Sexual harassment is corruption, attracts 7-year imprisonment, ICPC warns

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has declared sexual harassment as a corrupt practice that attracts imprisonment for not less than seven years. The Secretary to the commission, Clifford Oparaodu, issued this warning during a One Day Sensitization Workshop on Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Institutions held in Abuja.

Oparaodu emphasized that sexual harassment is considered a form of corruption, and victims need to be aware of their rights and how to seek justice. He expressed concern about the prevalence of sexual gratification as an “illegal tender” in many institutions, with staff members using their positions to demand sexual favors from others in exchange for academic benefits or other favors.

According to Oparaodu, Section 2(f) of the ICPC Act defines gratification to include any service or favor of any description. Section 8 of the same act states that any person who corruptly asks for, receives, or obtains any property or benefit for themselves or others is guilty of an offense of official corruption, punishable by seven years of imprisonment.

The secretary highlighted that unlawful benefits are not always pecuniary, and sexual gratification has unfortunately become a form of “illegal tender” in many institutions. He acknowledged the existence of a culture of silence that allows sexual harassment to thrive, but ICPC is committed to changing this culture through sensitization and policy implementation.

To address the issue, ICPC has initiated a Sexual Harassment Unit focused on preventing sexual harassment in tertiary and secondary institutions. The workshop aimed to educate students on how to contact ICPC, report incidents of sexual harassment, and gather evidence to support the commission’s investigations.

The Deputy Director of the Proceed of Crime Department, ICPC, Adenekan Shogunle, emphasized the collective responsibility in the fight against sexual harassment. He highlighted the prevalence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, noting the absence of effective grievance remedial mechanisms and the culture of silence. Shogunle urged youths not to accept sexual harassment and emphasized the need to stop this menace to ensure the safety of educational institutions.

The Assistant Director of the Legal Unit in ICPC, Peace Aroch, discussed the psychological implications of sexual harassment, including stress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite the under-reporting of sexual harassment, Aroch called on both private and public sectors to establish their workplace sexual harassment policies, using ICPC’s policy as a reference.

Policy Lead Gender at Mobile Initiative, Sarah Egbo, urged institution leaders to demonstrate a strong commitment to addressing sexual harassment. She also called for the involvement of the entire institution in policy development and implementation, transparency in reporting and investigation, and collaboration with local organizations, law enforcement, and other stakeholders for a coordinated response.

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