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New Twist in AAU Sexual Harassment Saga: Victim’s Family Disowns Petitioner, Threatens to Sue Vice Chancellor

The sexual harassment scandal rocking Edo State-owned Ambrose All University, AAU, Ekpoma, which culminated in the suspension of the local chapter chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Monday Igbafen, has taken a dramatic twist.  Igbafen, an associate professor in the department of philosophy, had on February 13, 2019, been suspended from duty, according to a news bulletin authored by Edward U. Aihevba, deputy registrar, information/public relations officer of the university, following his arraignment before the Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee, (SSDC) “on allegations of gross misconduct, bordering on sexual harassment and threats of marks for sex”. Aihevba had recalled in the bulletin that Igbafen had earlier been accused of this offence and an investigative panel set up, which found him culpable, and indicted. He said recently, there was a petition by the family of the female student involved, asking that Igbafen be brought to book, failing which the university management would be reported to the Independent Corrupt Practices and miscellaneous Offences Commission, ICPC.

In a new twist to the matter however, the alleged victim of the sexual harassment saga, one Itohan Omoike, nee Okhihie, and her mother, Eunice Okhihie, acting through their lawyer, has threatened to initiate legal actions against the authorities of the university if it did not stop what it called “diabolical ‘python dance’, retract all embarrassing publications concerning Omoike, and offer her an “undiluted apology”. The law firm of J. O. Udaze, Esq also demanded a handsome compensation for his clients, “as otherwise, I have the irreversible instructions of my clients to set the machinery of justice in motion against your establishment without further correspondence from these chambers”.

In a letter dated March 1, 2019, addressed to the vice chancellor, Udaze, a solicitor, warned against “the unpleasantness, bad blood, and a dented image which the use of the legal hammer may occasion”. The embattled ASUU chairman has also through his lawyer, Osehon Irehovbude & Co, has also sent a petition the police reporting alleged forgery and criminal defamation by the AAU Vice Chancellor, Professor Ignatius Onimawo. Onimawo is accused of having forged a letter purportedly written by a member of the family of the alleged victim of sexual harassment.

Udaze, in his letter to the vice chancellor, noted that the issues of sexual harassment and delay in the release of the result of Okhihie by Igbafen had been “resolved, settled and done with since 2011, and Itohan Okhihie has since obtained her result, graduated, concluded her National Youth Service and is now married”. Expressing his clients’ astonishment that the matter was being resurrected in 2018/2019 “by wicked and malevolent elements who have purposes of their own to serve”, Udaze clarified that “for the avoidance of doubt, there is no Engr. J. A. Okhihie Ph. D. in my clients’ family and the said Engr. J. A. Okhihie had no mandate from my clients to dig and rake into the matter under reference which to my clients, is as dead as Dodo, and spent”.

He expressed his clients’ embarrassment by “these unwarranted and surreptitious turn of events”, which he said had caused them to suffer psychological disequilibrium, ridicule, disgrace, public odium, such that they are being shunned and avoided by reasonable members of the society. “That to add to the discomfiture, my Client, Mrs Itohan Omoike’s (Nee Okhihie) marriage is now being threatened”, Udaze said.

Irehovbude, in a petition on behalf of Igbafen to the state Commissioner of Police dated March 4, 2019, titled “A case of forgery and criminal defamation by Prof. Ignatius Onimawo and his cohorts”, narrated how the university authority published in its University Bulletin Okhihie’s petition and wrote defamatory materials to the effect that his client was involved in an act of sexual harassment of his student, and that he intentionally failed her because he turned down his advances. According to the legal practitioner, “the author of the write-up and the University knew that the allegation was unfounded but was only meant to spite our client and harm his hard-earned reputation”. He went ahead to inform the police commissioner how Igbafen had not only been suspended from work, but also injured by “the grave but untrue allegation contained in that publication which was maliciously calculated and designed to disparage our client”. Irehovbude noted that the said publication was widely distributed to several media houses which gave it prominent places in their newspapers of February 14, 2019.  

He said upon independent investigation, into the authorship and authenticity of Okhihie’s petition, “we discovered to our astonishment and dismay that the petitioner is faceless and non-existent. To further buttress this point, the family of the said Itohan Okhihie has written to the University authority denying the petition against our client, describing the petitioner as a “faceless Engr. J. A. Okhihie who is not a member of Okhihie’s family”. Irehovbude urged the police to question the vice chancellor and Aihevba “over this clear case of criminal defamation and forgery” or produce the said petitioner.

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