Frustrated by the rising cases of sexual harassment in the higher institutions, the upper chamber of the National Assembly passed a bill labeled the “Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Prohibition Bill” as a measure to address the scourge.
The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo–Agege of the Delta Central Senatorial Zone, prescribes a five-year jail term for lecturers found guilty of sexual harassment of either their male and female students.
The bill also prescribes a punishment of expulsion or suspension for students who falsely accuse a lecturer of sexual harassment.
Indeed, the Nigerian tertiary institutions, in recent times, have been notorious for terrifying cases of sexual abuse by lecturers against their students.
Despite its prevalence in the institutions, many individuals are of the view that there have not been any serious mechanisms to tackle the problem.
It is believed that when reported to the authorities, the cases are usually covered up, while the victims are made to suffer for reporting their lecturers. Therefore, the growing number of sexual harassment cases have gone unreported in the institutions.
The Nigerian Academia sought the views of both students and lecturers on the sexual harassment bill passed by the Nigerian Senate. The aim was to gauge the opinions of members of the academia which the bill specifically targets.
Dr. Kabir Dahiru Abbas (Department of Information Studies, Bayero University Kano)
“It is a timely bill and good for the system because the proposed penalty would curb the excesses of our people in the nation’s ivory towers and thereby stampede corrupt practices endangering the system. It is good as it touches both the lecturers and students. Based on the content of the bill, false allegations by students will attract expulsion or even higher penalty, depending on the magnitude of the claims. This means that any claims by students must be cogent, verifiable and evidence-based.”
Prof Shola Omotola (Department of Political Science, Federal Univesity, Oye-Ekiti)
“I have mixed feelings. Why not generalize it that whoever indulges in any form of sexual harassment? I think the law stems from the erroneous impression that lecturers are the only or main culprits in such crimes. Far from it. I have seen it everywhere: workplaces, religious circles, etc.”
Dr. Abdul-Wasi Moshood (Department of Political Science, Lagos State University)
“It is quite unfortunate that a law has to be promulgated to deter the erring and recalcitrant ones amongst us. This group of people is supposed to be the role model and epitome of all that is good in the society. That a law must be enacted to forestall sexual harassment of students speaks directly to the level of decadence in our society. I support the law to fish out the deviants among lecturers. However, this law should be holistic; it should also incorporate all the other governmental institutions where such crime is also perpetrated.”
Olanrewaju Fasasi (300L, Informational and Media Technology, Federal University of Technology, Minna)
“Mere looking at the bill, I think it’s a good idea, but laws in Nigeria are not being put into practice because of the belief that every individual is corrupt. The following are the reasons why I think it won’t work in Nigerian higher institutions: first, the students and the lecturers are corrupt already because the student who wants favors from their lecturers offer whatever they have to get what they want; second, we only make laws in Nigeria, but they are not implemented; third, any student who is a victim would not report to the authorities because such student will be scared of expulsion; finally, the process to take if such law happens might be too difficult because there is no body to regulate such law except if it will be introduced after the bill becomes law.”
Fayomi Seun (400 L, Agricultural Economics and Extension Technology, Federal University of Technology, Minna)
“The question is: Are the students (female students) ready to prevent themselves from sexual harassment? Is the lecturer the main culprit or the student? I will say the law should also include the students. Students who fail to dress well, or indulge in bribery should also be punished under the law.”
Idajili Glory Ojinma (400 L, Animal Production Federal University of Technology, Minna)
“It is a welcome development. I believe it would help to curb the menace of sexual harassment in our tertiary institutions.”
Musa Bello (300 L, Human Kinetics and Health Education, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University)
“I think the law is okay. At least, it will reduce the phenomenon of illegal sexual activities in the school environment among lecturers and students.”
Yusuf Ibrahim (400 L, Microbiology University of Lagos)
“If it were a normal country, I would have supported the bill. Unfortunately, things have to be really spelled out here. They should define what it means to be guilty. And again, how would they know if a student raised a false alarm? The last time I checked, such acts are carried out covertly, and for an institution like ours, where the mother hen protects her chicks, how would we know the truth?”
Lateef Zainab Adebukola (ND 3, Lagos State Polytechnic)
“The law is a biased one because (1) the judgement for student is somehow extreme and absolute which as a matter of fact can scare the truthful ones away from lodging any complaint related to sexual harassment and (2) many evil-minded lecturers will use the law an enabling ground to exploit students as the latter will always aim to preserve their studentship and will readily avoid anything that can put it at stake.”