Following the recent reported cases of sexual harassment in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions, President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that henceforth, any lecturer indicted in the sex-for-marks scandal and other sexual-related offences would face the “stiffest punishment under the law.” The president, in his speech at the 35th convocation ceremony of the University of Ilorin, condemned the rising cases of sexual scandals in the nation’s university system.
The president’s terse threat of full sanctions on the offenders, though belated, has brought an official stamp of disavowal of the heinous acts, which have seized the nation by the jugular in recent times. Also, at the convocation ceremony of the University of Uyo, the president not only reinforced his stance on the issue, but also decried the rise in cases of sexual harassment, sorting, plagiarism and corruption in the varsities. Although there are many laws in the statute books to take care of such vices, the president’s unambiguous stance has elicited cheers from the victims, rights activists, and human rights groups. The sex-for-marks scandals that have rocked some universities in recent times have attracted public outrage. The condemnable development has engendered mistrust and eroded the confidence placed on lecturers as “proxy guardians” to their students. It has generated so much concern that street marches have been staged against the phenomenon across some cities in the country. It has dampened the morale of hard working female students, some of whom are the victims of such moral laxity. The effect of this sad development on the society at large is equally not edifying. Sexual harassment in the universities has led to the production of half-baked graduates, who cannot compete favourably in the labour market or function effectively in the world of work. The Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier-General Shuiabu Ibrahim, two months ago, lamented the quality of graduates that the scheme has had to contend with. He revealed that some of them could not write correct English sentences and threatened to henceforth expose the graduating institutions of the affected corps members. We condemn the rise in sexual harassment in the nation’s universities. The cancer worm is dangerous to academic excellence and therefore unacceptable. Moreover, it has dented the quality of graduates of Nigeria’s tertiary institutions. In an institution where sex-for-marks is in vogue, research and serious intellectual activities would be relegated to the background. It is sad that employers of labour and universities abroad now subject Nigerian graduates to stiffer scrutiny before being employed or admitted for post-graduate studies.
In addition to any plan the government may use to check the vice, the universities and other tertiary institutions should urgently come up with pragmatic measures to check the menace. Investigation such cases and sacking any indicted lecturer should be the way out of the quagmire. Any lecturer sacked based on sexual misdemeanor should not be employed in any varsity or any tertiary institution in the country. This measure will send a strong signal that the system can no longer tolerate such immorality. In recent months, there have been series of investigation panels set up by some tertiary institutions to probe allegations of sexual harassment. In August 2019, the University of Abuja, Federal University, Ado- Ekiti, and the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, separately set up investigation panels to probe allegations made against some lecturers, including professors. The federal government should open a sex offender’s book which some states like Ekiti are already implementing, and their names should grace prominent parts of the book. Sensitisation programmes should be instituted by the various institutions to remind lecturers that students are not part of their fringe benefits and booties. Remarkably, there is a bill before the 9th National Assembly sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, on sex-for-marks in tertiary institutions. The bill, which has passed the first reading, should be assiduously monitored and pursued to ensure that both arms of the National Assembly pass it and signed into law by the president. The 8th National Assembly had earlier passed a similar bill entitled, “Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educations Prohibition Bill,” which was rejected by the House of Representatives. The argument by the 9th House of Representatives that it should be broadened to include work places and religious institutions should not be an alibi to step down the bill again. The sex-for-marks scandal was brought to the fore following the recent BBC documentary which exposed two lecturers of the University of Lagos and a lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon. There is need to beam more searchlight on other universities and tertiary institutions across the country as a way of addressing the problem.
We endorse any plan and action geared towards not making the phenomenon a norm. We encourage all activists and other stakeholders who are involved in the battle of expunging this scourge from our educational system.