Framed And Shamed: Allegations of sexual harassment against Dr. Peter Otubu, a senior lecturer at Ambrose Alli University

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Dr. Peter Otubu

Allegations of sexual harassment against Dr. Peter Otubu, a senior lecturer at Ambrose Alli University whose humiliating video was posted on the Internet in 2010, are proved to be false by the police and the court. But Otubu is yet to be reinstated to his former job, seemingly confirming earlier suspicion that he was framed  

On 17 July 2010, the world was rocked by an alleged ‘Sex for Grades’ scandal at the Edo State-owned Ambrose Alli University, AAU, Ekpoma. What made the story even more salacious was the posting of a video on the internet, of an encounter where an alleged sexual ‘predator’was caught pants down at a pre-arranged rendezvous, stripped naked and subjected to untold indignity.

The story had it that a senior lecturer in the Electrical/Electronics department of the university, Dr. Peter Otubu, was fond of demanding sex in exchange for grades from his female students. To teach him a lesson he would never forget, one of the students at the department (Mechanical Engineering), Judith Ivie Okosun, who claimed to be a victim of the lecturer, allegedly lured the unsuspecting lecturer to her hostel under the pretext that she was ill. Based on their “previous relationship”, and the fact that they lived in the same neighbourhood, he visited her hostel room, unaware that Judith had set a trap for him.

Several boys, allegedly armed with a video camera, a pistol and other dangerous weapons, pounced on the lecturer the moment he stepped into Judith’s room. She and her ‘partners’ thereafter stripped Dr. Otubu naked and, while he was being filmed in his nude state, Ivie held on to him, accusing him of not passing her in Course ELE 303. She was recorded as saying that he had made it a habit to demand sex from her in exchange for better grades. To secure his release from the illegal detention, the embattled lecturer was forced to sign a cheque of N100,000 in favour of Judith. Further damage was done to Dr. Otubu’s reputation when several national newspapers and magazines, including this one, ran stories based on the video posted on the internet.

But Judith’s claim has been found to be not only false but malicious. Investigations by the police have since exonerated Dr. Otubu of culpability in any criminal act. According to the police, the incident of 17 July 2010 was neither a case of sexual harassment nor attempted rape as alleged by Judith Okosun. Judith was arrested and later granted bail by the police on 11 August 2010. But when she could no longer sustain her charges against Otubu, she jumped bail, following which Edo State Police Command declared her wanted and a warrant of arrest issued on her.

The eight-count criminal charge against Judith and her cohorts, namely, Oziegbe Ehimien, (now at large), a 500-level Civil Engineering student of the university as at the time of committing the crime; Samson Ogbeide, Lecturer I, Mechanical Engineering Dept; Igbudu Samuel, Snr Lecturer, Mech Engineering Dept; Ojeabulu Clement, Lecturer I, Electrical/Electronic Dept. and others, at an Ekpoma Magistrate’s Court, states that she ‘‘conspired with others to steal, demand with menace, unlawfully deprived, recorded and published obscene matter on one Engr. Dr. P. Otubu”. The case is presently being heard by the court and several documents, including the Customer Data Recorder, CDR, which an MTN fraud analyst tendered at one of the sittings of the case, have been admitted as exhibits against Judith and her collaborators.

No doubt, Dr. Otubu would be feeling vindicated after the public odium he was subjected to by the damaging video on the internet and the media reports that prematurely adjudged him guilty. But this is cold comfort, as the embarrassment and emotional trauma caused him and members of his family by the criminal action of Judith and her cohorts, as well as the gleeful media reports, cannot be quantified.

But what would seem to gall Dr. Otubu most was that he could be so shabbily treated by the university he had served meritoriously for 27 years – in fact he has received letters of commendation from three past Vice-Chancellors for his hard work and distinguished services to the university. All the testimonials mention his efforts at making a success of the institution’s convocation ceremonies, and for his ‘‘efficiency, total commitment, initiative and vision’’ in the provision of overhead tanks and two deep wells for one of the university’s hostels. With such a glowing record, it would have been expected that Otubu would have been given a fair hearing, not literally fed to the wolves, as it happened immediately the incident occurred. To some who had all along been screaming that he was being set up, but whose voices were drowned in the public baying for Otubu’s blood, the impression they have is that some hidden interest(s) had a lot to benefit in the false charges levelled against Otubu, who had not for once been queried by the university’s management before the incident. Such people allege that, judging by the university’s action, it is easy to conclude that the embattled lecturer was denied fair hearing by those bent on ensuring that he never gets justice.

The University Regulation (article II [b]), on page 64 states that if a staff was to face a disciplinary committee, he must be given a 7-day notice to enable him prepare his defence. But that was not to be in the case of Dr. Otubu, who was allegedly given less than 24 hours to reply to the allegations and appear for his defence.

Page 61 of the same University Regulation states that the appointment of an employee who has served for a minimum of 10 years may not be terminated but retired. Yet the university’s governing council went ahead to terminate his appointment in October 2010, whereas, the three lecturers indicted in the matter and who are presently being tried for criminal offence are still on the payroll of the AAU, contrary to the university’s regulation which stipulates that any lecturer indicted of criminal charges, must be placed on half salary.

Also, the panel of enquiry set up by the Governing Council of AAU noted that Dr. Otubu’s being naked in the hostel room of Judith was not voluntary, but by force, and that at a point in time, there were negotiations and his cheque book brought out of his car by one of Judith’s collaborators. Yet, the university went ahead with the illegal and unlawful termination of his appointment. This is contrary to the Service Regulation of the university, which clearly states that an erring officer who has served up to 10 years will either be warned, demoted or retired, depending on the gravity of the offence.

All investigative panels, including a two-man committee headed by the then VC himself, were said to have exonerated Dr. Otubu of compromising on work ethics, and none established any act of sexual harassment of Judith. This magazine further learned that the Edo State CID sent a letter, dated 13 September 2011, to the office of the AAU Vice-Chancellor, to the effect that Oziegbe Ehimien, then a 500 level student of Civil Engineering, who allegedly procured the video camera with which Dr. Otubu’s naked picture was taken, and the gun with which he was held to ransom, be released to the Chief Security Officer of the university, who in turn was to hand him over to the police for interrogation on his alleged complicity in the criminal act. But the university never complied with that directive. Rather, it allowed him to graduate from the school.

Many who know Dr. Otubu describe him as one lecturer impossible to “block” as he never compromises on academic work, a factor suspected to be the real reason Judith, said to be an academic flop who scored 13 per cent in the lecturer’s course, framed him up on the pretext of sexual harassment.

Based on all these, many sticklers for justice expect the current Acting Vice-Chancellor and the Governing Council of AAU to follow the path of honour and wisdom to redress the injustice done Dr. Otubu, by fully reinstating him to his office, with all his prior rights and privileges, from the date he was relieved of his job. The university’s regulation states on page 64 that: ‘‘Where an employee under interdiction is found not guilty of all the charges, he shall be reinstated.’’

All efforts made to reach the Public Relations Officer of AAU, Sir Chris Ademagbo, via phone to comment on the matter were unsuccessful.

—Jethro Ibileke/Benin

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