Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has strongly opposed the Sexual harassment Bill pending in the Senate. ASUU insists that the Bill in all intents and purposes undermines university autonomy. ASUU President, Prof. Ogunyemi Biodun spoke at a Public Hearing on the Sexual Harassment Bill, 2016 organized by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters in Abuja.
Prof. Ogunyemi said:
“As a global norm, universities and other tertiary institutions are established by law as autonomous bodies and have their own laws regulating their affairs. This includes misconduct generally among both staff and students; clearly articulated appropriate redress mechanism. Any law or bill which seeks to supplant these laws violates the university autonomy. In this particular instance, the bill violates the Federal Government of Nigeria and ASUU agreement of 2009 and as such should be rejected.”
The ASUU President said his major concern was that the bill is targeted at educators and has the potential to be used as witch hunt. He noted that it is unfair to come up with such a bill especially when sexual harassment is a societal problem and not peculiar to tertiary institutions.
Prof. Ogunyemi noted that besides violating the constitution, the bill failed to take cognizance of various extant legislations that adequately dealt with sexual offences. The ASUU boss further faulted the bill, saying it failed to provide convincing evidence to show that sexual harassment in tertiary institutions had attained a higher magnitude than other spheres of the society.
“The bill is discriminatory, selective, spiteful, and impulsive and lacks logic and any intellectual base by attacking the character and persons of those in tertiary institutions rather than addressing the issue holistically”
“Furthermore the bill is dangerous and inimical to the institutions as it contains several loose and ambiguous words and terms which could also be used to harass, intimidate, victimize and persecute especially lecturers through false accusation.”
The National University Commission (NUC) on its own supported the passage of the bill in view of its relevance. Executive Secretary of the Commission, Prof. Julius Okojie, noted while Federal and State Universities had administrative structures for handling grievances there was nothing wrong in having a legislation to help further.