Sexual harassment: Court remands suspended UNICAL professor in prison

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR

A Federal High Court on Monday ordered that the suspended Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Calabar, Prof. Cyril Ndifon, charged with alleged sexual harassment be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja.

Ndifon, who is being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission before Justice James Omotosho, however, pleaded not guilty to the four-count charge.

The ICPC, though its counsel, Ebenezer Shogunle, had filed the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/511/23 on Oct. 30, 2023 against Ndifon.

In count one, the defendant was alleged to have, between June and September 2023, used his office and position to gratify himself by soliciting for nude photographs and videos from a year 2 diploma female student of the university through Whatsapp chats on his telephone number: 08037066222, contrary to and punishable under Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

In count two, he was alleged to have corruptly requested nude photographs and videos from a 400level female student of the Faculty of Law with the plan of changing her project supervisor to himself in order to guarantee favourable grades for her and offence was contrary to and punishable under Section 8(1)(a) (il) of the agency’s Act.

In count three, he was alleged to have corruptly requested to see photographs of a 16-year-old prospective post-UTME female student, as an inducement to consider her for admission into the Faculty of Law contrary to and punishable under Section 18(d) of the Act.

Count four accused him of causing a female student to send pornographic, indecent and obscene photographs of herself to him through WhatsApp chats on his telephone number: 08037066222 between May and September 2023, contrary to and punishable under Section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition & Prevention) Act, 2015.

These Ndifon was alleged to have committed while being a public officer charged with responsibility for the certification of students as fit in learning and character as a prerequisite for the award of a Bachelor’s degree in Law and admission into the Nigeria Law School.

After the charge was read to him, the embattled lecturer pleaded not guilty to the counts.

Ndifon’s counsel, Okon Efut, SAN, took his bail application dated Jan. 2 and filed Jan. 3.

Efut prayed the court to admit his client to bail, particularly on health grounds.

Besides, he informed the court that there were four other grounds why Ndifon should be granted bail.

Speaking from the dock, Ndifon said: “My lord, I was supposed to have an eye surgery on Glaucoma.”

Efut told the court that it was on the basis of his health condition that the magistrate court in Calabar admitted him to bail on Oct. 27, 2023, after being in detention for about 22 days.

He said based on the medical report, the surgery was expected to be carried out on Jan. 11.

ICPC Lawyer, Osuobeni Akponimisingha, opposed the application for bail.

He said on receipt of the process, the commission filed a counter affidavit dated and filed Jan. 5.

 

Prof Cyril Ndifo
Prof. Cyril Ndifon

The lawyer, who alleged that one of the counsel to Ndifon threatened the commission’s star witness on phone, said they were in possession of the call logs.

Akponimisingha argued that one of the cardinal reasons for granting bail was the assurance that a defendant would not interfere with the case.

He further alleged that the lawyer’s name was in the bail application filed by Efut and that he was also at the court sitting.

Justice Omotosho then asked the lawyer to come forward. “What is your name?” he asked.

“Sunny Anyanwu is my name my lord,” he replied.

The judge then asked him if he would wish to respond to the allegation by filing an affidavit of facts and he responded in the affirmative.

Anyanwu, who admitted calling Tochi Kanu on the phone, said the person he called was different from the names of the four witnesses in the charge and proof of evidence.

“Tochi Kanu called me. When she called me, I was at the Federal High Court here and I said I would call you later through a message.

“It was many hours later I remembered somebody called me and put a call through.

“At that point, there was a network issue and I was saying hello, hello and the call was cut off. And that name they (ICPC) called was not in the proof of evidence. They have four witnesses,” he said.

When the judge asked him about his interest in the matter, he said Ndifon was his lecturer and that he came as counsel to defend him or support the defence.

Justice Omotosho then asked Akponimisingha the name of the person who was alleged to have been called.

“The name is Tochi Kanu Jane,” he said.

The judge therefore directed Anyanwu to file his affidavit of facts for the court to decide on the issue.

But Omotosho wondered why Ndifon had not gone for the surgery since Oct. 27, 2023, when the magistrate court granted him bail.

Akponimisingha told the court that the medical report was served on them late and they were still verifying its genuineness.

Justice Omotosho, who ordered Ndifon to be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre, adjourned the matter until Jan. 10 for a hearing of the bail application and to enable Anyanwu to file the affidavit of facts.

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