| Society

Perps and Papers: An Academic in Africa

A lot of unhappy rumbling, and us standing around trying to look as serious and threatening as we possibly could.

Nigeria street scene

Julius has really excelled himself this time. I honestly never thought he would be so stupid, but the problem with foolproof plans is that they underestimate the ingenuity of the average idiot.

It was the week of examinations, and George and I arrived on campus about forty minutes late, because we’d had to spend over an hour queuing at a petrol station due to one of the regular shortages. Despite this, and the painfully loud Christian rock music that they were playing (all of the unintentionally hilarious “Jesus touches me” variety) I turned up at campus in a pretty good mood. Not for long.

As I headed for the exam hall, Lola said she needed to talk to me. My heart sank at this, because a couple of days earlier I’d had a contretemps with David after he’d torn a strip off her for no reason at all. This had turned into a half an hour argument, which included much patronising on his part (“The thing you have to understand about Nigerians…”) and much fairly pointed sarcasm from me (“A second ago you were telling me we all had to pitch in, now you’re too good to move a few chairs around?”).

I wished I hadn’t even started it, because it just made me worried that when I took my term off, he’d make Lola’s life hell. Curiously, he seems to be being a lot nicer to her, and also seems to have more respect for me. So it goes.

the exam papers have been leaked

 

 

 

Anyway, this wasn’t the reason why Lola needed to talk to me. “One of the students has told me that the exam papers have been leaked, and students have seen this morning’s exam.” Do we know how it got leaked? “Yes, it was the Registrar’s driver.” ie., Julius. Shit.

Twenty minutes until the exam started, so obviously too late to cancel until we could find out exactly what was going on/had gone on. I told David what had happened, and started the exam as normal whilst he went off to “detain” Julius. I was less than my usual affable self, and made George jump out of his skin at one point by breaking off a whispered conversation with him to scream “Silence!” at the assembled students like a deranged Gestapo officer.

By the time the exam had finished, the story was starting to become clear. Julius had confessed (which I was a little surprised about), and so had the students involved. It was all pretty depressing. David had been taking the exam papers home for security purposes the night before, and after putting them in the boot of his car, had gone back inside to say goodbye to Datti.

In the two or three minutes this took, Julius swiped one of the papers from the bag, and the next morning, he sold it to a few of the students. For the princely sum of N4,000 (£15).

This was stupid for a whole number of reasons. Firstly, the students had less than an hour to look at the paper, and it blatantly wouldn’t have helped them at all. Not a single one of them finished the exam, and they were all moaning at me afterwards (“Sir, why do you kill me?” being my favourite comment), so I doubt the ones that spent 45 hurried minutes with it got much of a head start.

as effective as a chocolate teapot

 

 

 

Secondly, whilst the Nigerian judicial system is about as effective as a chocolate teapot, it can be relied upon to hand down ludicrously draconian sentences for minor crimes – especially when they are committed by a driver against a university owned by a senator. So having lost his house and his wife about a month earlier, Julius had now lost his job and probably his long term freedom for the sake of, basically, sod all.

By early afternoon he’d been arrested.

We told the students before the start of that afternoon’s exam what had happened – although David told them it was caught on CCTV, rather than than reported by a student in order to protect her – and that they’d all have to retake the exam because it was fundamentally compromised. A lot of unhappy rumbling, and us standing around trying to look as serious and threatening as we possibly could.

Still, the good thing about all of this is that it does send a pretty strong message to the rest of the students. Three have been expelled, two suspended for a year, and two suspended for a term. This, alongside all those who weren’t examined because they hadn’t been to enough classes means that we’ve let them know we mean business.

Although what effect that will have in the long term, who knows? The list we put up for the non-examined kept on getting ripped down by irate students, which was quite amusing, if annoying, although not as annoying as having them constantly trooping through my office telling me that they were sure they had been there, honest.

escaped from police custody

 

 

 

In typically ridiculous style, this story ends with me getting a phone call on the Friday night telling me that Julius had “escaped from police custody”. How, and when, no one seems to know. But that night I got a call from Joy saying that she wasn’t coming back to the flat until the next afternoon because she was “staying in church with her mother”.

Now, first of all, she was clearly drunk, secondly I don’t care, and thirdly, it sounded like she was in a club. I think the bad boy appeal might just have worked its charm, so maybe Julius hasn’t run that far after all….

Comments are closed.

Our weekly newsletter

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.