By Samuel Ayodele
Save for the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), the story of Miss Joy Edobor, a student of Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, Edo State, may not have made it to the public space. It is safe to say that when she was matriculated into the AAU with the matriculation number FSS/POL/02/02334 during the 2002/2003 academic session, she would not in her slightest imagination thought she would still be confined to the walls of the institution as an undergraduate 12 years after gaining admission.
Indeed, beyond the walls of the Edo State-owned higher institution, her story was not known despite the notoriety it gained among the senior staff members and students on campus. That, however, changed when the head of the anti-corruption agency, Mr Ekpo Nta, explained to the Senator Victor Lar-led Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics, Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption how she spent a whooping 12 years for a four-year course. Nta disclosed that the commission had rescued Miss Joy Edobor, whose days in the university were made so long because of her refusal to give in to sexual advances of a highly placed academic. He said, “right now, ICPC is working on prosecuting all the lecturers and officials involved in the stupid act.”
The ICPC had become involved in the matter after Joy Edobor’s father, Mr P. U. Edobor, wrote a petition to the ICPC, detailing how a lecturer in her department, Prof P.E. Agbebaku, sexually harassed his daughter and prevented her from graduating. In the petition, Mr Edobor, who retired from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), alleged that Prof Agbebaku used his capacity as lecturer in the Political Science Department, a former Head of the department and husband to the substantive Vice Chancellor of the AAU, Prof (Mrs) Cordelia Agbebaku, to ensure that his daughter did not join the class of university graduates.
In a copy of the petition dated 20th January, 2014, and obtained by our reporter, Mr Edobor alleged that the vice chancellor, Prof (Mrs) Cordelia Agbebaku, colluded with her husband to victimise his daughter because Joy dared to expose her husband. He also said in a bid to lure her daughter to bed, Prof P.E. Agbebaku used his power as the HoD to allocate Joy to himself as his final year project supervisor. Summarily, he stated that Prof P.E. Agbebaku refused to grade Joy’s project, compute and release her final results while the wife, Prof Cordelia Agbebaku, isolated and Kept in View (KIV) Joy’s result after it was finally released.
“Her (Joy Edobor) refusal to succumb to his sexual advances led to missing results and failure to pass the courses taught and examined by Prof P.E. Agbebaku. In his position as the then Head of Department, he influenced the then examination officer in the faculty, Mr Pedro Okor, not to make her results available for computation. It was always a case of missing results, it did not stop at that as he went further to make himself her project supervisor to coerce her into submission.
“My daughter refused because she is a Christian and faithful to her vow of decency and trust in God. Prof P.E. Agbebaku also refused to grade my daughter’s project work after submitting corrected copies and collecting N12,000 from my daughter purportedly to type and bind the work. My daughter and I were summoned to appear before a panel set up by the university to investigate some problems in the Department of Political Science, which also involved my daughter’s case of sexual harassment after my written petition to the then vice chancellor, Prof D.O. Aigbomian,” Mr Edobor stated in the petition.
He said in 2009, Prof P.E. Agbebaku and Mr Pedro Okor, disregarded the recommendation of a panel that was constituted by the institution’s council to look into a fire outbreak that occurred in the Political Science Department. According to Mr Edobor, the panel, which was headed by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), Prof I. B. Igbenosa, ordered Prof P.E. Agbebaku to grade Joy’s project and the department to compute her results. He wrote that the new HoD finally released his daughter’s results after the termination of the appointment of Okor as the Examination Officer, adding that it was later discovered that his daughter had registered and written some of the courses Prof P.E. Agbebaku and Pedro Okor earlier said were missing.
According to Mr Edobor, Joy’s result encountered more problems despite the hope that seemed to have risen. He said, “the then registrar, Mr. L. I. Edokpayi, informed me that a letter had been written to the department to expedite action in processing my daughter’s result for approval by the Senate. This promise was not fulfilled until he left office. After a long wait, the department eventually considered the result, but again it was stopped by an executive fiat by the sitting Acting Registrar, Mr F.A. Ojo Maliki, without any reason. When I enquired from the department, I was informed tht there was directive from the registrar’s office to stop further action on my daughter’s results.”
An internal memorandum showed that Miss Edobor’s result may have been stopped sometimes in 2012. The memo from the office of the Acting Registrar to the Acting Head of the Department of Political Science, dated July 26, 2012, directed the latter to stop the computation of Joy’s result. The memo was titled, “Stoppage of the Computation of Result of Miss Edobor Osas Joy, Matriculation No. FSS/POL/02/02334.” The content of the memo signed by F.A. Ojo Maliki reads thus, “I am directed to inform you to put on hold the computation of the result of Miss Edobor Osas Joy, Matriculation No. FSS/POL/02/02334 in the Department of Political Science till further notice”.
Still undeterred, Mr Edobor said he initiated another process to get her daughter’s results released. His efforts yielded fruit as another committee headed by Chief J.S. Arogundade was asked to look into Joy’s case amongst other issues in the department of Political Science. He said he was once again invited by the new committee alongside his daughter and that he once again reiterated what he had stated before, adding that Prof P.E. Agbebaku bluntly told him that he should go to anywhere, his daughter would not graduate and that nothing will happen to him.
He said the Arogundade’s committee ruled that his daughter’s result be released with immediate effect and that the registrar and secretary to the university’s council, Mr F.A. Ojo-Maliki, should ensure that the result got to the Senate for approval. He, however, added that after the result was sent to the Senate by the examination officer, Mr P. Imokhai, along with other results, the Acting Vice Chancellor, Prof Cordelia Agbebaku, isolated that of his daughter and kept it in view.
Prof P.E. Agbebaku’s reaction
When confronted with the ICPC’s declaration and points raised in the petition written by Mr Edobor, Prof P.E. Agbebaku, who initially was reluctant to comment on the matter because the case is in court, said Joy Edobor’s case was primarily that of a fake admission and that she was not even a bonafide student of the AAU. He said Joy got the admission through a former HoD of the Department of Political Science, Prof A.S. Akpotor, and that she was duly informed that her admission was fake. Prof Agbebaku, who denied sexually harassing Miss Edobor, added that at a point in time, Joy left the institution as she had failed about six courses. He pointed out that some academics in the institution were behind the whole thing and that Joy was only being used as part of a grand plan to remove her wife as vice chancellor.
“The judiciary in Edo State is on strike, otherwise we would have proceeded with the matter. She entered the school in 2002/2003 through a fake admission. It was in her third year she discovered that her admission was fake. She’s a fraudulent girl. It was during the crisis that I met the girl. I was not the HoD when she was admitted. The then VC said he ratified her admission because she had already spent three years in the institution. It was during result computation that she could not clear herself and defend her admission. She went home and left the university until December, 2008, when the then VC, Prof D.O. Aigbomian, drew my attention to her matter. That was when I knew about her matter. I was the HoD between September, 2006 and September, 2009. During the time she was admitted and completed her courses, I didn’t know her.
“So the the then vice chancellor, in 2008, called me and said there was one girl who had five or six failed courses. I said I wouldn’t know unless I call the examination officer, which I did. We were with the vice chancellor when they brought the file. He said the girl had told him that she failed three courses but he now saw that she failed five or six courses. He asked me if I could do something and I replied that there was nothing I could do about it. When I met the father of this girl, I told him that Joy’s problem was a serious matter because it had to do with fake admission. I told him that there was nothing I could do and he thanked me,” he stated.
When asked if he didn’t know Joy when he supervised her project, he said he supervised many students and cannot easily recollect their faces and names. “Fine, I supervised her project but they were many that I supervised. I wouldn’t say I particularly knew her when I supervised her. There were days I set out for supervision. Students will all come and I will look at their files and problems. When they submit projects, I grade them, record them and send to the office. The fact that she has her own copy signed by me showed that the project was graded.
“The score of the thesis was part of what a lecturer in the department, Austin Aghemelo, removed from the file. This was part of the gang up. Projects completed and submitted cannot prevent a student from graduating. You don’t fail projects once it has been submitted. Lecturers are to handle a course and submit. I was only the HoD as at that time. Did I take her the five courses she failed? I never wooed this girl when she was in Ekpoma. Is it when she now left Ekpoma that I will now come to Benin to woo her?”
He added that he travelled to Israel in February, 2009, for the Holy Pilgrimage when the fire incident occurred. “They later set up a fire panel and from nowhere the then vice chancellor invited the girl to appear before the panel. This is a girl who was not a student. She came and said that I sexually harassed her and that I told Pedro not to release her results. I told her that I don’t have the power to ratify her results and that we cannot even be talking of results computation when her admission was fake. The panel said she should repeat the courses which she did and failed virtually all the courses again. There were courses she scored 16 per cent but because the authority was interested in her case, they passed her,” he said.
Our reporter obtained a copy of the Prof Igbinosa panel that looked into a fire outbreak that gutted parts of the Political Science Department on Tuesday, February, 24, 2009, notably the office of the Examination Officer, Mr Pedro Okor, which served as Examination and Records Department. In the panel report that was also referred to in the petition written by Mr Edobor to the ICPC, the Examination Officer was recommended to be relived of his duty while the university was asked to sanction some other persons in line with existing regulations over their roles in the fire incident, mass alteration of results and abuse of office. Other members of the ad hoc committee that was inaugurated by the former vice chancellor, Prof D.O. Aigbomian, were Dr (Mrs) E.O. Omoregie, Dr H. Onyibe and Mr T.O. Onofua as members.
The committee in its findings stated that the fire incident was not accidental, adding that the office of the examination officer was grossly abused and that there were mass alterations of results spanning from when Prof A.S. Akpotor was Head of Department. The committee also reported that the HoD, Prof P.E. Agbebaku was not in control of the department. “That the fire was not accidental. It was not targeted at burning the entire department but the table and the students’s files and results. Evidence showed the fire actually emanated from the papers in the opened files on the table of the examination officer. Results files were kept in the examination officer’s office,” the panel observed.
On Miss Edobor’s case, the committee described her experience as frustrating, pointing out that she was expected to have graduated since the 2004/2005 academic session. The panel report says of her. “She has been subjected to all sorts of harassment and intimidation by the academic staffs of the department. The committee also noted that there us an organised gang up to victimise her in the department as she is seen to have failed all the 400 level courses and her project was not graded even though she was supervised by the Head of the Department and was given her copy. It should be noted that she had previously been duped by a former Head of that Department, Prof A.S. Akpotor.
The committee recommended “that Miss Edobor O. Joy — FSS/POL/02/02334, in view of her unwarranted delay in graduating, the University Management should call for her scripts from 100 level to 400, especially in the claimed failed courses (POS 314, POS 403, POS 413, POS 402, POS 404 and project (POS 401 and POS 411) for a special committee to look into with a view to facilitate her graduation.
The committee noted that the Examination Officer, Mr Pedro Okor, “has not been of much use as examination officer to the university”. The committee concluded that other found culpable along with Okor, namely a lecturer in the Political Science Department, Dr John-Paul Anegbode, and a 200 level student in the same department, Aigbefoh Nataniel, should be given appropriate sanctions in line with the University regulations.
As for Miss Edobor, a document signed by the acting HoD of the Political Science Department, Dr J.F Anegbode, showed that her results were presented to the Senate of the university on behalf of the Faculty of Science as being “qualified for the award of B.Sc degree in Political Science.” The document states that the results were for the causes taught and examination held in the 2008/2009 session.
However, a memo dated November 20, 2012, from the Registrar and Secretary to the council to the HoD of Political Science Department suggests that resolutions reached on the need to facilitate her graduation were not adopted and that she remained an undergraduate. The memo states that the decision of the then management regularising her studentship should be upheld because she was led to believe by Prof A.S. Akpotor that she was duly admitted and that she has entry requirements.
The memo also states further “that the Department of Political Science and Faculty of Social Science should compute and process to a Senate the results of Miss Joy Edobor in accordance with Senate earlier decision on the matter not later than the next meeting of Senate after council’s consideration/decision on this recommendation. This came a memo from the office of the Acting Registrar to the Acting Head of the Department of Political Science, dated July 26, 2012, directed the latter to stop the computation of Joy’s result.
Following the findings and recommendation of the fire panel, our reporter gathered certain decisions were taken. One of such was that the university council gave a warning letter to Prof P.E. Agbebaku. Other punitive measures taken was the demotion of Dr John-Paul Anegbode from Senior Lecturer to Lecturer I and the termination of the appointment of Mr Pedro Okor.
The punitive measures, however, did not stand the test of time. First to be rescinded was the warning letter issued Prof P.E. Agbebaku over his role in the crisis that engulfed his department. In withdrawing the letter, it was stated that proper procedure was not followed in issuing him the letter. What followed was the return of Mr Pedro Okor, who was brought back on a fresh appointment. That was not all. Dr John Paul, who had earlier been demoted, was made the Head of the Political Science Department in 2014. The matter reached its crescendo when the same department was hit by another fire disaster, after a meeting where members of the department were informed the intention of officials of the ICPC to the department.
When contacted, the vice chancellor of the institution and wife of Prof P.E. Agbebaku, Prof (Mrs) Cordelia Agbebaku, alleged that the whole exercise was a calculated attempt to ensure that she is stopped from securing another term as the administrative head of the university. She pointed out that the issue comes out each time the position of the vice chancellor of the university is advertised, adding that the people behind the exercise are academic in the school who are interested in her office.
“In the petition written to the ICPC, she alleged that Professor Akpoto took money from her to give her admission to the university. She said Akpoto took money from her and wanted to sleep with her. Later, when she could not graduate, she said Professor Agbebaku asked her out and she refused. You said you were in Benin and that somebody in Ekpoma asked you to go out with him by 5:00 pm. You claimed this thing happened a long time ago but you didn’t do anything about it. Suddenly, because Professor Agbebaku’s wife was now the VC, you now brought it up.
“Some people are using her and she knows these people. These are people who are facing one form of wrongdoing or another in the university. There are also people who felt they ought to be the vice chancellor and are now saying, “let us rubbish her husband so that the wife will be rubished as well.” It is a gang up. They are the people using Joy and her father. They are running up and down, meeting people. They have been meeting anyone who is a trouble maker or has fallen out of line to gang up against me. That is their stock in trade.
“When they went to the ICPC, they boasted that they will use their Calabar connections to turn things in their favour and that is what is happening now. I have written on the matter. Two lecturers in the department ganged up with two other professors in the university to do this. One of the professors feels he should be the vice chancellor of the university. They have been doing everything to bring me down and they are the people responsible for all these. You can see that they no longer talk about Professor Akpoto and the other people.
“Why is it that she came out when I wanted to go for interview in January 2014? The university advertised the position of vice chancellor in December, 2013 and we were supposed to have the interview on January 20th. That was when they commissioned Joy Edobor and his father. The allegation is that they gave the father N400,000. He said it was not enough they now made it N500,000. The plan is that when ICPC is trying me, I would not have the chance to attend the interview. They knew I was going to do well in the interview.
“How did she become a student of AAU? I mean there are processes leading to gaining admission into universities. Was she a genuine student of AAU. In the first place, her admission was fundamentally wrong. That is the crux of the matter. I think the question is why did she spent such a period of time in the university. You will also asked the circumstances under which she was matriculated? You must ask how she was clandestinely accredited after some time as a bonafide student of AAU. Was a Professor Agbebaku her only lecturer from the first year to the last year? Was it only Professor Agbebaku’s course that she failed?
“She did not have a proper admission but somebody regularized it for her. That was where her problem started. All those students that had irregular admission were told to go home but I don’t know the interest the man had in Joy Edobor that he asked her to remain. This was done before I came on board as the vice chancellor. I became vice chancellor only about four years ago but this matter started about 12 years ago.”
Meanwhile, may yet secure a fresh five-year tenure as vice chancellor following the passage on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, of a law that stipulates a five-year single term for the Vice-Chancellor of the Institution. A bill to amend the law on the tenure of the vice-chancellor had passed second reading on the floor of the Assembly the previous day. The passage of the Law was sequel to the consideration of the report of the House standing committee on Education on the bill for a Law to amend the Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma, Law 1991, earlier presented by the Chairman House Committee on Education, Hon. Foly Ogedengbe. The House at the Committee of the whole finally amended the principal law establishing the institution which stipulates a two term of four years each by saying, “the vice-chancellor shall hold office for a period of five years single term and subject to such terms and condition as specified in the instrument of employment.”
There are strong indications that Prof Agbebaku, who was made acting vice chancellor in February 2011 and substantive vice chancellor in May 2014, would be the first beneficiary of the new law. A top member of the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) in the institution said that the first three years she acted as vice chancellor will not be taking into count as she only acted, adding that her tenure as vice chancellor started in 2014. However, if it is taken that she became vice chancellor in 2014, she may end up as vice chancellor of the AAU for a whopping eight years.
Though the enthusiastic comments of the ICPC boss on the matter raised the hope that the judiciary will thoroughly look into the case and serve justice, the ongoing strike action by the
Judicial Staff Workers Union (JUSUN) in Edo State has poured cold water on the matter. There are fears that the case may be swept under the carpets like similar ones before it. When contacted, the chairman of the governing council of the AAU, Prof Gregory Akenzua declined to comment on the matter, asking our reporter to direct questions at the management of the institution.
This is coming just as checks showed that the ICPC may not have completely rescued Miss Joy Edobor. Findings showed that she is still connected to the AAU as she is yet to be mobilised for the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) nor given the discharge certificate in case she is above 30 years of age. She is not alone though. Investigation also revealed that there is a conundrum in the Political Science department over the mobilisation of qualified graduates for the NYSC. This is connected to the two fire incidences that occurred in the department. One person, who wrote the final year examination in the department in January told our reporter that they do not know exactly when they will be mobilised to serve their fatherland.
“They are still not through with those who finished ahead of not to talk of our set. The problem has to do with the two fire incidents. They told us that we will go by November. Are we supposed to believe that? Imagine writing final exam in January and going to service in November,” the student stated.
Ayodele can be reached via: