By Raphael Ekpang
A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for other matters connected therewith on Wednesday passed second reading at the senate.
Leading the debate for the second reading which was sponsored by Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and co-sponsored by 105 senators said the Senate has a unique constitutional duty to protect citizens and shared values.
He recalled that the bill was unanimously passed by the 8th Senate, when it united against sexual harassment in our academic institutions as a serious challenge to the nation’s fundamental values.
Senator Omo-Agege noted that as a father and like a vast majority of the citizenry and non-citizens, “we all have or pray to have our children, wards, or relatives attend tertiary institutions for academic development” stressing that the bill is for virtually every family in the country.
He explained further that sexual harassment in our campuses is a repugnant challenge to our values as a people.
“For far too long, sexual predators masquerading as educators have plied the corridors of our nation’s higher institutions unchecked. It will continue in the absence of appropriate leadership response.
“By this Bill, this 9th Senate is sending a very strong message that we refuse to put our students at the mercy of any sexual predator in our tertiary institutions.
“It is most offensive to suggest that mere suspension or termination of appointments is the appropriate remedy for the animalistic offense of sexually harassing another person” he said.
Consequently, he stated that the bill is an assurance to all that the 9th senate believes, adding that “when we send our children, especially daughters, nieces and wives to school, our educators will statutorily be their mentors, motivators and guardians”.
He added that “for students who falsely accuse educators of sexual harassment, the reality is that this bill prescribes expulsion for those students.
“In addition, an educator who character is maligned is at liberty to sue for defamation under the law of defamation which is well-settled in our jurisprudence and needs no duplication in this bill”.
Omo-Agege however moved for the second reading of the bill to be taken by the upper legislative chamber.