UNICAL sex scandal: Minister backtracts on comment, says she supports justice for students

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The Minister for Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye on Sunday apologised over comments credited to her concerning the sexual harassment scandal at the University of Calabar (UNICAL).

The minister said she regretted her statement, adding that she is for safeguarding and advancing the rights and welfare of Nigerian women, including the pursuit of justice whenever their rights are violated.

The apology comes barely 24 hours when a coalition of over 500 gender rights activists under the aegis of Womanifesto convened by the Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, demanded a retraction and public apology.

The women activists said they were gravely concerned about her utterances on the UNICAL sexual harassment case and the implications for the interest and protection of vulnerable women and children in Nigeria.

The minister, whose statement was captured in a trending video, purportedly insinuated that the students were being used and manipulated by some people to get a Professor of Law, Cyril Ndifon out of office, so they themselves could take his place.

Recall that some students had protested on that school campus, alleging sexual harassment by Ndifon, leading to his suspention.

But the minister reportedly threatened the students in the video UNICAL with dire consequences including imprisonment if they continued to pursue the case.

The minister said in the video that since the female students had admitted that they were not raped, it meant they were not sexually harassed.

However, in a statement personally signed by her on Sunday in Abuja emphasized her “unwavering dedication to upholding due diligence and the rule of law.”

She said, “This declaration comes in response to recent public discussions and reactions by concerned Nigerians regarding the unfolding situation at the University of Calabar, involving the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof Cyril Ndifon, and sexual harassment allegations levelled against him.

“I wish to express my sincere apologies to those who were offended by my comments and actions regarding the sexual harassment scandal at the University of Calabar. This is extremely regrettable as my intentions were sincere and aligned with my consistent advocacy for the welfare of Nigerian women and the pursuit of justice.

“I stand for all Nigerian women and I stand for justice; and it is my hope that we can work together to actualize the dream of a country where women’s rights are respected and protected, and where our daughters feel safe in institutions of learning.”

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