As assent to sexual harassment bill hangs in the balance, furious, frustrated, and completely distressed, female students of the University of Calabar Faculty of Law (Unical ) on Monday rose up in unison to protest what they described as the incessant and non-stop sexual harassment meted out on them by the Dean of their Faculty (name withheld).
Bearing placards and chanting— Enough is Enough, the law students allege that he is notorious for sexually harassing female students.
Ironically, sources close to the school claim that the protesting students are being threatened by the authorities with expulsion.
Some of the placards read: ‘Enough of Law school list manipulation.’ ‘Prof…. must go for our sanity.‘ ‘Law girls are not Bonanza, Prof. … should stop grabbing us,‘ ‘The faculty of law is not a brothel…’
In 2015, the accused Don was suspended by the school’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivara Esu for sexually assaulting a 20-year-old 400-level student.
His suspension came after the victim’s mother, in a letter sent to the university, alleged that the Prof had raped her daughter, between 3 and 5 pm on August 29, 2015, at his private office on the top floor of the faculty building.
However, he was reinstated into the institution in December 2022.
It is noteworthy that two years after the Senate passed the Sexual Harassment Bill, a year after the House of Representatives, and the many representations made by civil society organisations and women groups, former President Muhammadu Buhari failed to give assent to the bill before exiting office.
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and 106 senators sponsored the bill, which sought to prohibit sexual harassment in tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
The Senate, in July 2020, after the third reading, passed ‘A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment of students in tertiary institutions and for matters concerned therewith 2019.
The bill, with 25 clauses, seeks to promote and protect ethical standards in tertiary institutions. It also seeks to protect students against sexual harassment by educators in tertiary institutions. It also proposes up to a 14-year jail term for offenders.
The bill was later transmitted to the House of Representatives for concurrence. The House, in February 2022, passed the bill after the Third Reading.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, later constituted a seven-man committee, headed by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central) to harmonise the two versions of the bill passed by both Houses before it was sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent. Buhari never did.
Between January 2021 and June 2022, there were cases of sexual harassment involving lecturers in universities and polytechnics in the country.
In 2021, three lecturers of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, were dismissed over alleged sexual harassment of students. In April 2022, the institution also investigated sexual harassment allegations.
In January 2021, Kaduna State University dismissed a lecturer for sexually assaulting a student. In June and August of the same year, University of Lagos and the University of Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, each sacked a lecturer over allegations of sexual harassment.
The Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi in October 2021 sacked two lecturers over sexual harassment allegations. Also, an academic at Ignatius Ajuru University of Education was sacked for allegedly impregnating a female student.
In June 2022, the Vice Chancellor, University of Abuja, Prof Abdul-Rasheed Na’allah, said two lecturers were dismissed over sexual misconduct.
(Law and Society Magazine)