Protest As NASS Fails On Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill

The failure of the National Assembly to pass the ‘Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Bill, 2019’ has sparked discontent among a coalition of Nigerian students, who have labeled it a glaring injustice.

In a statement released to journalists on Wednesday, over 1,000 students expressed their concern over the prevalence of sexual harassment in schools, which they described as a significant obstacle to educational development in Nigeria. They further revealed that their investigations indicated that the Bill had not reached President Muhammadu Buhari’s desk before he left office.

The students urged the current administration to take the necessary actions to protect the dignity of students, emphasizing the need for immediate measures to address the issue.

Signatories to the statement included 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 who endorsed the statement 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).

In their petition to the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the concerned students demanded that the Bill be expeditiously passed into law.

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 objective of the Bill is to uphold and safeguard ethical standards, preserve the sacred nature of the student-educator relationship characterized by authority, dependence, trust, and respect for human dignity within tertiary educational institutions. It seeks to achieve this by providing protection for students against sexual harassment perpetrated by educators, prevention of sexual harassment of students by educators, and establishment of a mechanism for addressing complaints of sexual harassment in tertiary educational institutions.

In light of this, the students have appealed to the National Assembly to take necessary action in transmitting the Bill to the presidency. They draw attention to the fact that the Violence Against Person Prohibition Act (VAPP Act) was signed just two days before the end of President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure. With this precedent, the students express their hope that the current government will leave a remarkable legacy by supporting students in their pursuit of educational aspirations.

The students emphasize the urgency for both the Presidency and the National Assembly to intervene and protect students from ongoing violations 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.”

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