The government announced the suspension on Sunday 3rd January, 2020 and stated that it would last til the conclusion of an investigation into the allegation made by Barakat Melojuekun that the commissioner subjected her to sexual harassment when she went to his house to look for a job.
In a statement issued by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Tokunbo Talabi, that the suspension of the commissioner was to allow him to defend himself in the investigation being carried out by the police.
The Secretary issued the statement as “While taking cognizance of the principle of a suspect being presumed innocent until proven guilty and the public statement issued by Abudu-Balogun denying the allegation, as a government with zero tolerance for gender-based violence and indeed any criminality, the suspension is a further demonstration of the commitment of Prince Dapo Abiodun’s administration to fairness, equity, justice and the rule of law, no matter who is involved.”
He continued that the State government assures the public that it will do everything to ensure that justice is served in this case and that the suspended commissioner has been directed to hand over to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment.”
Looking into the allegation, a 16 year-old pupil of Victory Model College in the Ogun-Waterside Local Government Area of the State, Barakat, made the allegation in a viral video posted on Facebook on Saturday.
In the video, she said that the suspended commissioner connived with her uncle and a teacher to lure her to his house, where she was sexually harassed.
Barakat further explained “On December 29, 2020, I was on my way to the NIMC (National Identity Management Commission) office to do my NIN. I came across this man called Honourable Abiodun Abudu-Balogun, who is the current Commissioner for Environment, at Ibiade motorcycles park. I was discussing with my friend and he called me saying he knew me somewhere, and I said I did not know him.”
“When I wanted to leave the scene, he sent a guy named Seun from the park to collect my phone number. I told the guy to tell the honourable to collect my phone number from Mr. Lasisi Saheed, aka Mayor, who is my father’s elder brother“.
“Mr. Austin, a teacher at Ilusin Grammar School, started disturbing my friend to release my number, and my friend released my (phone) number to them. Mr. Austin then called me and asked where I was. I told him that I was at the NIMC office to register my NIN. He said I should come and meet him at Ibiade park.”
Barakat said she went home after concluding the registration at the NIMC office and Austin called her at night, asking her why she refused to come to the park as promised and she said that she was in a hurry to go home and that she had something to do at home.
The girl continued that on Thursday, December 31, 2020, Mr. Lasisi, Mayor, went to my grandparents and told them that someone needed a computer operator. He asked me if I could operate a computer and I said yes. He said I should go and change my clothes and that I was going to meet somebody who needed a computer operator.
She said that on getting to the commissioner house at Ita Otu, he told her to sit down inside the car and that she must not get down. Then a lady, named Mariam Eniola from Ita Otu, came to take her to one living room. Then, Mr Austin entered and asked her why she didn’t pick her phone the previous day and that she answered that she was not with her phone. Mr Austin then took her to a room inside the commissioner’s house.
She narrated that Austin left the room immediately the commissioner entered, and that Abudu-Balogun locked the door instantly, put the key in his pocket and moved closer to her.
She stated that the commissioner asked her the name of her school and how much she paid as school fees. she said she told him that it was N30,000. He asked for the person paying her school fees and she told him that it was her dad. He asked if she planned to start a business and she said no, that she wanted to go to a higher institution first. He asked her how much she would need and she said any amount. He said she should state an amount and she said any amount.
She claimed that the commissioner moved closer to her and touched her breasts but she moved away and told him that he should not touch her breasts. He asked if she wouldn’t cooperate and she asked him why she should cooperate. Then, he started pressing her breasts and her body. She said she struggled to free herself from him. Then, he started reciting some incantations and wanted to place his hands on her head, she said she moved her head and told him not touch her head. She said he wanted to force her inside the bathroom then she started shouting.
Barakat informed that she escaped because of the people that were around in his compound as he did not want them to know what was happening. She said he gave her N2,000 for transport and told her to leave. She said she rejected the money, and he said if she didn’t accept the money, he wouldn’t let her go. So, she collected the money and he opened the door, then he told Mr Austin to take her to her house. She said that this has never happened to her in her life.
In his reaction, Abudu-Balogun described the video as “tele-guided” and claimed that the minor was being used to indict him. He agreed that he held a meeting with the girl in his room but said it was not private as her uncle, who is a loyalist him, brought her to his house so that he could help her to secure a job as a computer operator.
Abudu-Balogun stated, “My attention has been drawn to a purported video circulating on social media of a girl alleging that I attempted to sexually harass her. Let it be noted that in my entire life and political career, I have assisted many youths to secure jobs. Some are working with me in my different businesses.”
He continued that on that day, the girl was brought to his house by one of his loyalists, who is her uncle, to assist her get a job as a computer operator at the ICT centre that he facilitated while serving as a member of the House of Representatives years back. Though, the centre has been moribund but he was about to rehabilitate it in order to empower more youths in the local government.
He said that he met her at his sitting room for a few minutes where many of his loyalists, who came to visit him for the New Year, were. He said he chatted with the girl for a few minutes and as part of his usual gesture, he gave her some amount of money for her transportation.
And a day after, he was informed by some people that he has been alleged to have attempted to sexually harass the girl and that he should invite her family for a meeting so as to settle the matter amicably.”
Abudu-Balogun said the family had threatened to release a video if he failed to call for a meeting, and he claimed that his refusal had led to the release of the clip that he described as a political blackmail by his enemies.