She never saw it coming, neither did she in her wildest imagination, envisage such would happen at a place so revered and considered safe.
Like every other day, on May 27, 2020, she took her books and walked into the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Ikpoba Hill, Benin City, Edo State, where she and members of her family have been worshiping for 15 years, to read.
Barely had she finished reading and was walking out of the church than some strange faces appeared from nowhere. They grabbed her and attempted to rape her.
As expected, she put up some struggles, an action that resulted in her being bitten in the mouth, hand and other parts of the body by the predators. To incapacitate her, one of them hit her on the head with a fire extinguisher, before they succeeded in raping her and abandoned her in the pool of her blood to die.
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By the time she opened her eyes, 22-year-old Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, who was a 100 level Microbiology student at the University of Benin, realized she was in a private hospital. She managed to narrate what transpired at the church, but died three days later, at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, where she was transferred to.
Her death sparked up protests from different quarters with calls to the Police authorities to fish out the perpetrators. It also left many wondering why the rapists could carry out such inhuman acts in a place of worship, without recourse to its sanctity.
Already, one person has been arrested in connection with the gang- rape and murder, with the case transferred to the Force headquarters, Abuja, on the directive of the Inspector-General of Police, for discreet investigation.
As Nigerians were smarting from late Uwa’s gang rape and murder case, a similar incident occurred on June 1, 2020, in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, involving 18-year-old Barakat Bello, a 100- level student of the Federal College of Animal and Production Technology.
In her case, the rapists invaded her parents home at Akinleye area of Ibadan, while members of her family were away. She was stabbed to death in the course of forcing their ways into her. Her lifeless body was found in the pool of her blood inside the bathroom, when her sister arrived.
Again, her death has left several questions bothering on how safe are places considered to be.
These two cases of gang rape and murder are not the first of their kind in Nigeria. Another pathetic incident involving a 300-level final year student of the College of Nursing and Midwifery, in Jalingo, Tabara state, Miss. Mercy Victor, occurred two years ago.
The student died of injuries she sustained after she was gang-raped by hoodlums. She was reportedly returning to the school from town, in a commercial tricycle, when the hoodlums intercepted her close to the bridge after the State Specialist Hospital, a route known for constant attacks and rape of victims, at night.
Many would have forgotten about late Ochanya Elizabeth, the 13-year-old student of the Federal Government Girl’s College, Gboko, Benue State, who died on October 21, 2018, after five years of anal and vaginal rape, which resulted to vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) and other health complications.
The teenager’s ordeal began when she was compelled to move into the Andrew Ogbuja’s family house at age seven, when she was in Primary school, in order to attain basic elementary education because the only school in her village was shut over inability to pay teachers salary.
Barely had she settled down than she became a sex machine for her new guardian and his son. She alleged that her guardian’s son started sleeping with her at age eight, until his elder sister caught him and reported him to their father. Rather than get justice, she alleged that his father continued from where his son stopped.
Not too long, she became sick. Her case aggravated with time and left her bedridden. Report had it that her guardian, the Ogbujas, allegedly hid report of a test conducted on her, from her parents, who were left in the dark of what was actually wrong with their daughter.
Her mother, Rose Ochayan, said that at a point, their daughter, who was the youngest of their 11 children could not walk. She recalled, “ she lost so much weight and looked pale. When she was discharged from the Federal Medical Centre, she started defecating and urinating uncontrollably on herself and could not walk. We started putting diapers on her. The illness took her away from school for months.
“ She was taken to the Benue State Teaching Hospital where several tests were conducted and at the end, the results revealed that she was violated sexually in her vagina and anus and that she was suffering from VVF”.
Her situation further deteriorated, as she could no longer eat nor sleep. Her visit to the hospital right from age eight to 13, ended in October, when she bowed to the cold hands of death, without fulfilling her dreams of completing her secondary school education, let alone becoming a graduate.
Surprisingly, the alleged predator, Mr. Andrew Ogbuja, was discovered to be a senior lecturer in the Department of Catering and Hotel Management, at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo.
He was subsequently arrested and remanded in prison custody by the Chief Magistrate Court 1, Makurdi, for a fresh charge of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide, few days after the death of the teenager.
But his son Victor, alleged to have been caught in the act with the deceased, bolted away.
His wife was later arrested by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, with a view to ascertain her level of connivance in the incident.
Some of these rapists most times disguise in different ways to achieve their devilish purpose. Some carry out the gang-rape during operation and kidnap of female victims, while others hide under the guise of Facebook friends to launch attack on innocent and unsuspecting females.
This they do, by inviting their prey to convenient places, pretending to want to meet with them, only to show their true colours by drugging their victims drinks, raping them, and even stealing from them. Married women, especially those who display their affluence on social media, are not left out, as some have also fallen prey to this trap.
One of the incidents that brought this method to limelight was the gruesome murder of 24-year-old Cynthia Osokogu, a post-graduate student of the Nasarrawa State University and only daughter of General Frank Osokogu (rtd) who was murdered on July 22, 2012, at Cosmilla Hotel, Lakeview Estate, in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos, by her Facebook lover who invited her to Lagos.
Beautiful and vivacious Cynthia had chatted with the two undergraduates later identified as: Okwumo Nwabufo, and Olisaeloka Ezike on Facebook for months. In the process, they reportedly got to know that she owned a boutique in Nasarawa State, following which they had a business proposal for her, promising to host her whenever she visited Lagos.
On her arrival at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, on July 22, 2012, she was picked up by the duo and driven to the hotel, unknown to her, she was embarking on a journey of no return.
After the murder, the killers left with an undisclosed amount, her student identity card and phones and deleted all information and chats with the deceased from their Facebook.
But during investigation, their identities and everything that transpired in the hotel room were revealed in the Close Circuit Television, installed.
Five years later the suspects were sentenced to death by hanging, at the Igbosere High Court in Lagos, presided over by Justice Olabisi Akinlade
While victims of the gang rape and murder were not privileged to be alive to share their ordeals or lived to see the perpetrators arrested and prosecuted, a 12- girl-old girl, (names withheld) in Jigawa State who also suffered the same fate of gang-rape, may be on her way to getting justice.
This is because 11 persons, among them a 57-year-old man, have been arrested for allegedly gang-raping her for two months.
The girl who said she was turned into a sex machine, alleged that she was hidden in a place, where the men took turns to sexually molest her and at the end , gave her peanuts.
The girl, according to the Police, was taken for medical examination, where the report confirmed that there was indeed penetration, suggesting she was raped.
There are countless cases of sexual molestation in Nigeria. This is irrespective of the ages and sizes of victims. For instance, within the week, an 85-year-old woman was reportedly raped in Niger state, a report that left everyone miffed.
While some of these cases are in the public domain, others, are not, either owing to ignorance on the part of the victims, or pressure from relatives and friends on victims to drop charges against the suspects.
But one baffling reason is the threat by some suspects to either kill members of the victim’s family if they reported to the police or human rights groups. This happens especially when the victim’s family is poor.
A vivid example was the sexual molestation of a Junior Secondary School 1 girl of Central Secondary School, in Angwan Bakin Kasuwa, Misau Local Government Area of Bauchi state, Amina( not real names).
In this case, the suspect identified as Mallam Babayo, a fashion designer in the same area, lured her to bed with N50, with a stern warning to her not to tell anyone, even her mother, about what transpired.
The act, as gathered, continued until the victim, who sold sachet water for her mother, became pregnant.
But when her mother, Hafsat Muhammed went to confront the Babayo, accompanied by her daughter, they got the worst humiliation of their lives, following the latter’s outburst.
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Mrs Muhhamed said, ” He welcomed us with so much disgust and contempt, so much so that he said that we were too poor and couldn’t do anything to him”.
Already, rape cases have become a disturbing phenomenon and major issue on the front burner of discourse at the National Assembly, with deliberations on formulation of laws that would checkmate the menace.
It is hoped that while that is ongoing, investigations into various cases of rape and murder should be discreet, without leaving any stone unturned, in order to serve as a deterrent to others with such tendencies. The laws against rape should be more punitive on offenders.
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