Sexual harassment on the increase in primary, secondary schools – ICPC





By Frank Ikpefan

The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practice and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Dr. Musa Aliyu has lamented rise in incidents of sexual harassment in primary and secondary schools across the country.

Aliyu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), noted that until there are heavy consequences against offenders, the menace would continue to be on the increase.

He said a major way to decisively address the situation was through “a consistent, persistent, focused, and united campaign.”

The ICPC boss spoke at a one-day national stakeholders engagement on sexual harassment prevention organised by the Commission in collaboration with a Non-Governmental Organisation, the Gender Mobile Initiative and Ford Foundation in Abuja on Tuesday.

The stakeholders engagement is aimed at ensuring that the Model Policy for Tertiary Institutions does not end up like many others that needed to be adequately implemented.

Aliyu, while stating that sexual harassment and other related societal ills including gender discrimination were tarnishing Nigeria’s reputation, said that “Only a consistent, persistent, focused and united campaign can ensure that the challenge of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions is decisively addressed.”

He recalled that the ICPC had a few years ago, in line with its commitment to addressing all forms of corruption, including abuse of office via sexual harassment, with the support of the Ford Foundation, executed a project aimed at curbing this societal malaise.

He said: “One of the expected outcomes of that project was the drafting of model anti-sexual harassment policies for various levels of educational institutions.

“It is sadly interesting to note that sexual harassment, though more notorious in tertiary institutions, is quite rampant in primary and secondary institutions, too.”

He disclosed that the Commission in the spirit of partnership, engaged the Gender Mobile Initiative to draft a model policy for tertiary institutions adding that the Federal Ministry of Education approved the policies of the primary and tertiary institutions.

He said: “The policies are not necessarily meant to be adopted word for word by stakeholders. Instead, it is expected that although they may be adopted wholly by any institution that so desires, they should serve as guidelines for what a comprehensive policy should contain.”

The ICPC boss, however, warned participants to always keep in mind that anyone, irrespective of status, designation, or gender, staff or student, can be a victim of sexual harassment.

“Likewise, anyone could be a perpetrator. It is a notorious fact that Nigeria has so many laws and policies, but many of them are not being correctly implemented. Therefore, proper implementation of the model policies cannot be over-emphasised. The success of this initiative largely depends on the active participation and commitment of stakeholders like you,” he added.

Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohaneye said the Federal Government was putting measures in place to tackle the menace through the establishment of mobile courts for speedy prosecution of the perpetrators to face justice.

The minister said sexual harassment was not relegated to tertiary institutions alone but even in primary and secondary schools often carried out by teachers and sometimes among pupils.

She said the Ministry would also collaborate with hotel owners to deny underaged children access to such facilities and for such situations to be reported to the nearest security agency.

She urged all stakeholders to rise to the challenge by ensuring that sexual harassment was brought to the barest minimum to address the problems of the stigmatisation and low self-esteem among victims.

The Founder and Executive Director of Gender Mobile Initiative, Omowumi Ogunrotimi said that the organisation realised that it was really important for stakeholders to think about a preventive framework rather than a response framework.

She said: “That is why we are in collaboration with ICPC to see that the policy we designed together, and this policy I would say, will be a product of extensive community engagement.

“As far back as 2019, 2020, we had a national conference where we validated this policy with a critical mass of stakeholders in the room across the National Universities Commission (NUC), National Board for Technical Education NBTE, and even the student community.

“We have NANs female wing which means that this particular process is all-inclusive. So that it centers on leadership, participation, aspiration, and experiences of persons who are mostly affected by the structural inequity, and that is the student community.

“We really look to move this forward from here because we know in Nigeria when policies are made, they do not automatically translate into implementation.”

Over 25 Commissioners of Education attended the stakeholders engagement.

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