Between the murder of Vera Omozuwa and public safety/ The late Vera Uwaila Omozuwa

It is not absurd to say that the issue of raping of young girls is usually waved aside whenever it is mentioned for discussion. The reason for this cannot be far-fetched. Like witchcraft, the issue of ritual killing is treated as a joke by some educated, urbane and sophisticated Nigerians.

In my view, it is foolhardy for most of us to be waving the issue of the raping and killing of our young girls aside. For the fact that the reason why rapists indulge in such heinous act is beyond our ken does not mean that it should always be treated with abject levity whenever it is perpetrated. I’ve heard some lousy men say in pidgin, “Girls of nowadays nor dey dress well”, “Wetin e find go there”? Or “Shebi na adult e be”. The foregoing are some of seat-of-the-pants and laughable comments I have heard among others that fly in the face of logic.

I must confess that I was inspired to write this piece in reaction to the killing of Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 100-level student of the Department of Microbiology, University of Benin (UNIBEN), in Ikpoba Hill axis of Benin City, the state capital of Edo State.

There is no denying the fact that the alarming rate at which innocent girls are being raped in Edo State has become a source of concern; both to the government  and Edolites. A visit to any police command information unit would authenticate this view. One may not be wrong to say that many girls in the State might have in their hearts been thanking God for His goodness on how He gave them the grace to escape from the hands of rapists as it is not a testimony that is openly shared to avoid being stigmatized against.

There is no denying the fact that some newspapers, soft-sell magazines and online platforms in the recent past had seemingly buttressed the fact that unprecedented rate of raping has been a regular perpetration in Benin City and environs when their revealing headlines are taken into consideration.  Some of the headlines are: “Edo arrests 70-year-old man for allegedly raping 14-year-old girl”, “Six-year-old allegedly raped in Benin” and several horrendous headlines in the ilk of the foregoing.

According to Adayonfo Okokhue Ehigiator and Barr. Emmanuel Imuetinyan Obarisiagbon of University of Benin in a Study, “The prevalence of sexual offences is high enough to warrant a lot of concern from all stake holders. Similarly, the prevalence of general psychiatric morbidity among sex offenders is quite high; almost half of the study population had general psychiatric morbidity. Perpetrators of sexual offences range from adolescents to the elderly and victims range from children to adults. Majority of victims is females and any individual may carry out sexual offence and perpetrators may be people well familiar to the victims”.

Based on their study’s findings, they recommended the need for stakeholders; including parents, schools, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to work hard to reduce the prevalence rate of sexual offence, and in the same vein, suggested that the prison health department or unit needs to know that there is a major health issue and so put machinery in place to mitigate it.

They also suggested that efforts at addressing the mental health of sexual offenders should target those who are less than 27 years, unmarried, has no formal education or are students, and that efforts at curtailing sexual offences such as education and monitoring should be more targeted at males without formal education or the unemployed.  They noted in their study that males in general, regardless of age, education, marital status or occupational background are suspect for sexual violence and programmes for prevention and control of sexual violence should target all males. Highly emphasized by them was the need to protect children and adult females from being victims of sexual violence even as children must never be left unattended to as they need to be protected even from familiar persons.

They also emphasized the need to introduce and prioritize the topic of sexual violence in primary and secondary school curricula and that Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) should be encouraged to take up crusades against sexual violence.

As you read this, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has ordered for an investigation into the murder of Vera Uwaila Omozuwa.  Governor Obaseki in his tweet vowed to ensure that the suspects are found and made to face the full wrath of the law.

“I have ordered the Nigeria Police Force (@PoliceNG) to thoroughly investigate the circumstances that led to the death of Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 100-level student of the University of Benin (UNIBEN).

“The @PoliceNG has 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. #JusticeForUwa,” Obaseki’s tweet read.

From a similar perspective, the Inspector-General of Police (I-G), Mr Mohammed Adamu, has deployed additional investigation aids and forensic support to unravel the circumstances surrounding the death of Omosuwa.

The Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), DCP Frank Mba, disclosed this in a statement on Monday, June 1, 2020 in Abuja. He said the deployment of the investigation aids and forensic support to the Police Command in Edo, was to complement and expedite actions in the ongoing investigations into the unfortunate incident.