The death of an 11-year old girl, Favour Okechukwu gang-raped by some hoodlums in the Ejigbo suburb of Lagos State, has again elevated to the fore the vexatious phenomenon of rape in our society.
Reports had it that the poor girl who was sent on errand by her mother, was lured into a nearby house by some bad boys who took turns to rape her. Unable to bear the pains of man’s inhumanity to his fellow human being, the girl was said to have given up the ghost in the room of one of the accomplices.
Fearing that the long teeth of the law will catch up with them, the five-man gang hurriedly fled and disappeared into the thin air. All this while, the mother of the victim who had been thrown into confusion by the inability of her daughter to return, had kept hope alive that by divine providence she would come back.
But it was only after Favour’s father Dickson Okechukwu returned from the day’s work that they began to search for her as it was getting dark. The search took him to all her classmates living around but to no avail. Parents of her classmates joined him on the search but it could not yield any positive result. Apparently confused, Okechukwu did not give up even when he did not have any clear idea of where else to look for her.
Hear him: “I started walking like a mad man asking everybody I saw about her whereabout. I saw a man who lives with me on the same street and asked him if he saw my daughter. He told me he had to close early because a little girl was raped to death in a building close to his shop”.
Okechukwu then decided to go to the scene of the incident to find out whether it was her daughter that was involved and was quickly accompanied by the said neighbour. When he got to the place, he met three people outside and on telling them his mission, they pointed at the room where the incident took place. He was shocked to the marrows to find his daughter naked with her lifeless body covered in blood all over. All efforts to resuscitate her proved futile as she lay stone dead. And that was how that promising Junior Secondary School girl was sent to her early grave by some demented men.
Some other accounts had it that when the rapists found out that Favour’s health had degenerated due to the body injury inflicted on her while the ordeal lasted, they procured the services of a nurse to resuscitate her. But all to no avail as the damage had already been done. It was also reported that the gang involved in this murder is notorious in the area and that was not the first time they would rape someone in that building.
The gang, said to be notorious in smoking Indian hemp and all manner of crimes around the area had for long been a nightmare to residents as they operate as if they are above the law. The incident is as callous as it is despicable. It is one rape and murder, too many!
In May this year, a 100-level student of the University of Benin, Edo State, Uwaila Omozuwa was raped and killed inside a church where she had gone for some church activity. A week later, Barakat Bello, an 18-year old student of the Federal College of Animal and Production Technology, Moore Plantation Ibadan, Oyo State also suffered similar fate.
Three armed men capped this devious record in Ekiti State when in June, they gang-raped a 17-year old street hawker at Oja-Oba market in Ado-Ekiti. Elsewhere in the country, it has been the same sad story with the media awash with all manner of rapes resulting in all manner of fatalities. The furore generated by the development was so much so that serious calls arose for more stringent laws to make rape a dangerous enterprise.
It was in the wake public outcry that the Kaduna State House of Assembly passed a bill which has since been signed into law by Governor Nasir El’ Rufai stipulating stiff penalties for those convicted of rape. That law provides for surgical castration for those convicted of raping children under 14 years age. Anyone convicted for raping of a female who is more than 14 years of age has a date with life imprisonment.
The Kaduna State Penal Code (amendment) Law 2020 also prescribes bilateral Salpingectomy (removal of fallopian tubes) for females convicted of raping children under 14 years of age, Though that law was received with mixed feelings on account of its inherent shortcomings and contradictions, its enactment underscored how bad the situation has become in this country.
It was a verity of desperate response to a degenerate situation. But the solution to the rampant cases of rape in and around the country does not really lie on the absence of extant penalties in our laws to debar prospective offenders from the illicit act. Our laws are surfeit with stringent punishments to discourage prospective offenders.
But the problem has been more with the inadequacies of our justice and legal systems. Even where victims muster sufficient courage to shun the social stigma associated with coming up openly to challenge those accused of raping them, the difficulty in proving such cases as required by law has also not helped matters. This is more so given the peculiar nature of rape cases and the difficulty in getting witnesses for an act committed secretly and by force.
That is where the judicial system has a serious role to play. It is not enough to enact new stringent laws to stem the tide. Neither is the absence of such laws the real issue to contend with. Those charged with the dispensation of justice must begin to factor in the peculiar nature of rape cases in arriving at judgments without compromising the imperatives of fair hearing.
So many people are reluctant to go to court on rape issues because they believe it is difficult to secure justice. And when this is paired with the stigma associated with the incident, one can then imagine why rapists have been on the prowl. All these challenges must be taken into account in ensuring that our justice system does not constitute an impediment to the war against rape in our society.
Favour’s father is seeking justice. I watched him weeping in a video clip calling for help from whoever is moved by the callous murder of his daughter to enable him secure justice. Ordinarily, that should have been taken for granted. But not on these shores! Favour’s murder is no doubt a very peculiar case that must not be allowed to suffer unnecessary delays given that the evidence for diligent and successful prosecution is overwhelming.
But what manner of justice will he get that will bring his daughter back to life? That is the sad question. He knows that his daughter is dead and may not come back to life. He is not oblivious of the fact that no amount of punishment can bring his daughter back to life. But he wants the penchant by all manner of criminally minded persons to murder innocent girls in the guise of rape to be made a very dangerous enterprise. He wants the police that have arrested the criminals that murdered Favour to hasten the process of investigations and prosecution of the case for the culprits to face the raw teeth of the law.
Fortunately, the murder took place in someone’s apartment. The identity of the owner should not be in doubt even as he is said to have named his accomplices in crime. The Lagos State Police Command must act swiftly and decisively by not only publicly parading the suspects but must hand over the case to its experienced personnel for diligent prosecution.
It is a test case that should be used to gauge the commitment of the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to public disenchantment with the increasing spate of rapes culminating in the senseless murder of victims. Good enough, our extant laws have sufficient provisions when enforced would act as sufficient deterrent to offenders.
Favour must find justice. Those who had hands in this criminal and despicable murder must be made to pay heavily for it. We are watching!
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