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Thursday, October 24, 2019

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How to stem sex for grades in West Africa

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Atiku Abubakar
Atiku Abubakar
Atiku Abubakar is a Nigerian politician, businessman and philanthropist who served as the second elected Vice-President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. This is an official statement from him.

Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 presidential election is outraged by the prevalence of #SexForGrades in public tertiary institutions across West Africa.

Reacting to the sordid exposure in the BBC Africa Eye’s latest investigative documentary, Atiku Abubakar says such predatory attitude is unacceptable, and requires systemic strategies to put deterrence to such behaviour.

As a father and promoter of education, Atiku Abubakar believes that we should not allow a trend that is psychologically abusive to young women to thrive. In fact, that’s a direct opposite of what a sound educational system represents.

The overwhelming outrage, outpouring of examples and outright naming of perpetrators means that unless something is done, and expeditiously too, young people might begin to take the laws into their own hands.

Moreover, there is a compelling need to focus on helping the victims to also cope with their turmoil – at least one person wanted to kill herself three times.

He recommends punitive, exemplary measures and swift continuous legislation to stem this “epidemic”.

Going forward, there have to be checks and balances on the processes of communication between lecturers and students. Away from the dormant, inactive and often unenforced university codes of conducts, we can rely on technology to assist – pre-booked online appointments that show a record of visits on a central system that can also be periodically accessed for auditing can help in raising red flags. 

Atiku Abubakar is happy to share the experiences of how the American University of Nigeria which he founded has been able to maintain zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment.

It is worthy to note that AUN operates a strictly enforced Code of Conduct to which all lecturers, staff and students sign on to. Indeed, the Code of Conduct is explicit on what constitutes sexual harassment and how to report it.

Once a matter of sexual harassment is reported by a student, directly or anonymously, a Disciplinary Panel is set up and hearing is set. Disciplinary actions against sexual harassment include Expulsion/Suspension. 

The Judicial Affairs Department, a full fledged Office which oversees students conduct, shares the Code of Conduct with students, parents, lecturers and staff at the beginning of each semester. 

The Code of Conduct is produced in hardcopy and online, and can be accessed from anywhere through the university’s website.

And because of the seriousness attached to the matter of sexual harassment (ignorance is not considered a defense), the Judicial Affairs Department conducts a “Know Your Codes” campaign every semester. They go to the students’ hostels, classrooms, library, cafeteria, playgrounds, coffee shops etc, and extend the messaging, sharing posters and pamphlets, taking questions from students. 

Four Student Clubs – Women Leadership Council, Ethics Club, Rotract Club and the Leadership Club – have a mandate from the university to organize anti sexual harassment seminars, which are funded by the university every semester. 

To this end, the swift suspension and termination of the jobs of scores of lecturers implicated in various sexual harasement misdemeanor at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria is worthy of commendation and emulation by other universities.

Meanwhile, the former Vice President is elated that the BBC Africa Eye is focused on investigative documentaries which outcome is reverberating across Nigeria and the African continent. It is obvious that “Sweet Sweet Codeine” by Ruona Agbroko-Meyer, alumni of Atiku Centre’s scholarship scheme, and whose investigative work for the BBC was nominated for last month’s Emmys Award has opened the floodgates to possible more Emmys nomination.

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