Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Deputy Senate President (DSP) Senator Ovie Omo-Agege has observed that the plague of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions and other corporate establishments in Nigeria has long been treated with kid gloves, allowing the crime to fester while culprits go unpunished.
The Senator expressed displeasure that victims do not get justice, and are often left to the concerned institutions’ administration without appropriate or tough legislation for prosecutors to deal with the problem.
Senator Omo-Agege spoke in Abuja on Monday, through his aide on legislative and plenary matters, Patrick Okuneh, at a meeting organised by Youth Alive Foundation (YAF) to discuss the newly proposed bill to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment in tertiary education institutions.
The bill was revived in response to last week’s report by the BBC that exposed a University of Lagos (UNILAG) lecturer, Boniface Igbeneghu, of demanding sex from an undercover female reporter posing as a student.
He regretted that the bill could not scale through the 8th National Assembly for assent by President Muhammadu Buhari, who had waited patiently and was eager to assent to the legislation.
“I am passionate about the bill and that was why I am re-presenting it to the 9th Senate, this time with the support of 106 other Senators. It’s an indication that the 9th Senate is ready to move against perpetrators of sexual harassment in our tertiary institutions with stiffer laws,” Senator Omo-Agege said.
YAF Executive Director Dr Uduak Okon said in her remarks that the situation was alarming and called for stiffer regulations and the support of stakeholders to clean the education system of sexual harassment.
“We recently conducted a survey in 19 tertiary institutions across six states where we had over 3,000 students as respondents. We found out that 51.7 percent of female undergraduates suffered sexual violence in school,” she said.
“The survey fed us with evidence of prevalence rate of sexual harassment in higher educational institutions and also provided situational analysis of systems, policies and processes put in place by institutions to address sexual harassment.”
She said that the YAF has built a multiple stakeholder platform and a strategic national advocacy campaign to support quick passage and presidential assent to the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prohibition Bill.