Commission Condemns Sexual Harassment in Higher Institutions

0

Dike Onwuamaeze

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has strongly condemned acts of sexual harassment and other forms of exploitation in institutions of learning in Nigeria.

FCCPC, in a press statement that was signed by its Chief Executive Officer, Babatunde Irukera, posited that students were entitled to safe, secure and liberal educational environments where the relationship between faculty and students promotes confidence and robust knowledge sharing as consumers of educational services.

Irukera said that this commitment accounted for the commission’s constant call on relevant authorities to take necessary action in response to allegations of inappropriate conduct.

“On April 30, 2018, FCCPC requested authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) to act both swiftly and decisively regarding an allegation of inappropriate conduct, specifically, sexual misconduct against a member of faculty that emerged by the disclosure incontrovertible evidence by the victim and student.

“The commission remained in communication with OAU to ensure the investigative and disciplinary process was both transparent and timely. OAU ultimately disciplined the member of faculty in a decisive manner. On June 21, 2018, the commission welcomed and commended OAU’s action,” Irukera said

Similarly, the commission on October 6, 2019, commended Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) for its unprecedented bold and resolute action in disciplining 15 employees for sexual misconduc, and conduct bordering on corruption.

“Subsequent to, and perhaps contemporaneous with these actions, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was apparently journalistically investigating institutions in West Africa in a Sex For Grades menace

“This investigation has led to swift and commendable responses by the University of Lagos authorities, specifically the suspension of the implicated lecturers and the closure of the “cold room.”

“The open disclosures and naming by victims and others of possible violators across the country underscores what is essentially a problem of rampant proportions. This conduct is not limited to the identified in this statement. We strongly urge others to take decisive and transparent action as well as limiting enabling fora for such conduct in their school communities,” he said.

The commission pointed out that the absence of strong, collaborative and coordinated action and a robust policy framework that addressed the solicitation of sex for grades by faculty or student, sexual and non-sexual harassment and other forms of exploitation would “severely undermine the educational process and create a cloud of questionability over educational outcomes. Whether as a willing participant, a victim, or an unsolicited student, this insidious practice compromises all and undermines the validity of degrees obtained, or failures/delays in graduating. Ultimately, it impugns the credibility of our institutions.

Irukera stated that FCCPC “is leading an effort to establish a framework to provide adequate protection and accountability, and to address this obvious and inexcusable pattern that appears prevalent in schools” in furtherance of the commission’s recognition of students as a vulnerable group of consumers receiving services from educational institutions and members of faculty that wield substantial power over them,

Moreover, “the commission is immediately engaging the Federal Ministry of Education, the National Universities Commission, the Nigeria Police Force, the National Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports, students’ union groups across the country and relevant Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders, to develop a robust mechanism to support prevention, retribution and accountability.

“As an initial matter, the Commission is interested in harvesting credible intelligence to assist with engaging the relevant school authorities to encourage decisive action, and standing policies regarding sexual harassment, exploitation and other misconduct.

“The commission therefore urges anyone with credible information to provide same,” Irukera said