Lecturers, students disagree over sexual harassment bill

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), on Monday, informed that the Sexual Harassment Bill presently before the National Assembly is targeted at the members of its academic community.

However, the National Female Students Association of Nigeria raised the alarm over the alleged harassment of its members in universities across the country by randy lecturers.

National president of the association, Comrade Idongesit Micah, who spoke at a pubic hearing of the sexual harassment bill organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, lamented the spate of harassment of female students by lecturers.

Comrade Micah, in a memorandum submitted to the committee, called on the  Senate to immediately pass the bill into law, believing that it would ensure punishment of offenders guilty of the crime.

She said: “Let me be very clear on our position on this bill. This is a bill that must be passed into law.

“It is either we enact this law and send sexual predator lecturers to prison for correction or we provoke helpless parents, husband or guardian to someday pick a loaded gun and deal with this problem in a barbaric manner.”

The president of the ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, said the bill, if passed into law in its present form, would undermine the autonomy of universities in the country.

He said: “As a global norm, universities and other tertiary institutions are established  by law as autonomous bodies and have  their own laws regulating  their affairs.

“This includes misconduct generally among both staff and students, clearly articulated appropriate redress mechanism.

“Any law or bill which seeks to supplant these laws violates the university autonomy.

“In this particular instance, the bill violates the Federal Government of Nigeria and ASUU agreement of 2009 and as such should be rejected,” he said.

He  decried that the bill was discriminatory because it was targeted at educators and it was unfair to come up with such a bill, stressing that  sexual harassment is a societal problem and not peculiar to tertiary institutions.

He said the bill was also a violation of  Section 42(1) of the 1999 Constitution, stating that it  was embarrassing that the legislative arm could seek to make such that violated the constitution.

Ogunyemi also pointed out that besides violating the constitution, the bill  failed to take cognizance of various extant legislations that adequately dealt with sexual offences.

He further faulted the bill, saying it failed to provide convincing evidence to show that sexual harassment in tertiary institutions had attained a higher magnitude than other spheres of the society.