BY LUKMAN ABDULMALIK, DECEMBER 19, 2023 | 10:23 AM
In this three-month discrete investigation, Lukman Abdulmalik unravelled how a student was sexually harassed in a health academy in Kano.
This reporter met three young students arguing among themselves on Gwammaja Road, close to Kofar Ruwa Market in Kano metropolis. Out of curiosity, he decided to check out what’s the matter; it turned out to be an issue of sexual harassment, and this investigation followed.
One of the girls, Khadijah Aminu, a 20-year-old, is a student who has a dream to become an Orthopeadic nurse.
She is a student of the ‘School of Orthopaedic Cast Technology Kano under the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Kofar-Ruwa Road, Dala – Kano State.
The aspiring nurse was admitted to the school on 23 February 2022 at the age of 19.
Despite hearing tales about lecturers in the health academy sexually harassing students, Khadija, who is an introvert, did not expect any lecturer to notice or prey on her, but it turned out differently as Mallam Tijanni Umar, a lecturer at the school, has been stalking her.
According to her, “On July 25, 2023, I usually go to school around 7 a.m. and close by 6 p.m.
“On this fateful day, I arrived at the school as early as 7 a.m., where I met my friend Hibbah and other colleagues who are our junior colleagues from NDE 1.
“I checked my phone and saw that Mallam Umar had messaged me on WhatsApp that he was on his way to school.
Stallion Times was informed that Mallam Umar, a lecturer, doubles as the desk officer for students. 4
This position gives him access to the student’s telephone number.
Khadija continued to narrate her ordeal: “The WhatsApp message requested that I come to his office to see him. I replied to the text in the affirmative. But, unknown to me, he had arrived; I just spotted him from afar, waving at me to come over.
some WhatsApp chats between Khadija and Mallm Umar
“I met him, and he asked me to accompany him to his office to sign an attendance form, but when I got there, the windows were shut and the office was dark while the door was locked.
“Mallam Umar grabbed me from the back and started caressing me. I immediately expressed my displeasure, and he let go of me.
“I immediately ran out of the office crying. Nobody noticed, because normally, the lecturers had a habit of entertaining only one person at a time, so everyone else stayed back.
“A friend saw me crying and told me that Mallam Umar wanted to see me again. I went back to his office and he looked at me without remorse. After the break of silence, he gave me a paper with the written message, ‘I AM SO SORRY’.
She confided with Stallion Times and said she told her friend, Humaira, of the unusual experience. Her friend kept coming back to me to inquire about my encounter with the lecturer.
“About 2 hours after the incident, Mallam Umar met me and my colleagues after tutoring NDE1 students.
“He slowly approached us while looking down, unsure of what to say; after a few moments, he called an elderly man, a non-administrative staff member in the school, and asked him, ‘Who were those students? The man replied,It is Khadija and her friends.”
After his manoeuvre, he invited her company to the office and asked Mallam Umar why I was crying (at this point, he was pretending nothing happened.
“I didn’t answer him, but Humaira told him that I was feeling headaches. Mallam Umar asked me to follow him to collect medicine from his office.
“I refused. Humaira was surprised and asked why would a lecturer ask a student to follow him and the student would refuse.
“She screamed, Khadija!!! Your lecturer is talking to you and you kept quiet. WHY?
“Their reactions eventually overwhelmed me, and I followed him to his office, where he continued to beg for my forgiveness.”
Investigation revealed that Mallam Umar is not alone in harassing girls in the school.
Other lecturers too have been perorating students.
However, Mallam Umar has been widely acclaimed as one of the notorious ones because Khadijah is just one of the many survivors that has been sexually abused, Khadija furiously disclosed
“Despite Umar’s pejorative behavior, he denied molesting me.
“The following day, I reported the matter to my mother (Jiddah Kabeer).
“She came to school to see the provost. When she arrived at the provost’s office, a group of lecturers (name withheld) asked me to explain what had happened, and I did.
“Unfortunately, they blamed me for informing my mother and not the school authority.
“However, based on other incidents I have witnessed from my colleagues, I decided to inform my mother, because any sexual case brought to the school authority is being dismissed with no justice; they only scold the lecturer and bury the matter without a thorough investigation.”
“As a result of that, they treated us with less seriousness; we continued our complaint to the Director of Administration (name withheld) for several days, waiting for Mallam Umar’s call.
“After about three days, I was invited to a conference hall with the lecturer, where he denied any wrongdoing and claimed that I was paid to witch hunt him or that I was blackmailing him.”
“He further stated that I was about to fall due to dizziness, and he helped me; that was his version.
“After the meeting at the conference hall, Mallam Umar sent some people to apologize on his behalf, days after, he called me and apologized in the presence of my friends.
“I have the piece of paper where he wrote, ‘I AM SO SORRY’, there are other chats on WhatsApp we had that he has deleted most but was able to save only a few, but there are those I tag that could be seen, some of which he was requesting that I come to his office.
An apology paper issued to Khadija by Mallam Usman
I feel insecure in the school – Khadijah
Khadijah, who has been subjected to heinous incidents with Mallam Umar, said she is facing threats from other lecturers in the school.
“I am not completely free in the school; I can see the displeasure in some lecturers’ eyes and even sense that they are laying a trap for me or even hoping I will be among those who violate the school’s code so they can vent their anger.
“At a point, if they see me among my colleagues on other occasions, they will hint to my colleagues as to why they are following or befriending a rascal.
“I had a lecturer telling my friends to stop keeping bad company.
I have no peace of mind whenever Khadijah prepares for school – Mother
Jiddah Kabeer, 38, is the mother of Khadija and four other male children (Abdussamad, Muhammad, Ahmad, and Mahmud).
She said Khadija and Abdussamad are both students of the School of Orthopaedic Cast Technology, Dala Kano but she has no peace of mind whenever her daughter prepares to go to school.
She narrates what happened to her daughter: “Khadija called me on the morning of July 23, 2023.
“I saw 7 missed calls, 4 from my daughter and 3 from her friends.
“I was concerned about receiving several calls from her because whenever she needed help, she flashes my telephone twice.
“So, I quickly called her back, she picked up the phone and began to cry uncontrollably. I became even more worried and consoled her to tell me what had happened.
“My daughter requested that I make an emergency appearance at her school, but she refused until I threatened her that if she continued crying, I would faint.
“She then disclosed to me that one of her lecturers sexually harassed her in the office; my heart started racing, I exclaimed, Inna-lillahi-wainnailaihi-raji’un!!!
“I quickly ended the call and threw the phone away, took a tricycle straight to the school.
“I was fuming with anger and upset when I arrived at school – I was enraged out of control, if you like.
“I met my daughter in a terrible state of mind; other students surrounded her as she sobbed.”
Blaming the victim
Khadijah’s mother revealed that, upon reporting the matter to the school Provost, Ochimana Thomas Mathew, he blamed her daughter for bypassing the school authority.
“Mathew was rather blaming my daughter for calling me to the scene instead of reporting to the school authority.
“The whole incident appeared so simple in their eyes as if nothing had happened; the school authority ended up blaming my daughter, asking where she got the lecturer’s phone number and why they were even chatting before the incident.
“When I saw how the provost was handling the situation, I went to the Director Administration of the school.
“Even in the Director’s office, no action was taken, no one acknowledged wrongdoing, and nobody apologized.
“I reported the matter to my ex-husband who took the case to Dala Police Divisional Headquarters.”
Stallion Times learned that after refusing to honor several invitations by the Police, Mallam Umar was arrested through his senior brother. At the Police station, he denied knowing Khadija.
After interrogations by the Investigation Police Officer (IPO), at a point, he said she is one of the students of the school and he has Khadija’s phone number.
The IPO asked Mallam Umar why he deleted the conversations between him and Khadija on WhatsApp, but Mallam Umar remained silent.
According to Khadija’s mother, the IPO informed both parties (complainant and defendant) that the matter would be charged to court. At this point, Khadija’s father said he would not consent to the idea of taking the matter to court if Mallam Umar would accept to kneel-down and apologize to his daughter, Kahdija.
He accepted, knelt down and apologized, but to her displeasure, the case was discharged.
Investigations by Stallion Times revealed that when the school administration learned of Khadija’s mother’s displeasure, they summoned both parties to a closed-door meeting.
In the closed-door meeting, Mallam Umar was asked for the second time to apologise to Khadija in the presence of her mother, but he refused. Following his refusal, the school authority suspended him for 3 months.
Culture of silence
Despite the push by Khadija’s mother (Jiddah) to secure justice for her daughter, she is gradually giving up on the matter due to societal influence.
“I cannot express how much annoyance, heartbreak, and trauma this incident has caused me; I will never be at peace.
“I am considering to give in to family pressure and allow my daughter to continue attending that school because she now has only 2 to 3 months to graduate as an NDE II student.
Sneak peak of some reported GBV cease in Kano
According to the Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), from November 2022 to February 2023, it recorded 171 cases of GBV via its platform in the state.
Despite Section 283 of the Kano State Penal Code, which specifies stiff penalties of life imprisonment and a minimum of a 14 years jail term for rape and other related sexual offenses, sexual abuse in the state remains unabated.
Civil Society Advocates in Kano have over the years been pushing for the domestication of the VAPP Law in the state as the absence of the law limits the prosecution of Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) offenders.
VAPP law prohibits all forms of violence against persons to in private and public life, and provides maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.
The law was enacted by the National Assembly and was assented to become law by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on 2015.
Kano is one of the states that are yet to ratify the VAPP Law.
Legal perspectives of the matter
Isah Abdulazeez Umar Esq., of Abu Ruqqayya Legal Consultants shared his opinion: “It is very unfortunate that Kano state is yet to come up with a comprehensive law tackling the menace of sexual harassment, the trend is so rampant nowadays.
He told Stallion Times that Khadija’s case could be described as a complete breach of trust and abuse of professional conduct on the part of the lecturer and by extension the concerned institution.
Umar Esq., asserted that on the part of the students particularly Khadija, one cannot imagine the traumatic situation this incidence has brought to her and her parents especially looking at the background where the incidence occurred.
“For Kano to move forward on the cases of sexual harassments in tertiary institutions, there’s need to deliberately float an institution through the instrument of an Act of the state assembly. Such law should focus on curbing the menace of sexual harassment of whatever nature within institutions and places of work.
“The law should specifically state punitive damages as well as long term of imprisonment for the perpetrators. With the law in place people will think twice before embarking on such frivolous journey.”
According to Umar Esq., if Khadija pleases, she may approach a court of competent jurisdiction with the matter.
Umar goes into hiding
After several attempts to trace his physical address at a satellite settlement in Ungwar-uku Yanawaki quarters by Southern Byepass, a section of Kumbotso LGA failed
The only close mark to track him down was information from a resident who said Mallam Umar usually sells crutches, anklets, and medical knee braces in the vicinity.
On 9 November 2023, Mallam Umar’s phone number was obtained from Khadija. Several calls were made but he was not picking calls. This was followed by text messages that were not responded to.
On 11 November 2023, similar phone calls were made with a different number, instead, his telephone became unreachable.
The findings of a two weeks undercover investigation carried out by Stallion Times in the area where Mallam Umar lives is that he got informed that Khadija’s mother is working on the sexual harassment case from an undisclosed person, so, he decided to go into hiding.
This is one of many cases of Gender Based Violence and Sexual Harassments in tertiary institutions. Many are not officially reported, some are suppressed by fear of stigmatization or traditional construct.
Today, Khadija is about to graduate from the school but lives with the trauma, sigma, and insecurity of the sexual harassment incident.
This publication was originally produced by Stallion Times with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.
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15 October 2022