Gang rape of undergraduate ignites anger about the safety of women in Nigeria

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Nigerian police have arrested a member of a gang suspected of raping and killing of an undergraduate in Benin, a southern city in Nigeria, a crime that ignited anger about women’s safety in the West Africa country over rape cases and brutality.

Vera Uwaila Omozuwa
Photo courtesy: The Nigerian Voice

Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 23-year-old student of the University of Benin was raped by a gang of unknown men on May 27 and died a few days later in a local hospital. She was attacked in an empty church where she had gone to study.

The state police spokesperson Chidi Nwabuzor told media on Tuesday one suspect was arrested after the fingerprint on the fire extinguisher she was attacked with was examined.

“The item used in the assault, which was a fire extinguisher, was recovered, immediately the operatives who were with some specialists screened the fingerprints which led to our suspect,” Nwabuzor said, adding the suspect was arrested around the place of the incident.

Nigeria’s police chief Mohammed Adamu had earlier deployed investigators to help speed up the investigations, assuring that the perpetrators of the crime will be brought to book in the shortest possible time.

Similarly, another 11 suspects were also recently arrested for allegedly raping a 12-year-old girl in the northwest state of Jigawa.

The suspects were arrested on Saturday after the police received a complaint that one of the suspects was seen at Limawa market in Dutse, the state capital, trying to lure the victim.

The crimes had continued to raise concerns and stirred reactions from Nigerians. Officials and observers expressed worry that many Nigerian girls and women might have experienced at least one form of verbal and physical abuse or assault in their lifetime.

Data on the number of reported cases is very limited, but a 2014 national survey on violence against children in Nigeria found that one in four women had experienced sexual violence in childhood, with approximately 70 percent reporting more than one incident. Only 5 percent sought help, and 3.5 percent received any services.

Lai Mohammed, the minister of information and culture, in a statement sent to Xinhua on Wednesday, said the government had directed the police to unravel the circumstances surrounding the gang-rape and murder of the student and sexual abuse of a minor in northwest Jigawa state by 14 men.

By bringing the perpetrators of the heinous crimes to justice, the government will be serving a strong notice of its total aversion to gender-based violence in whatever form, Mohamemd added.

On his part, President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan has advocated for stiffer penalties for rape in Nigeria.

Lawan made the call on Tuesday in his concluding remarks on a motion over increasing rape cases and brutality against the girl child in the country.

According to him, having stiffer penalties in Nigeria’s criminal and penal code will serve as deterrent to perpetrators of the act.

In the same vein, Adesuwa Urhoghide-Edigin, president of the Medical Women Association of Nigeria decried the rape and murder of Omozuwa, calling on the authorities to fish out and punish the culprits.

She described the incident as “devilish acts of unkind beings”

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