KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY THE DEPUTY SENATE PRESIDENT AT THE POLICY DIALOGUE ON ANTI-SEXUAL HARASSMENT BILL

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KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY THE DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE AND OBARISI OF URHOBOLAND, HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR OVIE OMO-AGEGE TO DECLARE OPEN THE POLICY DIALOGUE ON THE ANTI-SEXUAL HARASSMENT BILL ORGANISED BY YOUTH ALIVE FOUNDATION ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2019 AT TRANSCORP HILTON HOTEL, ABUJA

PROTOCOLS

1.             First, let me start by formally expressing our sincere gratitude to our Civil Society community and concerned development partners for their productive engagements and support for our firm resolve in the 9th Senate, and indeed the 9th National Assembly to respond decisively to the scourge of sexual harassment in our tertiary academic institutions by sponsoring and passing the Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students

in Tertiary Educational Institutions, 2019 (S.B. 77). With the power of your principled advocacy and concrete support to Civil Society Organisations and relevant public institutions, you have helped greatly to shape the ongoing conversation in favour of our vulnerable students, especially women and girls, who are sexually harassed in tertiary academic institutions. You are helping our people and the world at large to know that our choice to frontally confront and defeat this challenge to our core values as a nation is entirely patriotic and for a better society. Thank you indeed. Thank you, Youth Alive Foundation for honouring your commitment to organise this Policy Dialogue, with the support of UK DFID.

2.             Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is rare for the entire Senate to support a Bill. The Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions, 2019 (S.B. 77) which I have the honour to sponsor as a Senator of the Federal Republic and a genuinely concerned parent, is co-sponsored by virtually all Senators of the 9th Senate, including the President of the Senate, His Excellency Most Distinguished Senator (Dr.) Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan. This should send a clear signal to sexual predators in our campuses that our citizens, through their elected representatives, are no longer ready to accept the destruction of innocent lives and annoying shame that their reprehensible conducts cause our nation.

3.             Yes, I believe as a matter of character, principle and learning that the student-educator relationship is one of in loco parentis in the same unique class as parenting. It is a fiduciary relationship of authority, dependency and trust where the educator, like a good and responsible parent, exercises supervisory responsibilities over the student. It is formed on an unwritten code of absolute honour and obligation of good faith, honesty, dignity, and care to be held inviolable.

4.             Friends and countrymen, the mischief of sexual harassment on our campuses is quite settled and beyond controversy, but let me quickly highlight the epidemic:

(a)              On November 27, 1988, the Sunday Tribune noted in its editorial that: "Sexual harassment is rampant in all Nigerian institutions of higher learning. In some places, it has almost become an accepted fact that the female student must submit.

 (b)              In 2013, the National Universities Commission (NUC) noted that of over 50 corruptions occurring in our universities, “Sexual harassment seems to rank extremely very high among corrupt practices uncovered in our universities.

 (c)               In 2014, the International Journal of Applied Psychology noted that “… [I]n Nigeria, sex for grades in the tertiary institutions is a reality and the male lecturers in particular, perceive themselves as thin (sic) gods and such unprofessional behaviour can be perpetuated unchecked.

 (d)              In 2016, the poet, Dr. Ogaga Ifowodo, wrote in a Vanguard article as follows: “ … [O]ur university, polytechnic and college of education campuses are sex colonies where rape or any other form of coerced copulation and intimacy may be practised without sanctions.”

 5.             Without question, these descriptions of the extent to which the student-educator relationship has been violated in our tertiary institutions is too repugnant to ignore. No educator has the moral right to exploit the special student-educator relationship for repulsive personal satisfactions. No one should be allowed to exploit seeming weaknesses in our existing legal frameworks to make life unbearably for our students, especially our female student. As a father, I am confident that I speak for an overwhelming majority of our citizens that sexual predators who operate on our campuses of tertiary education do not represent who we are as a people. We have a duty to stop them. We are grateful that you are firmly with us in this patriotic duty to our students and our nation.

 6.             So, as we gather here today, I charge everyone here to consider the gruesome stories of survivors of sexual harassment on our campuses. Imagine the very sad fate of those who could not survive. I mean those who had to die just because somebody with uncontrolled libido brazenly attacked violated their bodies and privacies! This depravity should at least stir and spur the humanity and conscience of even the most indifferent observer to action. I urge us to use this very important Policy Dialogue to come up with robust strategies to support the passage of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill and ensure its faithful implementation thereafter.

 7.             Therefore, for the greater good of this great nation of ours, it is my distinct honour and privilege to formally declare the Policy Dialogue on the Anti-sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education bill open. May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 8.             Thank you all.


WISDOM HANSON

Wisdom Hanson is the Digital Media Coordinator at Youth Alive Foundation. As a passion driven individual, he is experienced in Strategic program communications using digital tools and has worked in a number of projects ranging from Agriculture, Education and Technology. He is currently working on a DFID funded project and communicates behavioral change.

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