The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, has declared that a demand for sexual gratification for favour or service rendered is an abuse of power and punishable under the ICPC Act.
Prof. Owasanoye stated this at a one-day Stakeholders’ Meeting on the draft policy on sexual harassment in educational institutions organised by the Commission in collaboration with the Ford Foundation.
The draft policy was reviewed by the stakeholders in the education sector, civil society organisations and the media.
In his welcome remarks, the ICPC boss disclosed that Section 19 of the ICPC Act criminalises the use of public office to gratify or confer corrupt or undue advantage on someone or others.
He said, “Sexual favour falls under the category of ‘benefit’. When a person in position of power or authority uses such power irresponsibly by demanding sexual gratification, it is an abuse of power under the ICPC Act.
“The Commission has successfully proved in court that sexual harassment is abuse of power where the perpetrator abuses his position and advantage to demand and at times obtain sexual gratification from the victim.
“Indeed, the Commission has in the case of FRN vs Richard Akindele established that mere demand for gratification is an offence which the Commission can and will prosecute.”
As part of measures to address the growing problem of sexual harassment, the ICPC Chairman explained that the Commission with the support of the Ford Foundation had initiated a project focusing on its mandate of enforcement, prevention, and public education.
The project, according to him, started with capacity building for investigators and prosecutors of the Commission to enhance their skills in understanding, investigating and prosecution of sexual harassment cases.
“The Commission is by this project improving its ability to respond to myriad cases of sexual harassment via abuse of power especially with regard to educational institutions most notably tertiary and secondary education institutions.
“This is not to suggest that sexual harassment does not exist in other areas of society but the situation with educational institutions can be rightly described as epidemic,” he added.
Prof. Owasanoye also told the stakeholders that the promotion of sexual harassment policies in educational institutions was in fulfilling the Commission’s prevention mandate.
“The stakeholders’ meeting is to critically review and evaluate the draft model policy prepared by the Commission that upon completion may serve as a guide for educational institutions from secondary to tertiary levels.
“The intention is to encourage educational institutions to introduce polices that will guide all stakeholders in their institutions on how to diminish and hopefully prevent sexual harassment and where it happens how to respond in the interest of all concerned.
“As precursor to this event, we have reviewed existing laws, practices and available policies on the topic and we have tried as much as possible to use this draft to close existing gaps bearing in mind the much anticipated legal regime to be introduced by the Sexual Harassment Act,” the chairman of the anti-corruption agency said.
The Project Consultant on the ICPC-Ford Foundation Partnership on Combating Sexual Corruption and Illicit Financial Flows, Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa, presented the draft policy on sexual harassment to the stakeholders while a three-member panel critiqued the policy.
The panel was made up of Dr. Olanike Adelakun of the American University, Yola; Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi of the University of Lagos, and the National Public Relations Officer of All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), Mr. Habila Bala Balasa.