Urgent Action Needed: Safeguarding Professional Conduct In Nigerian Educational Institutions - Appeal To Federal Minister Of Education, Tahir Mamman

Feature Article L-R: Lecturer Wisdom Anucha,                                                                                           Min. Tahir Mamman
FEB 26, 2024 LISTEN
L-R: Lecturer Wisdom Anucha, Min. Tahir Mamman

Lecturer Wisdom Anucha Min. Tahir Mamman
Dear Minister Tahir Mamman of Education,
Urgent Imperative: Immediate Policy Implementation to Safeguard Professional Conduct and Ethical Relationships in Nigerian Educational Institutions, Strongly Discouraging Recent Incidents like the Abia State University Proposal - Urgent Call to Federal Minister of Education, Tahir Mamman

I am urgently reaching out to draw your attention to a matter of grave concern that has recently emerged within the academic community of Nigerian educational institutions. The recent incident involving a marriage proposal by a lecturer to a student in a classroom at Abia State University, Uturu, has ignited widespread outrage and raised significant apprehensions regarding professional conduct and relationships within our academic institutions.

This incident, which has garnered substantial attention both domestically and internationally, serves as a stark reminder of fundamental flaws within our educational system that demand immediate attention and intervention. While the proposal incident at Abia State University, Uturu, may initially appear as an isolated occurrence, it unearths broader systemic issues that necessitate urgent resolution.

The cornerstone of any university's educational mission lies in the integrity of the teacher-student relationship. This relationship, grounded in trust, sees the teacher assuming multifaceted roles of mentorship, education, and evaluation while maintaining authority and accountability. However, the inherent power differential inherent in this dynamic can render students vulnerable to risks and exploitation, underscoring the critical need for clear guidelines and prohibitions regarding sexual or romantic interactions between teachers and students.

In response to this imperative, the university unequivocally prohibits any form of sexual or romantic involvement between teachers and students under direct pedagogical or supervisory authority. This prohibition extends to encompass any foreseeable future responsibilities, irrespective of consent, recognizing the inherent risk of coercion. Furthermore, stricter restrictions are imposed concerning undergraduate students, reflecting the university's unwavering commitment to safeguarding their welfare.

Moreover, the university provides comprehensive guidance and support mechanisms, encouraging individuals to seek assistance from designated officials and ensuring accessible support resources for students who may experience misconduct or violations. By defining "direct supervision" comprehensively, the policy ensures consistent enforcement across various academic and institutional interactions, regardless of individuals' roles within the university.

Violations of this policy are met with decisive disciplinary action, underscoring the university's steadfast commitment to upholding professional conduct and ethical behavior. Disciplinary measures may range from reprimands to suspension or termination, depending on the severity and circumstances of the violation.

In conclusion, the policy serves as a bulwark against the erosion of the pedagogical relationship, prioritizes the welfare of students, and upholds standards of professional conduct and academic excellence through proactive enforcement and accountability measures. By reinforcing a culture of integrity and respect within the academic community, the university endeavors to ensure the sanctity of its educational environment remains unblemished.

The glaring absence of clear and enforceable policies governing professional conduct and relationships between faculty members and students in Nigerian educational institutions is underscored by this incident. Unlike their counterparts in American universities and other advanced educational systems, where stringent regulations exist to govern such interactions, Nigerian institutions often grapple with a lack of comprehensive guidelines in this regard. This void in clear policies not only fosters ambiguity but also creates fertile ground for misconduct to flourish unchecked, thereby exacerbating an environment where ethical boundaries can be easily transgressed.

The marriage proposal incident at Abia State University, Uturu, epitomizes a stark violation of ethical standards and professional norms expected of educators. Such egregious behavior not only undermines the trust and integrity of the academic environment but also jeopardizes the welfare of students who are entitled to feel safe and respected in their learning environment. Faculty members bear the solemn responsibility of cultivating a conducive learning environment, devoid of coercion or undue influence, and any conduct that undermines this trust is unequivocally reprehensible.

The proposal incident at Abia State University, Uturu, extends beyond its immediate context to encompass potentially far-reaching legal ramifications, as it implicates various laws related to harassment, coercion, and abuse of power. Under Nigerian law, harassment encompasses any unwelcome conduct that violates an individual's dignity, creates a hostile environment, or induces intimidation or distress. By proposing to a student within a classroom setting, the lecturer may have subjected the student to unwanted attention, thereby fostering an uncomfortable environment for her and others present.

Moreover, the inherent power dynamics inherent in the teacher-student relationship give rise to concerns regarding coercion, wherein the lecturer's position of authority may have exerted undue pressure on the student to accept the proposal. Coercion involves the use of force or authority to compel someone to act against their will, and in this instance, the stark imbalance of power between the lecturer and student raises significant doubts about the voluntariness of the student's response.

Furthermore, the incident underscores broader questions surrounding the abuse of power by faculty members, who are entrusted with authority and influence over their students. Exploiting this authority for personal gain or romantic pursuits not only contravenes ethical standards but may also constitute professional misconduct of the gravest nature.

In terms of legal consequences, faculty members found to have engaged in inappropriate conduct with students may face civil lawsuits filed by affected parties, seeking redress for emotional distress, loss of educational opportunities, and damage to reputation. Additionally, depending on the severity of the misconduct, law enforcement authorities may pursue criminal charges such as sexual harassment or assault, which can carry significant penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and irreparable harm to one's professional standing and career prospects.

The psychological toll of such misconduct on students cannot be overstated. Students may grapple with a spectrum of adverse emotions, including discomfort, embarrassment, and anxiety, as a result of being subjected to unwanted advances or attention from faculty members. The inherent power dynamics inherent in the teacher-student relationship exacerbate feelings of vulnerability, as students may fear reprisals or academic repercussions should they reject or report such advances, underscoring the profound impact of inappropriate conduct on student well-being and academic pursuits.

Moreover, the breach of trust by a faculty member can lead to feelings of betrayal and disillusionment among students, undermining their confidence in the educational institution and the individuals tasked with their academic and personal development. This erosion of trust can have lasting effects on students' academic performance, mental health, and overall well-being, potentially leading to decreased motivation, withdrawal from academic activities, and increased stress and anxiety.

Additionally, students who experience harassment or inappropriate conduct may struggle to concentrate in class, participate in discussions, or seek help from faculty members, further hindering their educational experience and academic success. The emotional toll of such experiences can be profound, affecting students' self-esteem, relationships with peers and instructors, and overall sense of safety and belonging within the academic community.

In conclusion, the psychological impact of inappropriate conduct by faculty members on students is profound and far-reaching, underscoring the urgent need for robust policies and proactive measures to prevent such incidents and support affected students.

The response from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at Abia State University, Uturu, is gravely concerning. The statement appears to condone and even encourage such behavior, which is completely unacceptable. This not only sets a dangerous precedent but also sends the wrong message to both faculty members and students, undermining the ethical standards expected within academic institutions.

Furthermore, the response from the university's spokesperson, who dismissed the incident as a mere "personal matter," effectively trivializes the broader ethical implications and seriousness of the situation. Similarly, the ASUU chairperson's characterization of the proposal as "a matter of choice" minimizes the power dynamics and ethical responsibilities inherent in the teacher-student relationship. These dismissive responses not only demonstrate a lack of accountability but also fail to acknowledge and address the fundamental ethical issues at hand, raising concerns about the university's commitment to upholding professional standards and ensuring the welfare of its students.

Given the troubling nature of these responses, urgent action is necessary from the federal and State Ministries of Education, in collaboration with other relevant authorities, to address these critical matters. To safeguard the integrity of our educational system and prioritize the well-being of students, it is imperative that the Ministry of Education undertakes the following measures:

Firstly, there is a pressing need to collaborate extensively with educational stakeholders to develop comprehensive policies and guidelines that align with the rigorous standards observed in American universities. These policies must leave no room for ambiguity, clearly delineating acceptable conduct and explicitly prohibiting inappropriate relationships between faculty members and students. Moreover, they should outline stringent consequences for violations, including but not limited to disciplinary actions, termination of employment, and revocation of academic credentials.

Secondly, robust mechanisms must be established for enforcing these policies and holding individuals accountable for any breaches. Transparent investigative procedures should be implemented to ensure that allegations of misconduct are thoroughly and impartially investigated. Faculty members found to have engaged in inappropriate behavior must face swift and severe disciplinary action, sending a clear message that such conduct will not be tolerated within the academic community.

Thirdly, it is crucial to ensure that all policies and regulations adhere scrupulously to Nigerian laws and international standards, particularly those governing sexual harassment, discrimination, and student rights. Close collaboration with legal experts is essential to draft policies that afford robust legal protection to both students and faculty members, thereby safeguarding their rights and ensuring due process in all disciplinary proceedings.

Additionally, recognizing the profound psychological impact that misconduct or harassment can have on students, comprehensive psychosocial support services must be provided to those affected. These services should encompass counseling, advocacy, and referral to appropriate resources, aiming to mitigate the emotional and psychological toll of such experiences and facilitate the healing process for affected students.

To ensure that faculty members are fully committed to upholding ethical standards from the outset of their employment, universities should incorporate specific measures to confirm their understanding and acknowledgment of the ethics training provided.

Ethics training should begin with a comprehensive video covering various topics, including professional conduct, maintaining appropriate boundaries, recognizing and addressing instances of misconduct, and promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity.

After watching the ethics training video, faculty members should be required to confirm their understanding of its contents. This confirmation can be achieved through a brief quiz or questionnaire that assesses their comprehension of key concepts and principles covered in the video.

Following the completion of the ethics training and confirmation of understanding, faculty members should be asked to sign acknowledgment forms. These forms should explicitly state that they have watched the ethics training video, understand its contents, and agree to abide by the ethical standards and responsibilities outlined therein.

The signed acknowledgment forms should be documented and retained in the faculty members' personnel files as part of their employment records. This documentation serves as evidence that faculty members have undergone ethics training, confirmed their understanding of the training material, and committed to upholding ethical standards in their professional practice.

Additionally, universities should provide ongoing reinforcement of ethical principles through periodic refresher courses, workshops, or discussions. This ensures that faculty members remain informed and vigilant about ethical issues in academia throughout their tenure.

By implementing these measures, universities can effectively ensure that faculty members are not only informed about ethical standards but also actively engaged in upholding them in their professional practice from the moment of employment.

This ensures that faculty members are not only informed about ethical standards but also actively engaged in upholding them in their professional practice from the moment of employment.

The lecturer, Wisdom Anucha, as seen in photos posted on Facebook, knelt down with a ring in his hand while proposing to his heartthrob. This public display of personal affection in a professional setting further underscores the gravity of the situation and highlights the need for immediate action. Furthermore, it is imperative that disciplinary action be taken against the lecturer involved in the proposal incident at Abia State University, Uturu. Disciplinary measures, including warnings, reprimands, and possible suspension, must be swiftly implemented to deter future occurrences and underscore the seriousness of such misconduct. Failure to address this issue decisively not only undermines the credibility of the institution but also risks perpetuating a culture of inappropriate behavior within the academic community.

To ensure that faculty members are fully committed to upholding ethical standards from the outset of their employment, universities should implement a comprehensive ethics training program as part of the onboarding process for new hires. Alongside routine job orientation, lecturers should be required to participate in this program, which includes viewing a video presentation on ethical standards and responsibilities in academia. After watching the video, lecturers should sign acknowledgment forms confirming their understanding and commitment to these principles. Additionally, universities should organize interactive sessions where faculty members can participate in discussions and respond to scenarios or questions related to ethical dilemmas involving students and teachers. This interactive component allows lecturers to apply ethical principles to real-world situations, enhancing their ability to recognize and address ethical issues effectively. By integrating ethics training into the onboarding process at the time of employment, universities can ensure that faculty members are not only informed about ethical standards but also actively engaged in upholding them in their professional practice.

I implore all stakeholders, including the Tinubu Presidency, the Abia State Government, governors from all states, local government chairpersons, women's associations, and other relevant bodies, to champion the adoption and rigorous enforcement of these urgently needed policies. It is only through collaborative and concerted efforts from all quarters that we can ensure the safety, well-being, and academic success of our students.

Failure to address these pressing issues effectively not only erodes the credibility and reputation of our educational institutions but also jeopardizes the future prospects of our students and undermines the integrity of our academic community as a whole.

Therefore, I earnestly urge you to take swift and decisive action to address these concerns and uphold the fundamental principles of integrity, professionalism, and respect within Nigerian educational institutions. Our students deserve nothing less than a learning environment that is free from harassment, coercion, and unethical conduct, and it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that this becomes a reality.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.


Professor John Egbeazien Oshodi

Professor John Egbeazien Oshodi, born in Uromi, Edo State, Nigeria, is an American-based police and prison scientist, forensic psychologist, and legal psychologist. He’s a government advisor on forensic-clinical psychological services in the USA and the founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation for Psychological Health. With a significant role in introducing forensic psychology to Nigeria through N.U.C. and Nasarawa State University, he’s also a former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association. He’s taught at esteemed institutions like Florida Memorial University, Florida International University, Nova Southeastern University, and more, and is currently an online faculty member at Weldios University, Nexus International University, and Walden University. [email protected]