One of the rude awakenings of June came with a tweet from Kelechi Udoagwu where she explained in details about the sexual harassment she suffered at the hands of Mr Kendall Ananyi, the CEO of Tizeti Networks Limited.
Following a series of criticisms on Twitter by members of the tech community, Tizeti announced that it was conducting an independent investigation into the issue.
Some weeks later, the company announced that no case of sexual harassment was established and therefore reinstated Ananyi as CEO.
On the surface, the events that happened and the conclusion makes the case look like a cut and dried one but there seem to be some details that were almost missed by the public.
The holes in the ‘independent investigation’
As the tech sector is a male-dominated one, speaking out about issues as sensitive as sexual harassment harboured concerns such as ‘will it be taken up, and what will be the outcome?’
Tizeti took up the allegation, responding via Twitter that “We have commissioned an investigation into the allegation,” and that “As a company, we have zero tolerance for harassment and outright condemn sexual harassment of any kind and empathize with any person who faces incidents of sexual harassment.”
The company also announced that it had set up an independent special investigation committee to look into the issue. Afterwards, it commissioned the law firm of Olumide Sofowora Chambers to conduct an investigation.
The company said, “On June 7, 2020, Tizeti appointed an Independent Special Investigation Committee of its Board of Directors to investigate allegations of sexual harassment made against Kendall Ananyi, the company’s CEO”.
Co-founder of IrokoTV, Jason Njoku clarified that “Tizeti had 3 board members. Kendall (Co-Founder & CEO), Ifeanyi (Co-Founder & COO), and 4DX. 4DX have resigned. So ‘the board’ is the co-founders…There is no independence in this special investigation. Complete joke.”
Co-founder of Flutterwave, Iyin Aboyeji, buttressed it:
“This is sad, shameful and especially painful to me because I introduced Kendall to a number of his major investors. The board has resigned. Their major investors have not seen this sham report and do not endorse it neither do I. Very painful.”
All reports indicate that Tizeti never carried out an independent investigation in the first place, a fact that was mentioned by Kelechi when she said
“My lawyers and I were not informed of the independent special investigation committee throughout the proceedings of this fiasco.”
The process of the investigation appeared to be muddled, however, with the complainant, Kelechi, only being included in the proceedings after she tweeted that she had been left out so far.
Pictures of the written correspondence between Kelechi, her lawyers and the Sofowora Chambers suggest that the chambers acted on behalf of Tizeti networks, as against being an independent investigator in the case.
In retrospect, the ultimatums issued and refusal to have a written trail of the questions for the investigation by the law firm paints the investigation as a rushed one that was clearly not meant to leave a trail behind. It looks like something that was carried out just for the sole purpose of saying to the public, ‘we did something, now stop talking.’
The crux of the whole investigation really rested on the question ‘who did the investigating law firm report to?’ Tizeti’s board is currently made up of Kendall Ananyi and Ifeanyi, who are most likely overseeing the independent investigative panel the company claimed it set up.
‘Based on this investigation, it was determined by the independent legal counsel, which conclusion was accepted by the Independent Special Investigation Committee, that a case of sexual harassment had not been established.’Tizeti
Tizeti, of course, accepted the conclusion.
What does this say to members of the tech community?
According to Kelechi, the purpose of coming out was to get a new policy in place that looked out for females in the company and the tech space. While the desired outcome was achieved, the more important outcome would have been a matter of ‘perception.’
Kendall Ananyi’s acknowledgement that what he did was wrong and inappropriate was the other thing that Kelechi had asked for during the investigation.
Obviously, Mr Ananyi made no such acknowledgements.
There are other reports of incidents like this, and an open acknowledgement of the wrongness of it would have served not only as a deterrent to others but as an encouragement for people to speak out about such experiences.
One might say some form of justice was achieved because there is a ‘supposed’ policy in place, but the greater good, as far as this case is concerned, remains out of reach.