The issue of sexual harassment in Nigerian universities was brought to fore recently following the BBC’s sting operation on two lecturers at the University of Lagos. The ugly phenomenon also rocked the University of Ghana, Legon. In the case of the University of Lagos, Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu of the Department of European Languages and Dr. Samuel Oladipo of the Department of Economics were allegedly involved in the sex scandal.
There is no doubt that sexual harassment has been rife in the nation’s institutions of higher learning. Sex-for-marks menace has become so rampant in the ivory towers that something must be done now to stop the menace. It is unfortunate that university teachers are taking advantage of their female students who they should act as their parents. The moral degeneracy in the universities must be arrested before it does more harm to the quality of education offered by these citadels of higher learning.
We commend the authorities of the University of Lagos for suspending the affected lecturers pending the outcome of the investigation of the matter. We reiterate that this matter should be thoroughly investigated. On no account should the matter be swept under the carpet. It is good that the university has intolerance against sexual harassment as contained in its 2017 policy document. It should come up with mechanisms to ensure that no case of sexual harassment is covered because of the status of those involved.
Last year, Professor Richard Akindele of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, was found guilty of sexual harassment of his post-graduate student, Monica Osagie, and was sentenced to two years jail term. There have been reported cases of sexual harassment at the Federal University, Oye, Ekiti State and Lagos State University, Ojo. The matter has led to the sack of three lecturers in these institutions in recent times.
We condemn the rise in cases of sexual harassment in Nigerian universities. The development is quite reprehensible and unacceptable. It is, in fact, a negation of the role teachers are expected to play in the academic nurturing of their students. There is no doubt that teachers stand in place of parents to their students. They should also serve as mentors to their students. Therefore, university teachers must serve as role models to their students. It is a betrayal of trust for the university teachers therefore to demand sex from their students to inflate their grades. The offending lecturers and all others in their shoes must understand that they have a number of obligations to their students apart from imparting knowledge to them. Apart from debasing womanhood, sexual harassment reduces the worth of university degrees.
Some of the victims of sexual harassment are forced by circumstances beyond their control to abandon their studies. Such a development is not good for the girl child education and gender parity being championed by the United Nations (UN). The National Assembly should enact a law that can effectively check the menace. The universities and other institutions of higher learning in the country must come up with measures to curb the scourge in their schools.
It is reassuring that President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the ugly trend and called for stiffer measures to stop it. The country needs stiffer legislations that would ensure that the culprits are given condign punishment. The Sexual Harassment Bill previously introduced by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege should be revisited with stiffer measures to correct the anomaly.
Every higher institution in the country should map out strategies to check the menace. Let the universities establish special offices where sexual harassment matters should be reported. Above all, the varsities should offer adequate protection to victims of sexual harassment.