In August 2020, three months after the brutal rape and murder of Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 100-level student of the University of Benin, the Edo State Police Command paraded six suspects in connection with the crime.
Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a female microbiology student of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Edo, was found lying in a pool of blood at a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Benin City.
She had apparently gone to the premises to study ahead of resumption of academic activities. Her murderers attacked and raped her in the church after knocking her unconscious. They also smashed her head with a fire extinguisher. She died on May 31, 18 days after, at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital. She was 23 years old.
The Police had paraded the suspects at the command’s headquarters in Benin City, with then state Commissioner of Police, Johnson Kokumo, giving their names as Nelson Ogbebor,
Nosa Osabohien and Collins Ulegbe.
Mr Kokumo said the police decided to intensify efforts in unravelling those behind the death of the student following public outcry and “the interest by the Inspector-General of Police in the matter”. He said, “the matter was a great concern to the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Muhammed Adamu who sent homicide experts to work with our policemen at the state criminal investigation department. He said the post-mortem result revealed that Ms Uwaila was raped.
By October 2020, the High Court in Benin was to discharge one of the 6 suspects standing trial in the rape and murder in May 2020 of Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 100-level student of the University of Benin (UNIBEN). The trial judge Justice Eve Ikponmwonba discharged the suspect, Mrs Mary Ade on the advise of the state prosecutor who said that no prima facie case has been preferred against her. Mrs Ade was arraigned along with 5 others on several charges related to the rape of Miss Omozuwa.
The charges include rape, murder, armed robbery, and receiving stolen items and she was remanded at Auchi Medium Correctional Centre from where she was brought to court and discharged.
The Police said, while investigating the crime it traced the phone of the late Miss Omozuwa to one of the suspects, Nosa Osabohien. Nosa who claimed to be a phone repairer said he bought the phone from the prime suspect, Collins Uyegbulen. He led the police to arrest Collins who confessed to have directly participated in the murder.
The RCCG confirmed that the deceased had collected keys to the parish on Wednesday May 27, 2020 “as she had been doing since the Covid-19 lockdown began, for use for her private educational studies.
“On the said date, when the night guard at the church resumed duties a little after 7 pm, he found the lady on the floor in the church hall half-naked and in a pool of her blood”.
The Church statement condemned the action and joined calls for a swift probe. “As a church, we are deeply touched and condemn in absolute terms this evil visited on an innocent girl as we have equally condemned any act of violence and abuse against women”. It added that it was consulting the appropriate authorities to ensure that an extensive investigation is carried out.
Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki in a statement said he was deeply saddened by the news of the death of Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa. He said, “We have been in consultation with the Edo State Command of the Nigeria Police Force and have mandated thorough investigation of the matter to ensure that those who are responsible for this heinous crime are brought to justice. We would ensure that the full weight of the law run its course. We will take advantage of the Violence Against Persons (VAP) Law and other such laws related to rape and sexual abuse to get justice for late Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa.
“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.”
The law came into existence in Feb 2019 before Uwaila was attacked and killed. The law expanded the scope of violence against women to include physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic violence and sought to prohibit violence against all persons and provides maximum protection and effective remedy for victims and punishment for offenders and other related matters.
By November 2019, the government considered an amendment to the law, as part of the campaign to curb the violence against young girls, women and other vulnerable persons in the state. Officials had blamed the setbacks with the implementation of the VAP law on some errors and called for collective action to make it enforceable.
Street protests, and the social media was alight with calls for #JusticeforUwaila, days, weeks and months after the incident. It is now over a year, and Uwaila is yet to get justice. Will she get justice?