Not Yet Uhuru!

Harping on the incessant sexual harassment of students in higher institutions would probably sound like playing on a broken instrument, for like every other problem that plagues the nation; it has become perennial and gradually, it is becoming a norm. Students of higher institutions especially the females have more often than naught become pawns in the chess boards of some mediocre lecturers, who often force some female students to sleep their way through and the male students pay their way through. It has become a norm in the sense that some students even offer to pay in cash or kind to pass their exams, thereby making a mess of the education system and watering down the efforts of some other students who must have made sincere efforts to study.
Around October last year, a BBC documentary titled “Sex For Grades” exposed the level of systematic sexual abuse against female students in West Africa universities. It was in the course of this that Professor Boniface Igbeneghu, a senior lecturer, Faculty of Arts; and a former Sub Dean of the University of Lagos who also happens to be a pastor could be seen trying to sexually harass a BBC reporter posing as a 17-year-old girl. In 2018, a Professor of Management and Accounting at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife, Richard Akindele, was arraigned and remanded in prison following alleged sexual harassment of one of his students Ms. Monica Osagie. Barely two weeks after that the news of the HOD Marketing, School of Business Studies Unwana, Ezumah Chris Obi and his alleged sexual harassment of two female students, Okoh Janet and Egwu Gladys filtered the air. Many other cases abound.
The Nigerian Senate on the 7th of July, 2020, passed a bill aimed at combating sexual harassment as part of a broader move to uphold ethics in the nation’s universities. The bill was first introduced in the 8th Senate and reintroduced in the 9th Senate on October 9, 2019, passed third reading on Tuesday. Lecturers found guilty of this could be jailed for 14 years, with a minimum of 5 years, without any option of fine. It also prescribes fine of five million naira or jail terms or both for university administrators who fail to probe allegations of sexual misconduct brought against staff members. However, students found guilty of falsely accusing the lecturers for sexual misconduct could also be suspended.
While this step must be commended, the Senate must not also forget the many sexual harassments going on in other offices, ministries and industries. It is not enough eschewing the shameful act from the four walls of higher institutions while it still lives and moves in ministries and other organisations, where the supposed students, upon graduation, are expected to work. Even the issue of rape that has become the order of the day, but seemed not to be getting much air from the Senate should be equally considered and appropriate measures taken.
However, passing a bill is one thing, assenting and passing it into law is another. The bill should not end up becoming another bogus bill that ends up not seeing the light of the day and not followed to its logical conclusion. If eventually the bill becomes law, effort should be made to ensure that everyone is subject to the provisions of the law and that there are no sacred cows. If this is done religiously, then some sanity may finally be injected into the ambience of our higher institutions. Until then, it is not yet Uhuru, the work is just about to begin.

Follow us