The recent rape and killing of Akwa Ibom-born Miss Iniubong Umoren brings to the fore, once again, the plight of girls and young women in Nigeria. Miss Umoren, a Philosophy graduate of the University of Uyo, went for a fake job interview on the outskirts of Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital. She did not come back alive as her assailant, who allegedly raped and killed her, buried her in a shallow grave in his father’s compound.
Narrating how he committed the evil act, the suspect, Mr. Uduak Akpan, claimed Umoren, who graduated with a 2.1, hit him with a stabilizer when they had some misunderstanding. He used the same stabilizer to hit her which led to her eventual death. He said he had similarly lured not less than six women with fake job offers in the past, but that Umoren was the only person he had killed. This is pathetic. And it points to the travails of female job seekers in the country today.
It is imperative to note that poor economy shares the blame in the death of Umoren. Due to the poor state of the economy, many dubious individuals post fake job interviews in order to lure unsuspecting members of the public to their den. Some end up being kidnapped, duped, raped or even killed for rituals. It is not only job seekers that fall victims to this type of criminality. We recall that an undergraduate of the University of Benin, Miss Uwaila Omozuwa, was raped and killed last year inside a Redeemed Christian Church of God, Miracle Sanctuary, Mega Parish, in the Ikpoba Hill area of Benin, Edo State. She had reportedly gone there to read, oblivious of the fact that the criminals had laid ambush for her.
Last year, a similar incident happened in Ibadan, Oyo State. In this particular case, some hoodlums reportedly raped and hacked to death a student of the Federal College of Animal and Production Technology, Apata, Ibadan, Miss Barakat Bello, in her home. Many cases of this nature have gone unreported. In 2019, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, claimed that over two million Nigerian women suffer rape cases every year. Experts estimate that about 35 per cent of women globally have experienced one form of sexual harassment or the other in their lifetime. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one in five girls has experienced sexual violence globally. The United States (US) alone reportedly records over 400,000 victims of rape and sexual assault every year.
In most of these cases, the victims hardly find justice. For instance, about 97 per cent of rapists reportedly go unpunished in the US. In the United Kingdom, only about 15 per cent of victims of sexual assault report to the police. Most times, victims hide their plight because of the stigma associated with being raped. Nigerians must rise up against rape and all sorts of sexual violence against women. Also, all rape victims should endeavour to speak out. We call for justice for Umoren and other women who have fallen victims to this type of crime. It is good that the person who lured her to the phoney job interview and finally murdered her has been apprehended by the police. The police should go further and arrest all those masquerading as job agencies but using them to dupe or kill innocent Nigerians.
We call for diligent prosecution of this dastardly act. Whoever is found culpable must not go unpunished. The Criminal Code of Nigeria (Section 358) stipulates life imprisonment, with or without caning, for a rapist. Since Akpan’s case involves murder as well, the laws of the land must be strictly enforced. Besides, state governments should endeavour to domesticate the sex offenders’ register which the Federal Government launched in 2019. We call for speedy implementation of the plan by the Ministry of Justice to develop a framework for effective introduction of sexual offenders register in police formations and in all security agencies.
Last year, the Federal Ministry of Justice also promised to establish special courts for rape and other sexual and gender-based violence cases. The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, noted then that the special courts would create a timely/speedy trial of all pending and incoming rape and other related gender-based cases and facilitate their conclusion within record time. Malami also indicated that his ministry had started a review of the existing laws on rape, child defilement and other gender-based violence in Nigeria, with a view to proposing legislative changes required for effective prevention and investigative counter-measures. It is not certain how far the ministry has gone in this regard.
Nevertheless, young Nigerians, especially women, should be wary of where they go at every point in time. Job seekers should be circumspect in responding to spurious adverts for jobs. Government, on its part, should revamp the economy and come up with measures for massive job creation. While we commiserate with the family of Umoren and all those who have lost their loved ones to criminal acts of deranged men, we urge the government to do everything humanly possible to protect girls and other vulnerable members of the society.