The Nigerian Bar Association’s Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) has strongly criticized the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy Ohanenye, for alleged witness tampering in the ongoing probe of sexual harassment claims at the University of Calabar.

In a statement on Wednesday, SPIDEL said it was “deeply concerned” by revelations, including leaked audio, that indicate the Minister sought to influence student victims’ testimonies and dissuade them from participating in the investigation into suspended law faculty dean Cyril Ndifon.

SPIDEL condemned the “blatant abuse of power” and demanded a thorough, impartial probe into the serious allegations. It called on all parties to refrain from impeding the investigative process, advising the Minister to avoid further involvement to maintain integrity.

The legal association emphasized accountability and protecting the rights of victims are at stake. It also urged the university and authorities to take swift, decisive action against any proven wrongdoing.

Below read the full statement. 

ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALABAR: NBA-SPIDEL CONDEMNS UNDUE INTERFERENCE, WITNESS TAMPERING AND DEMANDS A FAIR INVESTIGATION.

The Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), a branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), is dedicated to promoting the rule of law, economic development, and the growth of public interest law in Nigeria. Our vision is to make public interest and development law an integral part of our national life and development, ensuring access to effective remedies for victims of violations of the law and abuse of power.

It has come to SPIDEL’s attention that students of the Faculty of Law, University of Calabar, have courageously come forward to voice allegations of misconduct, bordering on financial impropriety, sexual harassment and abuse of office against Prof. Cyril Osim Ndifon, the suspended Dean of the Faculty of Law. Furthermore, these students have alleged that those who challenge Prof. Ndifon’s alleged corrupt practices face threats, including the refusal to provide them with law school forms upon graduation. In response, the University of Calabar administration has initiated a thorough investigation into these allegations by establishing an investigative panel.

SPIDEL is deeply concerned and disturbed by recent developments surrounding the investigation which border on witness and evidence tampering. SPIDEL is particularly troubled about the alleged actions of the newly appointed Minister of Women Affairs, Hon. Uju Kennedy Ohanenye in relation to the matter. Recent revelations, including leaked audio recordings of the Minister of Women Affairs’ conversations with some of the student victims, have raised serious concerns. In the said audio recordings, the Minister can be heard attempting to influence the testimonies of these students and discourage them from participating in the ongoing investigation. The Minister’s actions amount to witness tampering.

SPIDEL strongly condemns witness tampering in any form, as it undermines the pursuit of justice and the truth. We call on all parties involved to refrain from further engaging in that act and to allow the investigative panel to carry out its work independently and diligently.

SPIDEL vehemently condemns this blatant abuse of power by Minister Uju Kennedy Ohanenye which has culminated in the harassment and exploitation of young law students at the institution. We view this not just as a simple Ministerial failing, but recognize it as an issue of professional misconduct and a reflection of broader societal challenges that must be addressed promptly and effectively.

SPIDEL calls for a thorough and impartial investigation into these allegations and insists on accountability, transparency, and appropriate action to address this deeply concerning matter. We stress that the reputation of the legal community, the rights of the victims, all other students, and the integrity of the investigative panel are at stake.

The Nigerian Bar Association, to which SPIDEL belongs, holds a steadfast commitment to upholding the highest standards of ethical conduct and professionalism within the legal community, with zero tolerance for unprofessional behavior, particularly when it pertains to matters as serious as the allegations being brought forth against Madam Minister!

While SPIDEL has no objection to groups and individuals following up on the investigation, we insist that actions that impede the investigative process be avoided. The Minister for Women Affairs, Hon. Uju Kennedy Ohanenye, is respectfully advised to refrain from further involvement in this matter to ensure the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

On the allegations against Professor Cyril Ndifon, SPIDEL, committed to promoting the rule of law, economic development, and the growth of public interest law in Nigeria, acknowledges that these allegations not only compromise the integrity of legal education but also infringe upon the rights and well-being of the affected individuals. SPIDEL states that it is disheartening that allegations of this nature have persisted against Prof. Ndifon for years. Therefore, we urge the University of Calabar, the Nigerian Police, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) to conduct a comprehensive and impartial investigation into these allegations of misconduct, sexual harassment, and abuse of office so that the matter will be settled once and for all. All relevant authorities must take swift and decisive action to ensure that justice is served and that those found guilty of any wrongdoing face appropriate consequences. Young Nigerian students, particularly females, must be protected.

SPIDEL empathizes with the students who have shown immense bravery in coming forward to share their experiences and calls for their protection and support throughout this process. We also urge the University of Calabar to stay focused on conducting a fair and transparent investigation, ensuring that all parties involved have the opportunity to be heard.

SPIDEL reiterates her commitment to the principles of justice, transparency, and the protection of the rights of all involved parties and will closely monitor developments and provide support as necessary to ensure that a fair and just resolution is achieved in this matter.

About SPIDEL:

The Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) is a specialized branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) dedicated to promoting public interest law, development, and access to justice in Nigeria. SPIDEL is committed to upholding the rule of law, protecting human rights, and advancing social justice in the country.

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