The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Monday ordered that Professor Cyril Ndifon, the suspended dean of the faculty of law at the University of Calabar (UNICAL), charged with alleged sexual harassment, be remanded in Kuje prison
However, Mr Ndifon, who is being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) before Justice James Omotosho, pleaded not guilty to the four-count charge.
The ICPC, through its counsel, Ebenezer Shogunle, had filed the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/511/23 on October 30, 2023, against Mr 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 nude photographs and videos from a year two 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 400-level female student of the Faculty of Law with the plan of changing her project supervisor to himself to guarantee favourable grades for her, and the 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, Mr Ndifon was alleged to have committed while being a public officer charged with certifying 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.
Mr Ndifon’s counsel, Okon Efut, SAN, took his bail application dated January 2 and filed January 3. He 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 Mr Ndifon should be granted bail.
Speaking from the dock, Mr Ndifon said, “My lord, I was supposed to have eye surgery on glaucoma.”
Mr 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 October 27, 2023, after being in detention for about 22 days.
He said that the surgery was expected to be carried out on January 11 based on the medical report.
ICPC lawyer Osuobeni Akponimisingha opposed the bail application. He said on receipt of the process, the commission filed a counter affidavit dated and filed January 5.
The lawyer, who alleged that one of the counsels to Mr Ndifon threatened the commission’s star witness on the phone, said they had the call logs.
Mr 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 Mr Efut and that he was also at the court sitting.
Mr Omotosho then asked the lawyer to come forward, asking for his name.
“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.
Mr 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 that I remembered somebody calling me and put a call through. At that point, there was a network issue, and I was saying hello, and the call was cut off.
“And that name they (the 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 Mr Ndifon was his lecturer and that he came as counsel to defend him or support the defence.
Mr Omotosho then asked Mr 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 Mr Anyanwu to file his affidavit of facts for the court to decide on the issue.
But Mr Omotosho wondered why Mr Ndifon had not undergone the surgery since October 27, 2023, when the magistrate court granted him bail.
Mr Akponimisingha told the court that the medical report was served to them late, and they were still verifying its genuineness.
Mr Omotosho, who ordered Mr Ndifon to be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre, adjourned the matter until January 10 for the bail application hearing and to enable Mr Anyanwu to file the affidavit of facts.