By Isaac Asabor
It is not an exaggeration to say that when the governors of Nigeria’s 36 states in June last year resolved to declare a state of emergency on rape following a spate of sexual violence against women, that not few Nigerians heaved sigh of relief. It was gathered that the meeting was ostensibly necessitated by the raping and killing of a University of Benin student, Uwaila Vera Omozuwa, who was attacked in a church in Benin City, Edo State capital, and consequently died on May 27, 2020.
Following the meeting by the governors under the auspices of the Nigeria Governor Forum (NGF), call was made on all states to set up a sex offenders register and to sign on to two federal laws which punish rape and violence against women and children.
The Forum also invited the leadership of the Police to brief the governors on efforts they are making to tackle sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria, NGF Chair, Kayode Fayemi said in the statement.
While pressure was being mounted on government at all levels to enact laws that has the effectiveness of instilling fears in rapists, another girl, Barakat Bello, was raped and killed during a robbery attack in her home in Ibadan on June 1, 2020, according to human rights group Amnesty International.
Against the backdrop of the rampant incident of “rape and kill” across the country at the time, Nigerians took to the streets to demand urgent action on rape and justice for victims while Amnesty called on the Nigerian government to declare a “national crisis” on rape.
There is no denying the fact that Nigerians were further assured that the somewhat sexual pandemic will be completely be nipped in the bud. That was as President Muhammadu Buhari reiterated the government’s commitment to fighting gender-based violence and assured citizens, and that the police were working to ensure justice in recent cases.
“I am particularly upset at recent incidents of rape, especially of very young girls. The police are pursuing these cases with a view to bringing perpetrators of these heinous crimes to swift justice,” Buhari said in a televised Democracy Day address to the nation”
“I wish to assure all our women of this administration’s determination to fight Gender-Based Violence through the instrumentality of the law and awareness creation,” he added.
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki in a statement, said, “I’ve ordered the Nigeria Police Force to thoroughly investigate the circumstances that led to the death of Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 100-level student of the UNIBEN.
“The police have been mandated to identify, arrest, and prosecute anyone found culpable in her death. The Violence Against Persons (VAP) Law is in effect in our state.
“Using this law, we would ensure to investigate what exactly transpired and deal decisively with those found complicit in the dastardly act, whoever they might be.”
To my view, it appears the governments; both at the State and Federal levels have not done enough to protect women from Rapists as incidents of Rape are by each passing day been recorded with Rapists unprecedentedly on the prey.
In Edo, during the mournful time, there were protests demanding justice for the deceased, a lot of which cascaded into anti-rape calls largely on social media. From politicians to showbiz personalities, Twitter was awash with calls for justice and support for women.
Protesters clad in black, most of them wearing face masks as part of coronavirus protocols besieged the premises of the Edo State police command headquarters demanding action be taken swiftly.
Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki in a Twitter Post stated, “I strongly appeal to our law enforcement agencies to leave no stone uncovered in finding the perpetrators of this heinous act and bringing them to justice.”
Leader of the RCCG, Pastor Adeboye in a tweet said: “All I can do at this time is to pray for the family of Omozuwa and do everything possible working with relevant authorities to bring the perpetrators to book.
“I and members of my Family condemn this act strongly and urge everyone to stay calm as we are already looking into the matter and cooperating with the police to establish the facts of the shocking incident.”
Against the backdrop of the foregoing assuring words, many Nigerians might have thought that the challenge would be addressed; even before now. But alas! The same manner of sexual crime has being replicated in Akwa Ibom State as the killing of a missing Akwa Ibom woman, Iniobong Umoren, by a man who lured her with a job offer is now trending both on social media platforms and in traditional media. As gathered, the police in Akwa Ibom State, on Sunday, confirmed that the missing woman was raped, killed, and buried in a shallow grave by a suspect who is already in the police custody. The police spokesperson in the State, Odiko MacDon, identified the suspect as 20-year-old Uduak Akpan, said to be a serial rapist.
The brutal rape and murder of the Iniobong, is seriously disturbing the public mind in the country. Her killing has also reinforced the impression that Nigeria has become an unsafe country for women. There has been a predictable public outcry against this hideous and heinous crime, coupled with the demand for death penalty for the rapists. In fact, not few Nigerians are demanding stricter anti-rape laws, and stringent and expeditious punishment of the perpetrators.
To my view, I think it is high time we eschew rhetoric in response to this issue that is somewhat becoming a sexual pandemic by the day. Governments should enact a law that is punitive enough to deter unscrupulous and randy males from killing our women and girls all in the name of sexual urge. Enough is enough!