BY PERCY-IDUBOR

The church has, over the years. Been a revered place where people from across different demography, gender, occupation and orientation gather in holy reference for divine worship. It so commands an awe that produces holy demeanor from attendees. Recently, however, there seems to be a decided shift in the action of some hoodlums in Benin City, Edo State, who undermined the sacredness of the church to commit a heinous crime in one of the branches of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in the state.

The sympathetic story and death of Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, who was allegedly attacked and raped, while studying in the RCCG located at Amadasun Street, Ohovbe, Ikpoba Hill, Benin City, has gone viral on social media, attracting the attention of all that mean well for humanity, especially, the girl -child.

Uwaila Omozuwa, a 100-level student of the Department of Microbiology, University of Benin (UNIBEN), Benin City, died at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), on Saturday, May 30, 2020 from the injuries inflicted on her three days earlier by her attackers.

UWAILA, A DETERMINED GIRL

Uwaila was seen by many to be a very determined and hard working girl, who, against all odds, saw herself through into the University of Benin(UNIBEN) and made up her mind to graduate with a first class.

In pursuance of academic excellence, she stayed back in school, even after the school was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, to read her books for the fear of examinations starting immediately school resumes. Her parents’ discomfort with her decision necessitated her return home.

She was known to have found the church where she, her mother and, other siblings have been members for over a decade, a conducive environment to study even while she prepared for SSCE, NECO and UTME exams, in the past.

THE FATEFUL DAY/MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL

The tragedy of Wednesday, May 27, 2020 brought a twist to the narrative and a sudden and unprecedented halt to the dreams and aspirations of the goal-oriented Uwaila, when, at 5pm that day she went to her choicest place of study, her church premises, and some hoodlums stormed in, attacked her, raped her and inflicted heavy degree of injuries on her, leaving her for dead, in the pool of her blood.

The Pointer gathered that the church deployed security personnel to man the church only at night. It was the security man, who resumed at 7pm for his night duties that met the young undergraduate in the pool of her blood. It was the alarm he raised that led to her being rushed to the hospital, where she eventually died.

A GUARD’S ACCOUNT

Narrating his experience, the light complexioned security man, who was on duty on that day, said “On that very day which is 27 May, 2020, I just entered the church, and while pacing round the auditorium, I noticed her on the floor. I pointed my torch to her direction and was shocked at what I saw. She was naked and covered in the pool of her blood. I ran to the house of the secretary to the church whom I collected keys from to inform him of what I saw. The man and his wife followed me immediately and, we ran down to the church”.

A visit to the Church showed that every where has been deserted. Both members and people that live around the church premises avoided the place like a plague for fear of the unknown. The Pointer learnt that some angry youths in the area attempted to set the church ablaze but were stopped by the police.

A MUM’s ORDEAL, REFLECTIONS ON VICTIM’S LAST DAY

Expressing her feelings about the daughter’s death, the 49-year-old Mrs. Joy Omozuwa, mother of Vivian Uwaila, said that although painful, killing herself will not bring her daughter back to life.

The mother of five, at her family house located at Ogbeide Street, off NNPC Depot Fence Road, Agbor Road, in Benin, said “What happened to my daughter pains me; it pains me very much because I did not expect that she will die in that horrible manner.

 

“We left home together on that fateful day. She was very vibrant and she loved reading. She had been going to that church to read for the past five years. She’s been reading there since the COVID-19 lockdown. She said she did not want to have a carry-over in her exams, to avoid the extra expenses it will bring.

“She used to come back home early. At times, she would return around 2 pm to eat and, at times, she would read till about 5 pm. More so, she had sight problem; so, she didn’t keep late night out. But she will always tell me not to panic if she did not come back home on time, that she would be fine.

HOW I GOT THE SAD NEWs-MUM

“On that fateful day, a friend from my church came to visit me. While she was with me, I tried to call my daughter around 5 pm, but her number did not connect. But, when I returned after seeing-off my friend, I saw three missed calls from a friend, Mrs. Osula, on my phone.

“When I called the number, she told me to come immediately, that my daughter has been taken to the hospital.

“As I was running to the place, my husband was asking where I was running away to, I told him it was Uwa, and I kept on running.

“When I reached there, I was told they met her in the church, her mouth was gagged with a piece of cloth, her eyes blind-folded and her hands tied to her back.

“My friend said when she untied her hands, she thought she had died. But when she saw that Uwa was moving her fingers, she realised that she was still alive, so she rushed her to a private clinic in the neighbourhood.

“When I arrived at the clinic, the sight of my daughter was pathetic. She was bleeding from her ears and nose. Her eyes were swollen with blood and a big cut on her her head. They also raped her. I couldn’t stand the sight sight. I stepped out of the clinic.

“She wore a jean skirt with a white top that

morning.

The white top was soaked in blood and it turned red. I cried bitterly. I asked, who did I offend? Even if I offended anyone, I did not promise to pay for my offence with my daughter. “The beating was so much. Fire extinguisher was in the church was in the church was used to smash her head.

“When I finally summoned courage, I took a bucket with water and a napkin and began cleaning her up. Her breathing was faint. She was infused to revive her. She struggled in agony at intervals.

A TRIP TO UBTH

“When my husband arrived at the clinic following morning, he said the church, where she was attacked looked like a place where a cattle was slaughter. He asked that we take her away to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital for better treatment immediately.

“On arrival at UBTH, the doctors tried. They conducted every necessary treatment method including oxygen, on her.

“I later confronted the doctor in charge, he told me frankly that the injuries were too much and she had lost so much blood. He told me that her case is a 50-50 thing, but they will do their best “They really tried best, but, lost her on Saturday.”

When asked to describe her, she said “ Uwa was not a troublesome person. She is my second daughter and she was the most gentle among my five children. She was always reading her book. Just last week, her elder brother was jokingly asking when she will show him her boyfriend, but she responded that this was time to study and not to love, that husband will come at the appropraite time. She had male friends, but they were not her lovers.”

A DAD’s TALE

The father of the deceased, Elder Johnson Omozuwa, who was devastated by the incident expressed sadness over the death of her daughter, describing her as a very decent girl, who was dedicated to God and her studies.

Said he, “Uwaila is a very quiet and peaceful girl. She was so reserved. We will all gather outside, only her will be inside. You hear people call papa Uwaila, Mama Uwaila without even knowing her. It’s other of my children that people know because of her disposition. My heart bled when I watched my daughter’s eyes full with the excruciating pains from that Wednesday till the Saturday that she died.

“My girl is gone, she is no more. I am sure she must have recognized them after they raped her. That was why they beat her to a state of coma using a fire extinguisher. I’m very proud of her. At 23, she was still a virgin. The record is there at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH)”.

A PLEA WITH THE POLICE

He called on the Nigeria Police and other security agencies to quickly swing into action to bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to book.

He is not alone in this quest for Justice for Uwaila. The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, on Sunday, May 31, 2020, speaking through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, mandated the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and other relevant security agencies to fish out the culprits, who perpetuated the dastardly act and bring them to justice.

The statement read in part, “The governor is deeply saddened by the news of the death of Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa. We have been in consultation with the Edo State Command of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and have mandated thorough investigation of the matter to ensure that those who are responsible for this heinous crime are brought to justice”.

“I have 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 University of Benin (UNIBEN).

The Nigeria Police Force 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 the those found complicit in the dastardly act, whoever they might be.”

THE POLICE ACCOUNT

A statement signed by Edo State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Chidi Nwabuzor on Sunday, read that on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, the Divisional Police Officer in-charge of Ikpoba Hill Divisional Headquarters, Benin City received a complaint from one Elder Johnson Omosuwa.

According to the statement, Elder Johnson Omozuwa, father of the deceased of No. 3, Michael Avenue, Ohovbe Quarters, Ikpoba Hill, Benin City reported that his daughter by the name Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, aged 23 years old, was attacked and wounded by unknown hoodlums, while she was studying inside the Redeemed Christian Church of God at Amadasun Street, Ohovbe, Ikpoba Hill, Benin City.

Immediately, Mr. Nwabuzor said, the DPO mobilized Police operatives to the crime scene in company of the victim’s father, Elder Jonson Omozuwa.

At the scene, he stated, the Police met the victim in her pool of blood, took photographs of the scene, recovered a fire extinguisher cylinder, which the hoodlums used in inflicting injuries on the victim.

The Police spokesman also said in the statement that the finger prints on the fire extinguisher cylinder were lifted during a preliminary investigation, while the victim was rushed to Enoma Hospital, Ogbeson Quarters, Ikpoba Hill, Benin City for treatment.

He said on the May 28, 2020, the management of Enoma Hospital referred her to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Benin City for further treatment.

“Unfortunately, the family of Miss Vera Uwaila Omosuwa broke the news to the DPO Ikpoba Hill Division that she gave up the ghost on Saturday night, the 30th of May, 2020 at UBTH, Benin City.”

According to Mr. Nwabuzor, the Commissioner of Police Edo State Command has ordered the transfer of the case from Ikpoba Hill Division to the State C.I.D., Benin for a discreet investigation, “stating that the Command will leave no stone unturn until the perpetrators of this dastardly act are apprehended.”

He called on the general public to come up with any useful information that could lead to the arrest of the hoodlums. He, however, called on the general public to remain calm, promising that justice would be done in this matter.

Meanwhile, Nwabuzor said, the CP commiserates with the family of Elder Johnson Omozuwa on the death of their daughter, Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, and prays to God to give them the fortitude to bear the loss.

PASTOR ADEBOYE’s CONDOLENCES

Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in a swift reaction said, “ All I can do at this time is to pray for the family of Omozuwa and do everything possible, working with relevant authorities to bring the perpetrators to book.

I and members of my Family condemn this act strongly and urge everyone to stay calm as we are already looking into the matter and cooperating with the police to establish the facts of the shocking incident.”

The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, Edo State Branch were not left out in the condemnation of the despicable and heinous act of rape which led to the death of Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa.

A statement signed by Florence Okundaye, Publicity Secretary/PRO

FIDA Nigeria, Edo State strongly condemned the evil and monstrous act and states that such act should not be condoned by any reasonable person or society. They therefore called on all Security Agencies to wit; the Police and State Security Service to thoroughly investigate the case and do the needful in ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to book very quickly.

FIDA Edo decried all forms of Sexual Abuse and Violence against Women and Girls noting that they werere serious and widespread problems that had lasting impacts on individuals, families, communities and burdens the society with major health and safety issues.

They further called on the Government which is saddled with the responsibility of providing security to her citizens, Security Agencies and Individuals to hold those who commit sexual violence accountable and face the law, regardless of their standing in the community, their power, their fame, or their wealth.

FIDA, therefore, reiterated her commitments to protecting, preserving and promoting the rights of Women and Children adding that they would not relent until the case of Vera Uwaila Omonzuwa is brought to a logical conclusion and ensure that Justice prevails.

Members of the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria, NRHJN, Edo State chapter in a statement said they considered the act of rape as a Gender -Based Violence and Violation against the humanity and womanhood of late Miss Omozuwa.

“As Advocates of SGBV, we affirm that no woman, girl or anyone for that matter, should suffer sexual violence or have their dignity violated by another without facing the legal implication and consequences as stipulated by Laws and Acts of Nigeria.

Late Omozuwa until her untimely death was a promising young girl and an ideal role model in the Nigerian educational system who, despite the Federal Government’s restriction order placed on schools and the tertiary education occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, kept on studying in preparation for the ease of lockdown on schools.

Edo State, in 2019, domesticated the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015, thus has the appropriate machinery to prosecute the culprit of the dastardly act against late Osazuwa”.

PRINCIPAL SUSPECT NABBED

Following the incident, Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, Abubakar Adamu, dispatched forensic experts from Force headquarters, to assist with the investigation. And In fulfilment of its promise to the people for a quick response to the call of stakeholders in the state and beyond, the Edo State Police Command said a suspect linked to the rape and murder of Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, had been arrested.

Confirming the arrest, spokesman of Edo Police Command, DSP Chidi Nwabuzor, said that the suspect was arrested following screening of the finger prints on the fire extinguisher allegedly used to smash the deceased.

Nwabuzor revealed that operatives of the command arrested the suspect after the Area Commander of Ikpoba Hill mobilized his men to take action in this regard.

A FIRST LADY’S REACTION

The First Lady of Edo State, Mrs. Betsy Obaseki, who visited the family of the deceased, went spiritual when she said Uwaila died as a hero, as a light in this dark age. “They snuffed life from her, brought darkness upon her life and pain to you people. But God is turning the darkness into light, to begin to shine in Edo State and in Nigeria. And this light of her will bring many more to God. At the end, Uwaila would have saved more lives than she would have done if she lived a 100 years on earth.

I never knew her before now. I didn’t know you either. But as we are talking, those words kept popping in my heart, and believe it is God speaking. I want you to be comforted by those words. When you can’t bear the pain any more, I want you to turn your mind to these truths, and be comforted. Don’t allow what happened to shake your faith. Continue in your love for God and light will shine at the end of the tunnel”, she said.

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