The National Assembly’s refusal to enact the “Prevention, Prohibition and Redress of Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Bill, 2019” has been condemned as the “epic of injustice” by a group of Nigerian students.
The more than 1,000 students claimed that sexual harassment in schools was “a core problem and setback for educational development in Nigeria” in a statement made available to journalists on Wednesday. However, they also claimed that their investigations suggested that Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had not advanced the Bill to the presidency before he left office.
They recommended that the current administration take the necessary action to safeguard students’ dignity.
Among the students who endorsed the statement were Adedoja Oluwatobi Emmanuel (University of Lagos); Princess Deborah Omosuyi (UNILAG); Ayodele Ayishat Ajoke (University of Ilorin); Idoko Felicia Ehicohwoicho (University of Abuja); and Enahoro Osadebhamie Emmanuella (Caleb University).
Others were Faidat Balogun (Noble Heart Children Foundation); Olajide Oluwaseun (Yaba College of Technology); Omem Tusuro Dilli (Federal University Wukari, Taraba State); Abdullahi Ikimot (Federal University Oye Ekiti); Latifat Akinyemi (Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin); Ayodele Salaudeen (University of Ibadan); Aduloju Oluwanifesimi )Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) and Akinlabi Abosede Marvellous (Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, Ogun State)
The aggrieved students had in a petition to the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege demanded the facilitation of the passage of the Bill.
The statement reads, “It is, however, unfortunately, been long overlooked in terms of an enduring long-term solution. It is a great concern that this Bill has been abandoned and the current administration should do the needful to protect the dignity of students. We were worried that the Deputy Senate President has not been able to follow through with this very important bill.
“Reports show that the Presidency has not received this Bill. According to a 2018 World Bank Survey, 70 per cent of female graduates from Nigerian tertiary institutions had been sexually harassed in school.
“The Senate reintroduced the sexual harassment Bill in 2019 and later passed it. However, as of today, the National Assembly has failed to do the needful to transmit the Bill to Mr President. The implication of this is that if it’s not passed during this 9th Assembly, the Bill has to be reintroduced fresh during the 10th Assembly.
“The Senate at its plenary session of Tuesday, July 7 2020 passed the Sexual Harassment Bill, 2020 (SB 77) which seeks to prevent, prohibit and redress the sexual harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions. The Bill was sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege in 2019 with 106 co-sponsors.”
The Bill was passed in order to uphold ethical standards, the sacredness of the student-educator fiduciary relationship of authority, dependence, and trust, and respect for human dignity in tertiary educational institutions. It includes provisions for student protection from sexual harassment by educators in tertiary educational institutions, prevention of student sexual harassment by educators in tertiary educational institutions, and resolution of complaints of such behaviour.
The Violence Against Person Prohibition Act 2015, often known as the VAPP Act, was signed two days before President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration came to an end, and the students urged the National Assembly to take action to forward the bill to the president. We anticipate that the government will leave behind a strong legacy to help students achieve their educational aspirations.
They called on the Presidency and National Assembly to save students from continued violation of their bodily integrity.
They stated that “Sexual harassment has become a plague around the world, with women at the receiving end. As a women’s rights and civil society organization, WARDC released a research report which confirmed that sexual harassment has become a big menace in higher institutions. It has become very imperative to halt the worrisome trend.
“WARDC and Women at Risk International Foundation partners under the EU/UN Women Spotlight Initiative have been working with students and institutions across the country to ensure the school is safe.
“This Bill has been held back by the National Assembly for too long, thereby enabling sexual predators in Tertiary Institutions. Tertiary Institutions should be safe for all and we appreciate the commitment by the government to supporting the Bill up to the third reading and passage.”