Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Hadiza Bala Usman, has called for reviews of existing structures serving to check act of sexual crimes in the maritime industry.
The NPA MD made the call on Thursday while giving an address at a webinar organised by Women in Maritime Journalism (WIMAJ) with the theme “Exploiting Policies and Legal Instruments in Sexual Harassment and Exploitation in the Maritime Industry.”
Represented by the Port Manager, Lagos Port Complex, Mrs. Funmilayo Olotu, Ms Bala Usman said wondered if there was a seeming culture of silence happening, considering that there had not been reported cases or known prosecution of such cases in the sector, when available information on the internet indicate a prevalence of sexual abuses onboard ships.
She said: “A cursory search through the web revealed that: ‘anyone can be sexually assaulted at any time and in any location onboard a ship’; Cases of sexual assault on ships are very rarely prosecuted; The risk of sexual crimes onboard ships is REAL and GETTING HIGHER; There is a dearth of statistics; and there are gaps in international laws where victims are faced with the stark reality that ‘a floating city’ offers no cogent protection based on ambiguous jurisdictional boundaries.”
“The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics in 2017, had 2,279 reported cases of rape and indecent assault, 1,164 reported cases of unnatural offences” (i.e anal sex), zero convictions reported by the Police and only one state out of 36 reported no cases of indecent assault.”
Advising on the need and importance of boldness against sexual assault and creation of structures to support transparency, the NPA MD said: “There should be boldness in reporting cases of sexual harassment. There should be established systems for checking cases of molestation and criminality against women in workplaces of the maritime industry.
“It is therefore imperative that the maritime sector reviews established systems for checking acts of molestation and criminality against the womenfolk in the industry. We must be bold in our condemnation of acts of sexual harassment and exploitation across board.”
While stating the necessity for reviewing how victims of sexual assault could be affected on their productivity, she declared that the NPA had zero tolerance for sexual harassment and exploitation.
She also said that the “NPA has now developed women’s capacity by recognising and empowering female workforce in the system to be bold and work in a gender-friendly environment.”S
Remarkably, she urged the media to support the campaign against sexual crimes through investigative reporting of cases and crate a platform that could serve as a voice to help victims gain confidence to speak out.