatives carried
a panic button.
Testing.
Yes, I can hear you.
If secretly activated, the rest of our team,
who were hiding nearby, would be alerted and
come to the rescue.
Minutes into our conversation, this doctor
had complimented me five times about being
a beautiful girl, “you’re a beautiful
girl, very beautiful, you’re very beautiful…”
I could tell that the way he was talking to
me was not normal.
In my mind I’m like, hold on, did I just
hear this man right?
And then, Dr Boniface promised Kemi admission
to UNILAG, if she passed her exams.
Then he invited me to his church, I attended,
and after some days he invited me back to
his office.
He more or less picked off from where he left
off the last time.
Even though I wanted to talk about admission,
he basically forced me to engage in this weird
prayer with him.
The weirdest prayer I have ever seen in my
life.
The prayer just went on and on and on…
His legs wide open jiggling his groin, you
know
with this uncomfotable grin on his face.
My eyes were never closed during that prayer,
my eyes were wide open, because I was uncomfortable,
I didn’t know what was going to happen.
After he shook my hand and welcomed me into
the kingdom of God.
It felt like I had been accepted into his
secret world.
And he began to show a deep interest
in my sex life.
I recognise what Dr Boniface is doing.
I know what it was it feels like to be groomed
by a university lecturer.
Growing up I always wanted to end up being
a doctor.
My Mum used to call me her doctor, her little
doctor.
I was just so fascinated about this stuff.
I was definitely passionate then.
I was so naïve.
Becoming a doctor meant even more to me after
I lost my dad from appendicitis in 2002.
At 19, I got into one of the best universities
in Nigeria.
So, my matriculation pictures.
I was a happy girl.
Just floating through life…
My dad would have been really proud and really
excited to see me matriculate.
I probably would have been embarrassed because
he would follow me everywhere and give me
hugs and kisses.
Yeah.
He used to embarrass me a lot.
University was nothing like I imagined.
A lecturer began to target me.
For two semesters he withheld my exam results
and pretended I never sat the papers.
When I asked him to explain why, he repeatedly
demanded to have sex with me.
And I wasn’t, wasn’t going to do that.
And as a result, right, my results suffered.
I never felt so…
I never ever imagined I would be a victim.
Unprovoked.
I didn’t do anything.
I’m pretty sure if my dad was there…
I never got a degree.
I never graduated.
The harassment forced me to drop out of university.
I had nobody to turn to.
No future.
No money.
It almost destroyed me.
There are predators everywhere in the universities.
It kills me that there are thousands of other
girls that are going through exactly, you
know, different variations of what I went
through.
I really want those lecturers to get justice,
what they deserve.
Sexual predators in universities are not just
my country’s problem.
Of all the universities in West Africa, the
University of Ghana, in Accra is one of the
most impressive.
Its huge campus has produced some of the greatest
minds in Ghana.
Presidents have studied here.
But beneath this grandeur, sexual abuse lurks
here too.
Let me see if you still have, like, another
one.
And women are now taking matters into their
own hands.
So I’m the lecturer.
I call, you come.
Hey, pick this thing for me.
Harassment here is said to be so bad, an NGO
run by former students offers free self-defence
classes – role playing attacks by lecturers
and other predators.
How severe would you say this is?
Very severe, very severe.
I say severe because when you have somebody
in a place of power or somebody who can help
you in a certain way I think it is very difficult
for you to reject a person like that.
And if your degree is on the line I do think
that you would do anything for that, yes.
We’re not going to keep quiet anymore, because
that’s what, perpetrators actually bank
on, they rely on your silence.
Africa Eye sent a team to investigate sexual
harassment inside the University of Ghana,
finding evidence some lecturers pressure their
students for sex.
Several stories involved a lecturer in the
College of Education – Dr Paul Kwame Butakor.
Our undercover operative, Zara, posed as a
final year student interested in a masters
degree and national service opportunities
in his faculty.
This was only the second time Dr Butakor had
invited her to meet with him in private.
What I noticed was in our interactions he
would be very blunt on the phone, very professional,
but any time I went to see him in his office
he would be extremely inappropriate with me.
I told him relationships were a distraction
if you are in school and he said he wouldn’t
be a distraction because he was going to be
a side guy.
A side, as he put it, is he basically wanted
to be my boyfriend but not the main person.
University policy forbids lecturers having
sexual relationships with students when they
are in a position to influence their education
or career –flirtatious behaviour is considered
misconduct.
Even though he didn’t explicitly say that
the condition for me advancing my career was
for me to be in a relationship with him or
for him to be my side, he kind of hinted that
it would benefit me in a certain way in my
career.
He has made it seem as if you have a choice,
but really you don’t because he is in a
place of power.
That’s really the essence of manipulation,
to make it seem like the decision is in your
hands, but really it’s not.
During these conversations, Dr Butakor offered
a National Service work placement in his department
to Zara despite telling her the deadline for
applications had passed.
Dr Butakor vehemently denies any amorous behaviour
with Zara or with any University of Ghana
student saying he follows all University sexual
harassment and misconduct rules.
He says no formal harassment complaints have
ever been lodged against him.
He told us he never made inappropriate gestures
or verbal comments, had no intention of dating
her or circumventing university process to
secure a National Service placement for Zara
in return for sex and had absolutely nothing
to do with her future academic progression
or career options.
Comments about Zara being his side chick and
him being her side guy coupled with telling
her she was beautiful were harmless and a
joke, he says, said without ill will or sexual
motive and could not be construed to mean
he wanted sex.
Of all the lecturers in the University of
Ghana, one stands out for his power and influence:
political scientist and outspoken commentator,
Professor Ransford Gyampo.
He enjoys a great reputation as a teacher
among his students, but he’s also been at
the centre of allegations of sexual harassment.
We sent an undercover journalist, known as
Abigail, to meet him.
Posing as a University of Ghana student from
a poor background,
she attended one of Gyampo’s classes.
He agreed to become her mentor.
She wrote him essays to review, visited his
office three times, and he gave her good feedback
on her academic work.
But not everything felt normal – Professor
Gyampo wanted her to wear high heels in his
office.
Then, one Sunday afternoon, Abigail received
a strange phone call from him.
He began to tease her and accuse her of always
being formal around him.
Abigail tried her best not to upset Gyampo
who became increasingly personal and said
he wanted to come over to her house.
She reminded him she was a student and told
him she wasn’t interested in a relationship.
But Professor Gyampo ignored this.
Eventually, Abigail managed to persuade him
to meet in a public place; a mall, instead
of her home, later that evening.
We knew we would have to be cautious.
Long before Abigail met Professor Gyampo,
we interviewed a number of his former students
who alleged they had been sexually harassed
by him.
One of them, who we shall call Naa, agreed
to anonymously speak to us on camera.
You need to build them and cut them into square.
You can cut the plantain…
Naa told us she was sexually harassed twice
by Gyampo.
She alleges the second incident took place
when she went to confront him about the first
harassment.
I felt it was my responsibility to let him
know that what he did wasn’t okay with me,
so I went to him.
He apologised and he tried to console me and
in consoling me he attempted touching me.
I was dumfounded, I just couldn’t believe
that a moment ago he was apologising and the
next moment he was on top of me trying to
touch my breast, hold me, that kind of thing.
She says her encounters with the professor
and a past history of other abuse have left
her traumatised.
It’s difficult and ‘till today I can’t
sleep with my lights off.
I get panics sometimes at night.
Yeah.
It’s not something you get over, especially
when the person is protected and you never
get justice for what happens to you.
Before Abigail reached the shopping mall,
we knew Gyampo had already crossed red lines
over the phone.
But we wanted to be sure of his intentions
towards his mentee – our reporter.
Abigail showed me footage of their encounter.
As soon as Gyampo arrived, he insisted on
buying her shoes, as she had reluctantly agreed
to on the phone.
We were just talking about shoes.
Kissed violently?
I was like, what is going on?
After that comment, Abigail felt it was better
to just go and buy the shoes.
Once in the shoe shop, Gyampo bought her heels.
I had literally seen him four times and all
of a sudden marriage.
Back in the restaurant, Abigail asked about
internships but Gyampo had something else
in mind.
Watching the footage, this did not feel like
a real marriage proposal.
The professor laid out how Abigail would benefit
from his support.
But he seemed more interested in other things.
Abigail was then pushed to have a relationship
with him.
After that, she rang the team and began to
leave but Gyampo made one last move.
Abigail did not hug him.
After this meeting she spoke to Professor
Gyampo on the phone and he told her it was
ok that she didn’t want to be his girlfriend
– but she should continue to be mentored by him.
Professor Gyampo vehemently denies sexually
harassing Abigail or any of his students telling
us he treats them with respect, care and genuine
affection and has never been involved in sex
for grades.
He says several students have made false accusations
against him in the past all of whom, he claims,
were discredited after he confronted them.
He says the University has never investigated
him for sexual harassment.
He told us he never intended to harass Abigail,
did not force or intimidate her and never
knew he had offended her.
He further claims he was entrapped – which
the BBC strongly refutes.
Telling Abigail he could help her to gain
funding for further studies is something he
had done for others, he says, and he had no
influence over her academic progress.
He says he routinely commends students on
their dress and shoes and refers to all his
office assistants as wedded wives saying calling
Abigail his wedded wife was a joke.
How do lecturers like Dr Butakor and Professor
Gyampo get away with their behaviour?
The University has a committee which investigates
sexual harassment.
We’ve learnt they’ve dealt with a number
of cases where lecturers were accused of harassing
students and repeatedly recommended these
men be publicly named.
But in every instance, the university chose
not to do so.
Is it hiding the true scale of campus abuse
from the public eye?
The University of Ghana categorically denies
protecting university staff or students judged
to have engaged in sexual harassment or misconduct.
They say they’ve sanctioned individuals
in the past.
They add they’ve vigorously debated naming
and shaming culprits and are considering amending
their policy of not doing so.
The University says they’ve been pro-active
on the issue and are committed to rooting
out the problem, encouraging students and
staff to report problems and giving support
where needed.
The University considers the allegations against
Professor Gyampo and Dr Butakor to be extremely
disturbing and both men will be investigated.
Back in Lagos, tensions over sexual harassment
are running high.
How are we surviving?
What are we turning into?
It’s sad.
These things happen every day.
Close to two hundred people are out on the
street protesting following news stories of
women accusing a famous pastor plus a university
lecturer of rape.
Many men on social media have accused the
alleged victims of lying.
I really wish as a country, as a people, we
come together and transfer that shame from
victims to abusers.
The shame belongs to them.
They are the ones that should be ashamed.
Over at the UNILAG campus, our investigation
turned to its senior staff club – a place
where the most powerful academics go to socialise.
We discovered lecturers were inviting female
students there.
But what goes on inside?
When our operative Kemi went to meet Dr Boniface
for another meeting, she tried to find out
more.
I’d heard a lot of stories about the staff
club so on that meeting, I brought it up with
Doctor Boniface.
He describes the place to me and even orders
one of the female students who was in his
office that day, to turn off the light, just
so I could get a feel of how this cold room
is; how dark it is.
Lecturers are only allowed to date students
where there is no conflict of interest and
if they do date they have to inform university
authorities.
He tells me how, you know, the relationships
also come with benefits, which are grades.
Sex for grades.
Someone who claims to be a man of God tells
me sex for grades, is not bad, it is good.
Earlier, while I was keeping guard for Kemi
outside Dr Boniface’s office, out of nowhere,
economics lecturer Dr Samuel Oladipo – thinking
I was a student – called me over to him,
pulled me by my hands to his office and pressured
me to give him my phone number.
It’s the perfect example of the kind of
everyday harassment that students face in
UNILAG.
Later, I told Dr Oladipo, I was a student
who wanted to switch to his economics course.
He invited me to his office three times for
tutorials.
He was consistently inappropriate with me.
It was clear he was more interested in seducing
me than helping me with my academics.
At one point he leaned in really close to
me.
I could see from his eye line that he was,
you know, looking right here, leering at my
breasts.
I tried to talk about education, but then
he reached out and started touching and stroking
my hand.
He repeatedly asked me to the senior staff
club.
At the end of our third office meeting, I
decided to go.
He seemed eager to enter.
Once inside, he took me to what I later learned
was the so-called cold room.
This is the place where Doctor Boniface Igbeneghu
says lecturers take students there to grope
them and I’m being walked into this room
with Doctor Oladipo
The atmosphere is weird, the windows are blacked
out, there are disco lights.
Women are offered alcohol.
Look around you don’t see any male students.
Just girls.
Right there in the senior staff club.
Were these women students?
I’m sitting down on my own trying to avoid
everyone and they keep, you know, telling
me to dance, you know, trying to pull me to
dance, ‘come out and dance’.
And this other senior lecturer, a really older
man, comes and grabs my arm and tries to like
literally lift me up to dance.
And I’m telling everyone ‘I don’t
want to dance, I just want to sit.’
I went to find a quiet corner.
Dr Oladipo joined me.
I knew that, according to the university’s
own rules, that a lecturer who is giving a
student academic help, helping her transfer
courses, should not be going out on dates
with her.
Because I mean, there is a conflict of interest
there.
So I asked him about it.
I tested him, I wanted to know if he knew
the rules.
Misleading me about the rules.
Trying to make it look like it’s ok for
a lecturer to date a student.
When I told him I was ready to go he was reluctant.
As I was walking down the stairs, he reached
around my waist from behind and touched my breast.
It’s like I’m in this space all over again
where I don’t have control.
How are they even allowed to do this nonsense?
I’m not the only one that goes through this.
Everybody, it’s like your rite of passage.
This is what female students have to go through.
Dr Oladipo sent us this response.
Dr Oladipo claims it was Kiki who greeted
him first and says she claimed to know him.
He admits he held her by the hand as she moved
to his office.
He says he never tried to seduce her for sexual
activities and it was a coincidence he took
her to the so-called cold room; visiting it,
he claims, for the first time to attend a
birthday party.
He denies trying to touch her breast, saying
he tried to hold her hand instead.
Sexual harassment destroys lives.
A former student of Dr Boniface told us he
sexually abused her for years.
She says that ordeal, and past abuse, has
led her to try to kill herself four times
since she graduated.
We must hide her identity to protect her.
I can’t bring myself to go to church because
when I try to go and I look at the pastor
preaching I see Boniface.
He touched me inappropriately over ten times
I believe throughout my stay at UNILAG.
I never, ever gave my consent once.
There was a time he was preparing for bible
study and he was groping me and he was writing
down scriptures.
There was a time he told me, when he’s done
with me, he’s going to give me to one other
lecturer in my department, to do what he likes
with me and then when he is done to transfer
me to someone else and there is nothing I
can do about it because I won’t graduate.
I felt like I would be better off dead and
I won’t feel the pain I feel almost every day.
I want lecturers like him, who do what they do,
I want them to stop.
Nobody deserves to feel or go through what
I’ve gone through.
Nobody.
The final time Kemi was invited to meet Dr
Boniface in his office, it was a Saturday.
He said it was quiet and nobody was around.
We had a bad feeling about this meeting, so
we called in extra security to keep guard
outside Dr Boniface’s door.
He offered Kemi non-alcoholic wine.
It became clear to me that it was all a ploy
to get me to be comfortable.
We went from talking about me getting admission,
to him requesting consent from a 17-year-old
to kiss me.
When I wasn’t giving him the kind of response
he wanted, he became angry.
This time he wasn’t smiling any more.
My hands are shaking, my heart is beating,
but I’m still trying to stay calm; I’m
still trying to do my work as a journalist;
it’s one of the most difficult things that
I’ve ever done in my life….
After I refused to give him consent, he stood
up and went into the bathroom for a moment.
He remained in there for just over a minute.
In my head I’m thinking, I’m this close
to getting hard evidence on this man, so I
had to weigh my options; to press the panic
button or just wait to see how far he would
go….
Dr Boniface eventually released Kemi when
she made an excuse to go to the toilet.
Once there she locked herself in.
I called a member of the team.
But then I wanted him to hear my conversation
on the phone.
I wanted him to know somebody was just waiting
right outside.
And so when I finally came out, he starts
to laugh at me.
It made me feel so small, so irrelevant, so,
like I was some kind of toy for his entertainment.
Dr Boniface then warned Kemi there would be
consequences if she didn’t continue to see him.
You know, there are so many women who have experienced things like this, even more awful
experiences and they just keep quiet, they
just suffer in silence because of fear, because
they feel no one will do anything about it.
This is not a story about bravery; I don’t
think I am brave.
I think I’m somebody who sees injustice
and I refuse to be helpless and I choose to
do something about it…
We put our evidence to Dr Boniface and he
did not respond.
UNILAG told us it totally dissociates itself
from the alleged behaviour of Dr Boniface
and Dr Olidapo, saying as a reputable university
it’s highly embarrassed by the allegations
and wants sexual harassment of female students
stopped.
The university says it has a zero tolerance
policy toward sexual harassment, is protective
of student interests and organises new student
orientation programmes to inform them of reporting
procedures – cutting red tape to ensure
swift justice.
They say if evidence of wrongdoing by staff
is proven UNILAG will dismiss them.
They did not comment on the so-called cold room.
Despite everything I have seen, everything
I have been through, I choose not to be a victim.
I choose to stand up for these girls, to help
expose those who abuse them.
You know who you are.
Students are watching.
Parents are watching.
And in the shadows, we are watching too.

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