Senate Passes Sexual Harassment, Police Act 2004 Bills

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Nigerian Senate

* Seeks single four- year term for IG

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The Senate yesterday passed the sexual harassment bill which stipulates a 14-year jail term for those found guilty of sexually harassing students in higher institutions and other related schools.

The upper legislative chamber also passed the Police Act 2004 Repeal bill, which provides for a single term of four years for future Inspector-General of Police.

The passage of the bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions was sequel to the consideration of the report of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters as presented by its Chairman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele.

Bamidele in his presentation had said the piece of legislation “attracted unprecedented support from not only distinguished senators as demonstrated by the 106 Senators that co-sponsored the bill but an overwhelming number of Nigerians who see the bill as a necessary legislative intervention that will bring sanity and good order to the educator-student relationship in our tertiary institutions.”

According to him, “the bill is not targeted at a particular community – the educators and that it does not interfere with the autonomy of the universities – rather, it is intended to reposition and strengthen our tertiary educational institutions to maintain the core values of etiquette and excellence.”

Bamidele stated that contrary to ASUU’s claim that there are extant laws that can sufficiently address sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, the committee found that there are no such laws.

“This legislation is meant to address incidence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions only, as there are other laws that address sexual offences in respect of persons under the age of 18 years such as the Child Rights Act 2003”, the legislator stressed.

He added that, “by enacting this bill into law, the Nigerian Government would be fulfilling part of its obligations undertaken through the ratification of the United States Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, amongst others.”

Senators in the cause of considering the bill clause by clause however differed on the retention of clause seven in the bill.

However, the Senators eventually voted for the retention of clause seven as contained in the bill and recommended by the Committee.

The clause provides for strict liability which makes it necessary for prosecutors to prove the intention of the accused, as well as the condition under which the act of sexual harassment was carried out.

Speaking after the passage of the bill, President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, stated that “this is a very important and landmark legislation that this Ninth Senate has passed. We have to protect our daughters from predators.”

“In the process we could see clearly that we wanted fair means of determining what offence somebody is accused of, so it is a balanced legislation.

“We want our tertiary institutions to be a very safe environment for everyone, and this is a legislation that will ensure that wish”, the Senate President added.

Also yesterday, the Senate passed the Police Act 2004 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill 2020 which provided for a four year single term for future Inspector-General of Police (IGP).

This was sequel to the consideration of the report of the Senate committee on Police Affairs on the bill presented by its Chairman, Senator Halliru Jika.

In his presentation, Senator Jika submitted

that the tenure of office of the Inspector-General of Police should be a single four-year term which will make for a secured tenure.

The provisions of the bill also include that

on the appointment and removal of the Inspector-General of Police, the provisions of the constitution in line with Section 2l5 of the l999 constitution (as amended) should be retained, as any proposal contrary to this provision will require constitution alteration for it to be viable.

“That it should be made binding on the lnspector-General of Police to adhere to policing plans. The national policing plan should be made with inputs from the Police Force Headquarters and all the various Police formations nationwide before the end of each financial year, setting out priorities, objectives, cost implications and expected outcomes of Policing for the next succeeding financial year in order to change budgeting from a top-down appccach to a down-up approach.

“That the name “Nigeria Police” proposed in the draft Bill should be changed to Nigeria Police Force” as presently in use in view of the failed constitution alteration attempt to amend the name.

“That the Police abide and enforce certain constitutional provisions, particularly fundamental rights at persons in Police custody under chapter 4 of the l999 constitution (as amended) and other international instruments on Human rights to which Nigeria is a signatory (including of provisions that reiterate the importance of fundamental human rights and advocating for their observance) and that the community policing be strengthened”.