Sexual harassment: UK, Grenada varsities probe ex-OAU lecturer

Sexual harassment: UK, Grenada varsities probe ex-OAU lecturer

I never expected any reaction to my sexual harassment story – US-based former student
Fakoya failed me, made me drop out of school – Antigua-based doctor
Kunle Falayi

It has been only two weeks since a former medical student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Dr. Funke Dezarn, accused her former lecturer, Dr. Francis Fakoya, of sexually harassing her while she was at the university and the matter has gone international already.

Dezarn had named and shamed Fakoya on social media, touching on a long-standing discourse on the prevalence of sexual harassment by university lecturers on students.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that three universities have begun investigations into allegations of sexual harassment against Fakoya and these are: St. George’s University, Grenada, Caribbean Island; Northumbria University, Newcastle, United Kingdom; and OAU.

St. George’s University, Grenada, West Indies, where Fakoya currently teaches as a Professor of Histology and Cell Biology, had announced that it was conducting an investigation into the allegations.

“St. George’s University has been made aware of allegations against a member of its faculty, while previously employed by a university in Nigeria. At SGU, we take all allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously. In light of these allegations, a thorough investigation into this matter has been initiated and appropriate action will be taken,” the university had said on its official Facebook account.

Further findings by Saturday PUNCH revealed that Fakoya also has an affiliation with the Northumbria University, Newcastle, United Kingdom.

The UK university said in response to an email our correspondent sent to its Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Andrew Wathey, “We have been made aware of allegations against a member of staff at one of our partner institutions, St. George’s University, while he was previously employed by a university in Nigeria.

“We also understand that St. George’s University is undertaking a thorough investigation into the matter, and naturally we will support this where appropriate. Northumbria University takes all allegations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously.”

This is in addition to the stance of the Obafemi Awolowo University that it would collaborate with SGU on the investigation.

In a statement signed by OAU’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Abiodun Olarewaju, the university had described the allegations against Fakoya as “grievous.”

The university said, “Fakoya had left the services of the university about 15 years ago. The allegation against him, which purportedly occurred while still in the employment of the university, is considered by the management to be too grievous.

“We are prepared to fully cooperate with the Medical School of St. George’s University, Caribbean Island, the alleged victim(s), and/or any other group, to fully investigate the allegation and get to the root of the matter.”

Apart from Dezarn, whose account of alleged sexual harassment by Fakoya, while at OAU went viral, a number of other former students have now shared their experiences.

In the stories shared, the students alleged that female students either dropped out or got extra years for not sleeping with Fakoya, who taught them Anatomy.

Fakoya, who was known as “Dr. Med Doctor” while at OAU, is a 1990 medical graduate of OAU, where he also got his PhD in 2003, specialising in reproductive toxicology, neurochemistry, and cytogenetics.

His Curriculum Vitae says that he joined St. George’s University, Grenada in 2007 as an Associate Professor, Histology and Cell Biology. He is now a Professor of Anatomy, Histology and Cell Biology in the School of Medicine, Department of Anatomical Sciences. He is said to have held the position of Adjunct Research Professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine since 2008.

Saturday PUNCH spoke with Dezarn, who now lives in the US. She expressed happiness about the development, saying she never expected any reaction to the allegations because the incident happened more than 10 years ago.

She told our correspondent, “Officials of SGU have contacted me and they plan to interview me next week. This is why I don’t want to go into too much detail.

“It happened about 14 years ago. I was in Part Two when he first failed me for not sleeping with him. Then he failed me again in Part Three. I did not put up my Facebook post in order to become popular; the plan was not to become popular.

“When you carry a pain in your heart for so long, something may just trigger a desire to just vent all the anger. That was what happened to me the moment I saw the speech of Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globe Awards on the TV. I decided immediately that I needed some closure. I thought the way to go was to speak out. I never expected my story to get so many reactions.”

Dezarn said she woke up the morning after she wrote the Facebook post and was shocked that the story had gone viral in Nigeria.

She said, “I only wanted to find some closure. I hope I get this at the end of the day. I want his employers to know the kind of employee they have. After they contacted me that they had initiated an investigation (into the matter), I decided to make the post private because I had achieved the goal of letting them know about it.

“I have been overwhelmed by the kind of supports I have received over the issue. There are so many victims of harassment by Nigerian university lecturers out there that are facing the problem of not being able to speak out.”

Dezarn’s allegations have again brought the issue of sexual harassment in Nigerian universities to fore along with the culture of silence, which experts say make it possible for the problem to continue.

In one report in April 2016, Saturday PUNCH revealed how female students of Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State, slept with their lecturers for marks while the male students pay prostitutes to service their lecturers in exchange for good grades.

Dezarn, who is based in the US and is now studying for a second master’s degree, said, “The Nigerian culture is not helping victims to speak out. I spoke with someone who knows Fakoya at SGU and I was told he is so well behaved over there. That shows he knows better than to practise the same thing he did in Nigeria over there.

“It is very sad that the policy on sexual harassment in Nigerian universities is probably nonexistent or poor. Most students don’t speak out because of the fear of retribution. Many Nigerian lecturers are happy when students fail their courses but in the US, a lecturer is appraised based on how many students fail his courses.”

She said that while she was in school, Fakoya was suspended for three months. Even though she was not sure if it was on allegation of sexual misconduct, she said the general belief then was that it had to do with sexual harassment of a female student.

But that is not all.

“His office was also burnt down by students because of the same sexual harassment while I was there. Whoever did it made sure it was only his office that was affected because the office on either side of his office was not touched. I don’t know if they ever caught whoever did it,” she said.

According to her, the second time she was allegedly failed by Fakoya, her father, who was a professor, angrily came to the school to lodge a complaint with Fakoya’s Head of Department, Prof. Ezekiel Caxton-Martins, who has passed on. Dezarn said her father was advised to let the matter go in order not to create more problems for her.

“But despite the attention I was getting over the two times, Dr. Fakoya failed me, my case is better than some of my classmates,” she added.

‘Fakoya made me drop out of OAU in Part Three’

Saturday PUNCH spoke with another former student of OAU, who described herself as one of such ex-students Dezarn had referred to. Dr. Tomilola Adekoya, who practises in Antigua, gave a grimmer narration of sexual harassment than Dezarn.

The doctor said her journey to studying in Antigua was a direct result of what she allegedly suffered in the hands of Fakoya.

She told Saturday PUNCH that she was in Part Three when she “had the misfortune of getting the attention of Dr. Fakoya.”

Adekoya said, “I was in the same class as Funke Dezarn. We were not so close then but I knew her. I would say I was one of the weak ones. I was not among the top of my class, but I was scaling through my courses normally through hard studying.

“I was also not a provocative dresser despite the fact that I was outspoken in the class. One day in 2006, he (Fakoya) noticed me and started talking to me any chance he got. I was scared because it was widely known then that any girl he got interested in was in trouble. You either let him sleep with you or you failed. He even failed many (students) he slept with also.

“I was scared of the attention I was getting from him; I did not understand the sudden attention. One day, he asked where I was living and I just told him the name of my hostel absentmindedly, but not my room number. It was a private hostel – Adelakun Hostel – outside the campus.

“I was at the hostel one day when I heard a knock on my door. I opened the door and saw him. I panicked immediately because of his reputation. I did not want people to see him at my door and start to say I was one of the girls he was sleeping with. I asked how he knew my room and it turned out he got the number from one of the porters.

“He said he would like to know me better, to ‘get involved with me’. I immediately told him I had a boyfriend, just to avoid his advances. I told him I knew he was married too. He said we should leave both of them out of the matter.”

According to her, since that day, she avoided Fakoya and that anytime he saw her; he allegedly derided her for avoiding her.

She said, “He told me, ‘I hope you know you are not going anywhere if you don’t come and see me? You know you will not pass if you don’t do what I want?’ I then told him that I would try and study hard and make him proud. He shook his head and said, ‘That is not the way’

“Despite studying hard for his course, he failed me, which means I could not go for clinical medicine. I called for my answer scripts and I was told there was no remedy.”

Like Dezarn, Adekoya said she got a professor involved in the matter. It was her uncle.

The professor reportedly called one of his colleagues working at OAU to lodge a complaint about the plight of his niece and it was decided that the matter might never get a solution.

She said, “The frustration was so much that I had to leave OAU to start all over again because there was no way I could escape him. My uncle advised me to come over to where he was – Antigua – to come and study. Surprisingly, I was second best in the same course, Anatomy, which Fakoya taught me at OAU.

Fakoya lectures at Grenada’s St. George’s University
“I had to start from the beginning because I was not allowed to transfer my credit. I had to do premed again. I wasted a lot of years. While my friends were graduating in 2010, I was just getting started.

“There were a lot of victims. Some bowed to his pressure and kept quiet and still did not pass. I had left OAU when I heard he was suspended because a lady was smarter than me and recorded him. He was later reinstated. It did not occur to me that I could have recorded him then.

“He was a mighty demon at OAU. He even victimised male students who were close to female students that he was interested in. Once you are in his bad books, you just know you are going to fail.”

Asked if SGU management had contacted her as part of the investigation, she said no.

Our correspondent asked OAU for confirmation on whether Fakoya’s office was indeed set ablaze or whether he was suspended for three months.

But the university spokesperson said information immediately available to him did not include such events.

Olanrewaju said, “During the time the man was here, there was no report from the students of any sexual harassment. If they had reported, the university would have taken some steps against them (such a member of staff). We would have taken a step against such member of staff.

“It is our duty in loco parentis to the students to be their mentor, guide and guard. We would not want any adult, irrespective of (their) position, to take their innocence for granted. That is why we always encourage any student to speak out against sexual, physical or emotional harassment by staff members.

“I am not so sure about whether his office was burnt down or if he was suspended. I will speak with the registrar of the university to confirm these. But as far as I am concerned, I am not aware.”

Saturday PUNCH also reached out to SGU on whether it had concluded its investigation but the university said through a spokesperson – Henry Gilliver – that the investigation had not been completed and it would be inappropriate to comment on the issue because of that.

All efforts made to get Fakoya to comment on the allegations against him were unsuccessful.

Our correspondent sent multiple emails and reminders, which were not replied. He also called the phone line listed on his university profile. Twice, a university switchboard operator connected the calls to his office, but they were never answered.