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ASUU, NANS, Rights Groups Clash At Senate Over Sexual Harassment Bill

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There was a sharp disagreement, yesterday, between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and other women rights advocacy groups at a one-day public hearing on a bill seeking to stop sexual abuse of female students in the nation’s tertiary Institutions.
The bill, christened: The proposed legislation titled, “A Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions and for other matters connected therewith 2019”, sponsored by Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, APC, Delta Central, was co-sponsored by 105 other senators.
The bill which scaled second reading 6th November, 2019, with 27 clauses, proposes up to 14 years jail term, with a minimum of five years, without an option of fine for any educator who commits sexual offences in tertiary institutions.
The bill defines sexual offences as including: sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student or intimidating or creating a hostile or offensive environment for the student by soliciting for sex or making sexual advances.
Other forms of sexual harassment identified in the bill are grabbing, hugging, kissing, rubbing, stroking, touching, pinching the breasts or hair or lips or hips or buttocks or any other sensual part of the body of a student; or sending by hand or courier or electronic or any other means naked or sexually explicit pictures or videos or sex related objects to a student, and whistling or winking at a student or screaming, exclaiming, joking or making sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique or stalking a student.
It would be recalled that the bill was sponsored during the 8th Senate by Senator Ovie Omo- Agege.
Also, recall that six months after it was introduced on the floor of the Senate, the bill that sought to, among others, stop sexual abuse of female students in the nation’s tertiary institutions was passed Thursday, October 27, 2016 by the Red Chamber.
At the public hearing organised by the Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, All Progressives Congress, APC, Ekiti Central led Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, ASUU vehemently rejected the bill, saying that when passed, it would amount to “proliferation” and “repetition” of legislation to make a separate law to check sexual harassment in tertiary institutions.
On the other hand, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and other women rights advocacy groups supported the bill, stressing that the bill would help curb the incidence of sexual harassment in the nation’s Ivory Tower and other higher institutions of learning.
The National President of ASUU, Prof Abiodun Ogunyemi, in his presentation before the committee at the public hearing said that there were already existing laws that can be inadequately amended and strengthened and at the end of the say, nip in the bud, the alarming cases of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions.
Ogunyemi, who told the committee that though the university lecturers were not in support of sexual harassment of students by the same lecturers whom the students are under their tutelage, but was buttressing his position with the fact that universities already have mechanisms put in place to handle such cases when the occur.
The ASUU president, who warned against what he described as demonizing or stigmatizing lecturers, said that it would lead to a complete loss of faith in the nation’s institutions, and therefore, promote ignorance in the country, adding that the government never waited for the Sexual Harassment Bill to be passed into law before Prof Richard Akindele of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) accused of the offence was prosecuted and sentenced to jail.
Ogunyemi said: “I am not sure this is not the best of times for academics. If we go the way we are going, very soon nobody would be proud of his or her former teacher. We shall all discredit our teachers and by so doing, we shall also degrade the value and integrity of our certificates.
“Does ASUU support sexual harassment? No, ASUU does not support sexual harassment in any form.
“Are there other problems in the universities that warrant being given immediate attention, I am sure many of us will mention corruption.
“Maybe very soon we will come back to say let’s have a law that focuses on corruption in the universities. Are there laws that address this problem we are concerned with? I think the answer is yes.
“Are there no laws that would address this same problem we are concerned. I think the answer is yes. We have the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act of 2015.
“What does it take to review that Act to ensure that it covers our news areas of concern? That is the poser that we are placing before this Distinguished Senate.
“If we have a law that addresses issues related to this problem of sexual harassment, why are we wasting time talking about another law?
“Are we also going to formulate another law to address corruption in the universities?
“Are we going to formulate another law to address sexual harassment in the policemen in the National Assembly?
“We have a law, the universities autonomy law of 2007, legislated by the National Assembly already made provisions for us to address all of these. We talk of the institutional procedures; these procedures are irreconcilable with prosecution.
“There are aspects that are criminal; immediately such instance happens, we know where to go. Universities are currently handling problems like this and we should not agree with you, we should not discredit our custodians of knowledge.”
On his part, the National President of NANS, who was represented by the Director Research, Strategy, Planning and Documentation, Victor Essien, explained that the power dynamics between students and lecturers predisposes female students to incessant sexual harassment.
According to NANS, a committee set up by the present national executive of the students’ body on assumption of office has so far received over 2,000 complaints of sexual harassment of female students by lecturers, just as he described sexual harassment in tertiary institutions as an epidemic in the form of the Corona Virus Disease (Covid 19) in China.
On their parts, the Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Deputy Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Felicia Bassey, Chairman, Nsit Atai Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Hon. Emem Ibanga, among others, supported the bill.
In his remarks while declaring open the public hearing, President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, who noted that sexual harassment and intimidation was not just a sexual offence but a criminal offence, said that there was need for stakeholders to fashion new resolutions and sanctions to check the menace if the extant laws were not tight enough, adding, “As citizens we must have a common responsibility to fight the menace.”
On his part, Chairman of the committee, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, explained that parliament exist in the world to continuously make new laws and amend existing ones.

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North Can Live Without VAT Accruals, NEF Boasts …Backs Wike, Southern Govs On Fiscal Federalism, Restructuring

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The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has boasted that the North was a rich region, and can survive on its resources without the “billions” accruing to Southern states.
The NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, made this known, yesterday, when he featured on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ breakfast programme.
He was reacting to the tussle between states and the Federal Government on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT).
VAT is a consumption tax paid when goods are purchased and services are rendered, and charged at a rate of 7.5 per cent.
Although Rivers and Lagos states have started the process of collecting VAT within their territories, the Court of Appeal, in a ruling on September 10, ordered that status quo be maintained pending the determination of an appeal filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) against the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt.
Apart from Lagos and Rivers states, Ogun State has also started the process of passing a bill on VAT in its House of Assembly.
At the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting in Enugu, last Thursday, the 17 governors insisted that they have the constitutional mandate to collect VAT, and vowed to ensure that the rule of law prevails in the matter.
While some northern governors like Aminu Masari (Katsina), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), amongst others, had kicked against the move, the 17 Southern Governors led by Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) had unanimously supported the position that “the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.”
Speaking, yesterday, during the television programme, Baba-Ahmed said, “I will advise that we wait to hear what the court says. However, even the fact that it has become an issue suggests that we really do need to address the fundamentals and the manner in which the federation works.
“We have always supported restructuring. We have always asked that a major and genuine shift initiative either by groups or the National Assembly so that matters like this be addressed properly.
“If we don’t do that now, then, we should get a leader that would do that in 2023. This administration appears not to understand the importance of restructuring; we do in the North, we recognise the fact that we need to change the manner in which we generate wealth and allocate (it).
“The thing is: the North wants restructuring; the North wants fiscal federalism. We are a rich region, and we can live on what we have, even if we don’t have the billions that accrue to others states. Our poverty is not a kind of problem that we would break this country over.”
According to him, the VAT war is a wake-up call to northern governors who need to recognise the fact that VAT or no VAT, they need to develop their resources and develop the human capital of the North.
The NEF spokesman added, “North, you said you have many people but you are under-developing your own people – the biggest liability of the North is that we have a huge population that is under-developed. You need to develop the human capital that you have.
“We need leaders; the current governors don’t recognise this. Otherwise, they won’t be involved in this argument; allow the court to decide.
“But for goodness sake, (they should) begin to think — what else can we do if the court decides now that Rivers State is right, Lagos State is right, and the Southern states are right, and they won’t be getting all these billions coming in from VAT? What happens?”
Baba-Ahmed said the Northern governors at this stage should not be sleeping, noting that the North is “sitting on wealth, we have massive resources in this country, we have to fight insecurity first, and the Federal Government has to help us, we need to clear the bushes, the forests and all the criminals that are there, and we need to go back to farming.
“Agriculture is a major asset; we have land, we have water, we have livestock, we have minerals that are literally begging to be picked from the ground but our governors are too focused on the pittance that they are getting. This is wrong”, he argued.

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Boxing: Joshua Facing Toughest Test In Usyk?

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Boxing champion, Anthony Joshua could face his toughest test yet when he fights Oleksandr Usyk in London on Saturday, says ex-world champion George Groves.
Joshua, 31, puts his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles on the line against Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight world champion.
The 34-year-old Ukrainian has won all 18 professional fights, beating Tony Bellew and Derek Chisora on that run.
“Technically, Usyk is brilliant,” said Groves . “He showed that in unifying the cruiserweight division in great fights and I believe he could be Joshua’s toughest test to date. This is the first fight when I wouldn’t be surprised if Joshua got beaten.
“Joshua has fought [Wladimir] Klitschko and been in with Joseph Parker and also been beaten [by Andy Ruiz] and the only question mark for Usyk Is he big enough to compete with AJ?
“If Usyk keeps a high pace and makes Joshua miss with a lot of shots, that will work to Usyk’s advantage as he has probably got a better engine.
“Joshua is a phenomenal athlete with tremendous punching power and strength but has a tendency to tire out if the pace is uncomfortable for him.”
A crowd of more than 60,000 is expected and it will be the largest attendance Joshua has fought in front of since his win over Alexander Povetkin with 80,000 at Wembley Stadium in September, 2018.
Since then, Joshua has lost to Ruiz in New York before winning the rematch in Saudi Arabia and gained a ninth-round victory over Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena last December, with only 1,000 fans attending because of Coronavirus restrictions.
Both Joshua and Usyk won gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics, at super-heavyweight and heavyweight respectively, with the Briton going on to win 24 of his 25 professional fights, including 22 inside the distance.
Meanwhile, Dillian Whyte, who lost to Joshua in 2015 and is pushing for a rematch with him or a shot at WBC champion, Tyson Fury, believes the key to beating Usyk on Saturday is to adopt an attacking strategy.
“I think it’s a great fight and Joshua will stop him in the first six or seven rounds,” Whyte told Tidesports source.
“Usyk will start fast and Joshua should be cagey as Usyk is a bit lighter. Joshua can sometimes lack confidence but hopefully he goes back to the old him, starts pressing, being the bigger, stronger guy and gets the job done early.
“If Joshua sets the pace, he can get an early knockout and if he is strong, confident and walks him down, then I don’t see Usyk’s punches troubling Joshua.”
Groves, who held the WBA Super-Middleweight belt in 2017 and 2018, added: “If I was Joshua, I would take control of the ring and try to dominate and bully off the front foot.
“Usyk will want to be off the back foot for the first couple of rounds, then try to pepper Joshua.
“If I was in the Joshua camp, I would say: You want to keep this guy in his box. You don’t want Usyk having any confidence, so hit him hard and early.
“In the first three rounds, you want to land something big on him.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn also suggested Joshua could get an early victory.
Hearn said: “I’m always nervous for an Anthony Joshua fight, especially when you’re fighting someone that really believes he is going to win”.

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2022 AFCON: ‘Cameroon On Track’

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Patrice Motsepe, has said that Cameroon is “on track” to successfully host the Africa Cup of Nations early next year after visiting Olembe Stadium in Yaounde last weekend.
The venue will host the opening match and final of the AFCON in January and February of 2022.
A CAF delegation, including President Motsepe and General Secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba, were joined by Cameroon’s Sports Minister, Professor Narcisse Mouelle Kombi in inspecting progress made at the Olembe Stadium and various other facilities in the capital city.
“I’m very satisfied with the briefing I got and what I saw. I saw the Olembe Stadium and it is world class; we should all be proud as people of Cameroon and as Africans,” said Motsepe, as quoted by CAF’s website.
“We must applaud Cameroon [for] building such infrastructure. In partnership with the Government, the Minister of Sports, LOC, FECAFOOT President and CAF administration under Veron [Mosengo-Omba], I’m certain that in January next year, the rest of the world will be impressed. I’m very satisfied with what I have seen. We are on track.”
Motsepe continued: “The quality of football that will be played here will once again show the world that Africa has the quality to one day win the FIFA World Cup, that is the ultimate goal. The AFCON is special and I think it is important for us to set the tone in Cameroon.”
Mosengo-Omba also heaped praises on Olembe Stadium: “The infrastructure and architecture of the stadium is world class and can be compared to many other famous stadiums globally. In Cameroon, we have six beautiful match venues. Our job now is to ensure that we are ready with everything else.”

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