The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) condemned the bill recently proposed at the floor of the Nigerian Senate, which spells out a 5-year jail term and a 5 million Naira fine for university lecturers found wanting in any sex-for-grade scandal. While he is right that some universities have policies that stipulate punishments for culprits of sexual exploitation of students, this is not enough reason not to also have the constitution prohibit the act; as the university policies on sexual harassment are apparently weak and ineffective.
A 2019 undercover investigation by BBC exposed randy lecturers at the University of Lagos and University of Ghana sexually taking advantage of students in exchange for admission and grades. With many victims coming out from various institutions since then to call out their oppressors, it becomes evident that the sex-for-grades phenomenon is widespread in Nigeria, which calls for national intervention. Whether ASUU likes it or not, the anti-sexual harassment bill has come to stay, as it is just the tough hand Nigeria needs to reduce sexual harassment in academia. Failure to embrace it, however, could mean that randy lecturers in Nigerian universities are still not ready to give up on their atrocities.
Meanwhile, what ASUU does not know is that the bill, in addition to students, also affords protection to lecturers. It protects innocent lecturers from being falsely roped in sexual scandals by students who wish to get back at them. The bill stipulates the formation of an ad hoc committee which would give a fear hearing to the accused to prove his innocence. This bill is the way forward and adopting it will affirm the commitment and sincerity of lecturers in eradicating sexual exploitation on campuses.
What To Do
If ASUU is concerned about certain grey areas in the bill, what it should do rather than discard the entire bill is to call for the revision of the bill by the Senate. More so, the scope of the bill should not be restricted only to tertiary institutions, but should also be extended to primary and secondary schools. The ad hoc committee to be set up to look into sexual scandals in the university should not be manned by professors from the university in question; independent panellists from other institutions should constitute such committees for fairness.
The Federal Government should also monitor what happens to the victims during and after the issue; that the Obafemi Awolowo University has yet to give a certificate to the female student who championed the suspension of a randy professor is enough reason why protecting victims of sexual exploitation is important. Civil society organisations should also intensify efforts in demanding for the immediate passing of the sex-for-grade bill.
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