Sexual harassment: Over 15 reported cases under investigation — ICPC

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…Rallies stakeholders on national policy documents to end menace

…As DSP Omo-Agege, Minister of Education pledge support

By Ogaga Ariemu

The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN on Tuesday said the Commission has received over 15 reports of sexual harassment, highlighted efforts to end the menace in educational institutions in Nigeria.

This is as the Commission rallied stakeholders including the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege and civil society, schools and other stakeholders on a workable policy document to end sexual harassment menance in Nigeria.

Owasanoye made this disclosure during a, ‘National Stakeholders Engagement on Sexual Harassment in Educational Institution’ co-convened by ICPC and Gender Mobile Initiative with the support of Ford Foundation.

He stated that adequate policy formulation, implementation, sensitization are required to change the culture of silence over the fear of stigmatization.

The Nigeria’s anti-corruption Czar said that the commission will upscale campaigns, public enlightenments against sexual harassment across the Country.

“It has become quite common for Teaching and non-teaching staff to demand or expect sexual gratification from their students to whom they are supposed to serve as parents. Likewise, senior staff have been found to use their office to demand and at times obtain sexual benefits from their juniors. Recipients of such unwanted attention find that they feel forced to comply with the unlawful and unethical demands otherwise dire consequences and denial of benefits to which they are entitled would follow.

“The culture of silence out of fear of reprisal and stigmatization has allowed sexual harassment thrive in some quarters but with sensitization and appropriate policy implementation, it is hoped that this culture would gradually change.

“The Commission has carried out about seven training and re-training programmes for its officers in Operations, Prosecution and Education and Public Enlightenment Departments. Those officers trained also conducted trainings for their colleagues.

“The Commission has also partnered with some civil society organisations to carry out training for students while the Education and Public Enlightenment Department has taken up the task of including talks on sexual harassment in its different engagements.

“In addition to these, about 17 reports relating to sexual harassment have been received by the Commission, one resulted in a conviction via a plea bargain, one resulted in system study, one criminal case was recently filed in court while some other cases are still ongoing investigation.”

In his remarks as the special guest at the event, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege represented by his Chief of Staff, Dr Itive Igbuzor vowed to fast-track the enactment of sexual harassment in Tertiary Educational Institudions Prohibition, Prevention and Redressed Bill, 2019.

He stressed that tertiary institutions must be devoid of corruption in the form of sexual harassment.

“Driving the process for the enactment of the law against sexual harassnent. I had the honour and privilege to sponsor the Bill, which had the unanimous support of virtually all Distinguishied Senators of the Federal Republic in the 9th Senate, the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institudions Prohibition, Prevention and Redressed Bill, 2019 (Sente Bill (SB) 77) is aimed at combating the menace of sexual harassment in our educational institutions.”

On his part, Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu represented by the Registrar Joint Admissions, Matriculations Board (JAMB), Prof Isa-had Oloyede pledged that the Ministry will ensure implication of the policy document when completed across all schools in Nigeria.

He stated that going forward, employers should provide their staff sexual harassment policy document as a way to prevent its occurrence.

He observed that the term sexual harassment should be reconceptualized to sexual misbehaviour.

“We will do everything to promote this policy document, let me also inform you that this template will be widely circulated as soon as it is finalised. Distribution of the document to all connected agencies of Ministry of Education at no cost. Will enforcement, implementation of this policy document across schools in the Country,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director, Gender Mobile Initiative, Omawumi Ogunrotimi prayed that the engagement should translate into better approach to ending campus sexual assault and other sexual harassnent in Nigeria.

She said that formulating a workable legal framework will go a long way in ending the menace.

Stakeholders at the event took their time to cross fertilise ideas on the best policy models potent enough to curb sexual harassment in Nigeria’s educational institutions.