By Frank Ulom
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar (UNICAL), Prof. Florence Obi has said the university under her watch has recorded tremendous achievements, yet, negative publicity still trails the learning citadel.
Obi stated this in a press briefing on Friday (Sept. 15) at the University Council Chamber, adding that her responsibility is important in the building of a greater Nigeria.
She also addressed the issues surrounding a viral voice note tagged to the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Uju Kennedy over the recent suspension of Prof. Cyril Ndifon, Dean of the Faculty of Law. You can read more about that HERE.
Below is the full press briefing by Prof. Florence Obi, Vice-Chancellor of UNICAL on Friday, September 15, 2023, at the University Council Chamber
Gentlemen of the Press,
Good morning. As much as I am usually delighted to be in your midst and to interact with all of you, I still feel somewhat concerned that I have to do this more often, of late, under an atmosphere of negative publicity that the University has been receiving recently. There is no doubt that we have witnessed tremendous achievements in the last two years, by all tests and measurements. It is still a little concerning that the institution has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons through no fault in its policies or leadership.
Gentlemen of the Press, you are all aware of the ill wind that has been blowing in our revered Faculty of Law as a result of allegations of sexual improprieties and managerial turbulence that are threatening the integrity of the legal training in the University. While management has tried to deal with the issues within the procedural laws of administrative resolution, a completely new dimension has unfortunately reared its head in a way that has left us nonplussed with the leaked viral audio of intimidation and jail threats from the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Uju Kennedy, on the few girls who were bold enough to come out to testify on an alleged age-long sexual harassment of female law students against Prof. Cyril Ndifon.
In order to clear the stuffy air around these developments, I find it pertinent to address you, once again, on the vexed allegations of sexual harassment and violation of extant rules and regulations of the University levelled against Prof. Cyril Ndifon, which have regrettably cast a long shadow over our dear institution in the last one month.
While I do not consider it expedient to respond to the disturbing things said by the Minister in the said audio, I wish to generally state that, the students of the Faculty of Law, on their own, wrote and submitted a petition and protested against the suspended Dean. And, as I know, those who have testified before the panel on both sexual harassment and other violations were not prompted by anyone. Let me categorically state here that the sustained orientation my administration has had in the last couple of years has created the atmosphere that inspires confidence amongst students to speak out against exploitation, victimisation and harassment of any sort. The students should rather be encouraged and the University commended for being on the right path. In greater need of this encouragement are the girls whose educational empowerment is key to their survival in an oppressive and dominant patriarchal culture that yields little or no space for women.
Having said that, let me appreciate the enormity of the office occupied by my sister, Mrs Uju Kennedy the Honorable Minister. But my responsibilities as Vice-Chancellor and those of other well-meaning Nigerians, no matter their office or position in life, are no less important in the building of a greater Nigeria. Indeed, we are all partners in building our nation and serving humanity.
As I urge for patience from the general public with the investigative panel, let me state the resolve of the University Management to remain focused on doing the right thing and carrying out an objective and comprehensive investigation, the outcome of which, I believe, will be helpful to our beloved University. It is for this reason, the Management gave approval, as requested by the Panel, for extension of time for completion of the investigative assignment.
As a reminder, I wish to restate the fact that this administration has nothing personal against Prof. Cyril Ndifon other than her commitment to seeing that the university achieves her vision, mission and philosophy which are centred on;
“The production of quality graduate, contribution to development, pursuit of knowledge for enlightenment, freedom and service to humanity”.
I can proudly state that, aside imparting knowledge in the area of academic discipline, my interventions as a teacher, mother and administrator in the University have been mainly directed at nurturing, mentoring, inculcating ethical values and empowering students to hold their heads high and be counted anywhere in the world. In a society where ethical values are fast vanishing, we cannot afford to aim any less.
To demonstrate the Management’s interest in ensuring an objective, unbiased investigation, we accepted the request from some agencies and groups to serve as observers. Consequently, the fact-finding panel has observers from different bodies, including:
• The Public Complaints Commission
• The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (represented by a member from the University Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit).
• The Nigeria Bar Association – National
• The Nigeria Police Gender Unit (D12)
• The Federation of Female Lawyers
• The University of Calabar Alumni Association – National
Chief Judge of Malabor High Court (rep of students).
In addition to this, the panel has livestream sessions on Zoom, as advertised on some national dailies, through which interested persons participate.
Despite all these, sadly, there are people who choose to politicise and look at the effort of the Management differently as if exercising the courage to confront impropriety is a crime.
Gentlemen of the Press, let me again emphasise that sexual harassment is not the only issue being investigated by the university (although it has taken centre stage with the public). There are equally serious matters which relate to violation of extant rules and regulations of the University being investigated as raised in the student’s petition.
Let me use this opportunity and assure the general public that we are not going to be distracted by any noise, accusations and ‘alternative truths’ some have chosen to engage in.
I remain committed to my sworn determination to lift the University of Calabar to higher pedestal and reckoning. In the end, the successes recorded so far and the ones ahead, God willing, shall overwhelm this noise. Thank you.