Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Four days after the BBC Africa Eye’s sex-for-grades hit the media, and a day after the Senate introduced a bill that aims to prevent the sexual harassment of university students, President Muhammadu Buhari has demanded that stricter laws are needed to prevent girls from being abused in the nation’s schools.
In a documentary aired on Monday by the BBC Africa Eye, a certain Dr Boniface Igbeneghu of University of Lagos, was caught on tape sexually harassing an undercover reporter, posing as a prospective student.
The BBC report is part of a year-long investigation into sexual harassment by professors at the University of Lagos and the University of Ghana.
According to a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari in his reaction to the recent high-profile revelation of sexual abuse cases in various institutions of higher learning in the country, said he was glad that the incident was exposed through under-cover news reporting at the University of Lagos. He noted that the incident had spurred an amendment to the laws regarding the issue in the National Assembly.
President Buhari said such proposed amendments passed by the legislature would get his support as long as they conform to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The country must do more to address incidents of sexual violence, sexual abuses in our schools, discrimination, human trafficking and cultural practices that violate women’s rights,” said the president.
He urged law enforcement agencies and school administrators to take up such cases with every seriousness and ensure that perpetrators face the consequences of their actions.
“Survivors and their families must avoid cover-up. They should be encouraged to come forth and report cases of abuses wherever and whenever they occur,” he demanded.
Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, said he hoped the BBC’s investigation would help energise support for the bill.
He said that he regarded sexual harassment in universities as unacceptable.
If the bill becomes law, it would be illegal for lecturers to make any sexual advances to students.
And under the proposed law, which was read in the Senate on Wednesday, teaching staff could face up to 14 years in jail for having sexual relationships with their students.