The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has issued a stern warning that sexual harassment will be treated as a corrupt practice, attracting a minimum prison term of seven years.
The Secretary to the Commission, Mr. Clifford Oparaodu, delivered this caution during a one-day sensitization workshop on sexual harassment in tertiary institutions held in Abuja.
Oparaodu highlighted the need for victims to be aware of their rights and how to seek justice in cases of sexual harassment. He expressed concern about the alarming prevalence of sexual gratification as a form of “illegal tender” in numerous institutions, characterising it as a corrupt deviation from professional norms.
According to Oparaodu, sexual harassment is considered a form of corruption, where individuals in positions of authority misuse their roles to demand or receive sexual favours in exchange for favourable treatment. Quoting Section 2(f) of the ICPC Act, he highlighted that gratification includes any service or favour, not solely limited to monetary benefits.
Section 8 of the ICPC Act further specifies that any person found corruptly soliciting, receiving, or obtaining any property or benefit can be charged with the offence of official corruption and liable to imprisonment for seven years.
Oparaodu decried the fact that sexual harassment, often involving staff members leveraging their positions for sexual benefits from students, has thrived due to a culture of silence. He acknowledged the fear of stigmatisation and victimisation, which compels many targets to succumb to such demands.
To combat this issue, ICPC has initiated the Sexual Harassment Unit, focusing on prevention in tertiary and secondary institutions. The workshop’s purpose was to educate students on how to contact ICPC, report incidents, and gather evidence to support investigations.
Deputy Director of the Proceeds of Crime Department at ICPC, Mr. Adenekan Shogunle, emphasised collective responsibility in the fight against sexual harassment. He urged youths not to accept such behaviour, adding that there is a need to stop this menace to ensure the safety of educational institutions.
In another presentation, Assistant Director of the Legal Unit at ICPC, Mrs. Peace Aroch, highlighted the psychological implications of sexual harassment, including stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. She called for the establishment of sexual harassment policies in both the private and public sectors, suggesting the use of ICPC’s policy as a reference.
Policy Lead Gender at Mobile Initiative, Sarah Egbo, urged institutional leaders to show a strong commitment to addressing sexual harassment and encouraged collaboration with local organisations, law enforcement, and other stakeholders for a coordinated response.