JONAPWD mobilizes stakeholders to call for President Tinubu's assent to sexual harassment bill

Some of the stakeholders shortly after a dialogue

By Williams Ago, Gombe

The Gombe State chapter of the Joint National Association of People With Disabilities (JONAPWD) has mobilized major stakeholders in the State to join in the call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to assent the bill against sexual harassment in Nigeria's tertiary institutions.

The bill, which had long been passed by the National Assembly, and currently on the table of the president, according to the stakeholders, needs to be urgently assented to by the president to address the rising cases of rape and other sexual crimes in the country's tertiary institutions.

Speaking separately during the stakeholders dialogue forum on curbing SGBV to mark the 16 days of activism against gender based violence held at the multipurpose hall of the Gombe State University, the participants at the forum were unanimous in their call for President Tinubu to urgently assent the bill.

Hajiya Zariyatu Abubakar Hashidu, the local governance manager of State-to-State activity, Gombe Field Office, USAID, co funders of the programme said, having the law in Nigeria has been long overdue. "It should have been in place in Nigeria over 30 years ago", she decried.

According to her, the president should assent the bill because the mental state of young people is at stake and that sexual harassment has a way of negatively effecting the survivor for life.

"Having an instrument that will protect the students is very important as it will go a long way in curtailing the prevalence rate", adding that gains of having the law in place include; "sanitizing our tertiary institutions; make lecturers more responsible and the trust of parents sending their children, especially females, to the tertiary institutions will be gained.

"As it is now, a lot of parents do not want their children to go to the university because it is believed that there are lots of immoral things happening there, so, having the bill will cut the power dynamics that comes to play between the lecturer and the students", she stressed.

She also spoke about the law protecting lecturers from false accusations, adding, "the provisions of the bill makes it in such a way that it is not just the students that are protected but the lecturers are protected from false accusations too.

"That will go a long way in bringing a lot of sanity within the higher educational system in Nigeria. For now, when perpetrators (lecturers) are exposed through a kind of public register, that will deter them from going elsewhere to perpetuate such behavior", she advised.

A 300 level political science student of the Gombe State University (GSU), Paris Desire Deme, spoke to our correspondent in total support of the bill. According to her, "if the law is in place, it will help us to feel safer around our lecturers."

She revealed that a lot of female students face sexual harassment particularly in GSU but regretted that most students are secretive about it due to the stereotype in Northern Nigeria of a standard that they want to uphold.

Ishiyaku Adamu is the national secretary as well as the Gombe State chairman of the Joint National Association of People With Disabilities (JONAPWD) and he said, JONAPWD Gombe Cluster is a member of anti sexual harassment advocacy cluster project, a group implementing the project funded by USAID and other partners.

He said their main work is to campaign for the passage of the anti sexual harassment bill in tertiary institutions, which is currently before President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

He said because of the high prevalence rate of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, the National Assembly passed the law and currently, there is urgent need for the assent of the bill by the president because it will reduce the prevalence rate of sexual harassment in campuses.

He said if given the opportunity to stand before President Tinubu, "I will tell him that sexual harassment is real and on the increase and the perpetrators are getting away freely.

"I will tell him that as a father, grandfather and president of Nigeria, he should kindly support the future generation of the nation by assenting to the bill so that this issue will be addressed in our tertiary institutions once and for all," he appealed.

The stakeholders dialogue had a rich and robust discussion with participants drawn from the Ministry of Women Affairs, Education, Justice, NAPTIP, FIDA, Police, NOA, students and lecturers who welcomed the development stressing that all hands must be on deck and vowed to see to it's implementation when the bill is assented by the president.

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