The Senate recently re-introduced the Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for other matters connected therewith, which stipulates 14-year-jail term for offenders. In this report, IBRAHIM RAMALAN queries if jail term would curb the trend.
Sex in return for grades in the country’s academic institutions has become a menace that is gradually eating up our citadel of learning, just as our educational standard is left to fritter away with reckless abandon.
While some female students offer themselves to their male lecturers in a bid to cover up for their academic deficiencies, some lecturers force themselves into these female students, often with a threat to academic failures should their potential prays refuse to yield to their demands.
What is much more alarming is how these randy lecturers go nearly scot-free, despite various alarms raised by some victims who defied societal stigma and reprimand to speak out.
A lecturer of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Prof. Richard Iyiola Akindele who harassed his student, Monica Osagie, was exposed via an audio leaked on Monday, April 9, 2018 is still walking freely in the society.
Disturbing as it sounds, the victim, Ms Osagie could not report the incident directly to the right authorities and it took the university 10 days before it could identify the student.
The OAU Vice chancellor on his part, while announcing the suspension of the lecturer, insisted that police would have to investigate the scandal.
According to the VC, “the committee observed that a prima facie case of an inappropriate relationship with the female student had been established against the professor.
“…The audio exposed the professor demanding for five rounds of sex from the student to increase her grade from 33 to a pass mark.”
Similarly, another lecturer from the University of Lagos had been exposed by the BBC’s Africa Eye after he was caught red-handed propositioning a student (an undercover reporter) for sex to make her pass her examination.
Unfortunately, the student, Kiki Mordi, who was an undercover journalist in the University sent by BBC Africa Eye, succeeded in uncovering the sexual harassment that goes on in the institution.
The investigation saw how females were sexually harassed, propositioned and put under pressure by senior lecturers at the institution – all the while wearing secret cameras.
The lecturer and head pastor of the local Foursquare Gospel Church, was seen in one of the videos telling the BBC reporter who posed as a 17-year-old student seeking admission that he is a pastor in his 50s, but could get a beautiful girl like her who is just 17 with “sweet tongue” and “money”.
He invited her to his office a second time where he said a prayer with her. But while praying, he is seen suggestively thrusting his hip as his already erect male member pressed against his trouser.
He then threw a series of questions to her regarding her sex life and offered to take her to the “cold room” where, according to him, is a place where lecturers take students to smooch and have sex with them in return for better grades.
That “cold room” in UNILAG staff club, I’ve heard of the gist a long time ago where lecturers even drug students. But if I had spoken I wouldn’t be a graduate by now. Dr Boniface is just one out many in UNILAG. I’m glad there’s a scapegoat,” a social media commentator who apparently had been in the know of the heinous practice, said.
Dr Boniface became really vulgar during the reporters fourth visit and even locked the door to his office and turned off the light before going to join the student on the couch and began forcing her to come close to him.
This leaked video clip got social media aflame as commentators were beside themselves with rave other the lecturer’s misdemeanour.
Ever since the video surfaced the internet little is being heard about what has become of the randy lecturer. No security operative had reportedly invited the randy lecturer for questioning. Could it be that there are no adequate laws to get at the rapist lecturer?
In their reaction, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called for thorough investigation and appropriate sanction for lecturers indicted in the alleged “Sex for Grades” scandal in order to sanitise the university system.
ASUU University of Lagos (UNILAG) Branch Chairman, Dr Dele Ashiru, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that the union was against all forms of unethical practices, including sexual harassment.
“The development is very disturbing and unfortunate. We have appealed to colleagues to understand that as lecturers, we stand in ‘loco parentis’ (in the place of a parent) to these students and must not be perceived in any way of not being protective.
“We condemn this act of shame in its entirety and want the matter to be thoroughly investigated and appropriate sanction carried out on all those found culpable,” the ASUU Chairman said.
However, in an apparent afterthought, the Senate, on Wednesday, November 6 waded into the matter with a bill proposing 14-year jail term for the defaulters.
The bill, titled: “A Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions and for other matters connected therewith 2019”, which had already scaled a second reading on the floor of the Senate.
The bill, sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, proposed that any lecturer who grab, hug, kiss, rub, stroke, touch the breasts, hips, buttocks or any other sensual part of the body of a student proposes up to 14 years jail term, with a minimum of 5 years, without an option of fine for any educator who commits sexual offences in tertiary institutions.
Senator Omo-Agege, in his lead debate, said “the most effective way to deal with the offence of sexual harassment in our tertiary institutions is to penalise the very impropriety of the act, with or without consent.”
According to him, sexual harassment must be defined in tertiary educational institutions as statutory rape with strict liability for offenders to be prosecuted easily.
He, however, stressed that the bill prescribes expulsion for students who falsely accuse educators of sexual harassment.
He said: “An educator whose character is maligned is at liberty to sue for defamation under the law of defamation which is well-settled in our jurisprudence and needs no duplication in this bill.”
He added that, “for students, who falsely accuse educators of sexual harassments, the Bill prescribes expulsion for those students.
“In addition, an educator whose character is maligned is at liberty to sue for defamation under the law of defamation which is well settled in our jurisprudence and needs no duplications in this Bill”.
The Bill, which was co-sponsored by 105 other Senators, received the overwhelming support of the upper chambers and therefore passed second reading.
Recently, a Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, Exam Ethics Marshals International, EEMI, activated an online petition on November 1, to get one million people to sign the petition to the National Assembly, so as to fastract the signing of the bill.
Within few days, the NGO received 1,700 signed online petitions. According to EEMI, 56 per cent of the petitioners are women, while 44 per cent are men.
“This indicates that men and women are equally concerned about the sex-for-grade pandemic in the tertiary institutions,” it stated.
The NGO also noted that the first effort to pass the Sexual Harassment in Education Institutions Prohibition Bill started in 2016, but it died with the termination of the 8th Assembly.
It highlighted that the Sex-for-Grade is one of the 33 types of exam malpractices that have been the focus of the campaign.
According to EEMI, Sex-for-Grade is the practice of male lecturers blackmailing, forcing, intimidating and demanding sex from their female students as condition for awarding them pass marks in their courses.
It explained that the petition had inspired other petitions for the passage of similar sexual harassment prohibition laws in educational institutions in seven other African countries.
“In addition to signing the petition, some petitioners are also sharing their experiences.
“Ex-female students have narrated stories of their traumatic experiences in the hands of some of their male lecturers. Some female students narrated what they are currently going through. Parents also shared the experiences of their children.
“The story paints the picture of invasion of tertiary institutions by sexual predators masquerading as lecturers,” the NGO noted.