A bill for a law prescribing five-year jail term for lecturers who engage in sexual relationship with students passed first reading at the senate on Wednesday.
The bill, sponsored by Ovie Omo-Agege (Labour-Delta Central) and co-sponsored by 46 other senators, seeks to completely prohibit any form of sexual relationship between lecturers and their students.
Briefing reporters after plenary, Omo-Agege said the nation’s institutions of higher learning must be sanitised to rid them of lecturers who see female students as “prize”.
He said that when the bill is passed and signed into law, any lecturer found guilty will be liable to a jail term of up to five years but not less than two years with no option of fine.
“When passed into law, it makes it a criminal offence for any educator in a university, polytechnic or any other tertiary educational institution to violate or exploit the student-lecturer fiduciary relationship for sexual pleasures,” he said.
“The bill imposes stiff penalties on offenders in its overall objective of providing tighter statutory protection for students against sexual hostility and all forms of sexual harassment in tertiary schools.
“The bill provides a compulsory five-year jail term for lecturers who sexually harass students.
“When passed into law, vice chancellors of universities, rectors of polytechnics and other chief executives of institutions of higher learning will go to jail for two years if they fail to act within a week on complaints of sexual harassment made by students.
“The bill expressly allows sexually harassed students, their parents or guardians to seek civil remedies in damages against sexual predator lecturers before or after their successful criminal prosecution by the state.
“The bill also seeks to protect, from sexual harassment, prospective students seeking admissions into institutions of learning, students of generally low mental capacity and physically challenged students.”
The lawmaker said it is practicable in other climes as “honour codes” but said it should be domesticated in Nigeria in the penal form.
The bill reads: “An educator shall be guilty of committing an offence of sexual harassment against a student if he/she has sexual intercourse with a student.
“He or she shall be guilty if he has sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student as a condition to study in an institution.
“He or she shall be guilty if he has sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student as a condition to the giving of a passing grade.
“He or she shall be guilty if he solicits sex from or makes sexual advances at a student when the sexual solicitation or sexual advances result in an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the student.
“He or she shall be guilty if he directs or induces another person to commit any act of sexual harassment under this act, or cooperates in the commission of sexual harassment by another person.
“He or she shall be guilty if he grabs, hugs, rubs or strokes or touches or pinches the breasts or hair or lips or hips or buttocks or any other sensual part of the body of a student.
“He or she shall be guilty if he displays, gives or sends by hand or courier or electronic or any other means naked or sexually explicit pictures or videos or sex related objects to a student.
“He or she shall be guilty if he whistles or winks at a student or screams or exclaims or jokes or makes sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique.”
The bill also has provisions to sanction students who falsely accuse lecturers of sexual harassment. Such students could face dismissal from the school but no jail term was prescribed.
According to the bill, the only exemption is where the student is legally married to the lecturer before admission to the school.
It states that the consent of the student shall not serve, in anyway, as a defence, as the bill seeks to completely ban lecturer-student relationships.
The bill also imposes on institutions the responsibility to protect students who initiates a sexual harassment charge.