By ABDULRASHEED AKOGUN, FRESH INSIGHT
There is tension at the Kwara State Government-owned College of Education (COED), Ilorin, over the pardon recently granted to a lecturer who confessed to sexually molesting two hijab-wearing students.
The lecturer in question is Olaosebikan, S. J. of the Christian Religion Studies department of the institution who, according to documents exclusively obtained by Fresh Insight, was found guilty of sexually harassing Mustapha Zainab Ayoola and Sulaiman Zainab Titilope on December 19, 2019.
The accused had pleaded guilty to the offence when he appeared before the Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee chaired by Dr. H. M. Molaagun, the then Deputy Provost Academics, with Dr. O. A. Opadokun, Dean, Student Affairs; Dr. Bose Oyedepo, Dean, School of Education; Mr Oyeyemi S. O (rtd), then Dean, School of Languages; Mrs Saleeman R. B., Dean, School of Basic and Remedial Studies; and Dr. Alhassan Seriki, Dean School of Arts and Social Sciences, as members.
Other members of the committee were DSP (rtd) AbdulRahman Issa, former Chief Security Officer; Mr Ajadi Mustafa Babatunde, representing the academia; Mr. Olomu O. J., representing SSUCOEN; Barrister Yusuf Abdulhameed, legal unit and Alfanla Taofeeq, Secretary to the Committee.
According to documents obtained by Fresh Insight, the committee not only found Olaosebikan guilty of sexually harassing the two students but also recommended him for punishment. The then Senior Lecturer was thus demoted by two ranks to Lecturer 1 by the School management, in line with the recommendations of the committee.
Relying on the resolution of the committee, Olaosebikan, who was on Level 13 Step 4 and with gross salary of N187,070, according to his payment slip of December 2019, was demoted to Level 11 Step 4 with N126,879, as seen on his January 2020 payment slip.
However, barely six months after his demotion, precisely on June 23, 2020, Olaosebikan wrote a letter titled ‘Compassionate Appeal for Leniency’, asking among other things a reconsideration of the verdict.
The School Management replied through a letter signed on behalf of the Registrar by M. J Ibrahim, dated July 1, 2020 with reference number REG/CED/PF/SS/524/VOL. I, and addressed to Mr. Olaosebikan S. J.
“Your letter on the above subject matter dated 23rd June, 2020 refers,” the management said. “I am directed to inform you that the College management has at its meeting held on Tuesday, 30th June, 2020 dismissed your compassionate appeal for leniency and pardon in respect of the verdict passed on you over a disciplinary case established against you recently.”
Recalling the harassment, one of the victims, Suleiman Zainab Titilope, said: “In 2019, we were asked to come collect our Teaching Practice form on a Saturday. Mr. Olaosebikan was the then HOD of CRS Department. Ordinarily, the forms were not supposed to be with him; they were to be printed online, but he said we should come for them personally.
“On that Saturday, several male students had gone to his office and he told them the form was not available and that they should check back. I was the first female to go to his office. He asked me to enter his office and he told me he had sent other students who came for the form away.
“He asked me to sit down and asked for my name. I responded. He then gave me the form and said ‘can we be friends?’. He said he knew my department and many of my lecturers and he could help me get good grades. He said he was coming to invigilate our next exams and that I shouldn’t worry. He asked to know when I would come visit him at home… things like that.
“All along I was busy filling the form and I eventually handed it to him. When I gave him the form, he headed for the door and asked me to come back to correct a mistake I made on the form. As I collected the form and wanted to sit, he said I should place it on his table and check the errors.
“I was still correcting the mistakes on the form when I noticed he touched me from my head through my back and buttocks with his hand. I was shocked and immediately moved back. I was so afraid and became restless. When I dropped the form, he asked when he should pay me a visit now that we were friends. He did the same thing to some of my friends and we reported the incident to the school management.
The newly inaugurated Governing Council of the college, under the chairmanship of Elder Reuben Iye mandated its Appointments and Promotions Committee (A & PC) to attend to a letter of leniency and pardon purportedly written by Olaosebikan. The letter was deliberated upon at the inaugural meeting of the committee chaired by Hon. Anafi Saka Apoya with the Institution’s Registrar, A. A Ibrahim, serving as the Secretary.
Parts of the minutes of the meeting exclusively obtained by Fresh Insight captured read thus: “The agenda slated for deliberation at the meeting had to do with the fate of human beings. The Chairman therefore enjoined members to be God-fearing, sincere and honest in their contributions.
“The Chairman told members that within the short period of the inauguration of the present Governing Council, the Council Chairman had received letters of appeal for pardon/leniency from the following members of Staff of the College who were demoted in rank following their involvement in one misconduct or the other: Olaosebikan S. Jacob, Najeem Anas, Ladi Bashar, Suleiman Baba Alada, Abdulrahman Suleiman and Bolarin Tajudeen.
“Having deliberated extensively on the matter, the committee recommended the request for pardon from the concerned staff to the Council for approval on compassionate grounds.”
The committee also recommended that “the former statuses of the affected be restored accordingly and that the concerned staff be posted out of the offices where they committed the offence.”
Curiously, the Provost, Prof. Abdulraheem Yusuf, a member of the A & PC, kicked against the recommendation, insisting that the sanctions and punishments for the affected staff were in the best interest of the College.
“The punishment meted on the indicted staff in the past was rightly done and in the best interest of the college,” he said.
This development however didn’t go down well with one of the affected students, Suleiman Zainab Titilope, who said: “They have already pardoned him, which is not supposed to be, because I am sure he is going to do the same thing to other Muslim sisters.”
When contacted on the phone, Olaosebikan denied knowledge of any sexual harassment or demotion case.
Before abruptly ending the call, he shouted: “I don’t know. I was not demoted. Until I see that person, I cannot react to anything online. Wrong number please…”
The Chairman of the A & PC, Hon. Anafi Saka Anafi Apoya, initially claimed he could not say anything about the matter because he did not witness the incident. However, after he was presented with facts, he admitted knowledge of the matter and confirmed he chaired the committee that pardoned Olaosebikan.
“You may not get exactly what has happened because the story is too long,” he said. “The words ‘sexual harassment’ do not fit what happened. Go and look for dictionary, sexual harassment is not so. Sexual harassment is too big for what happened.”
When asked if it was probably molestation, Apoya said: “I don’t know. But that sexual harassment is too big for the offence that was committed. It is not a sexual harassment case, please. People that briefed you said its sexual harassment and I am now telling you it is not a sexual harassment.
“Who saw them? who? Who among the people saw them? Everything has to have a witness… somebody who can say I was there by the time they were doing this. So, who?”
When told that Olaosebikan confessed to the offence, Apoya replied: “It is not so. Before we concluded our work, a lot of investigation was carried out. I cannot be telling you everything on the phone.”
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