By Chidi Nkwopara, OWERRI
Students of Owerri Girls Secondary School will not forget November 28, 2010, in a hurry. They woke up like they did in previous days.
They concluded all the activities lined up for them by their handlers and retired to their dormitories for the night’s rest. None of them, including their teachers, had any inkling of the danger that was lurking in the corner.
Between 1 and 2am, tragedy struck. Some hoodlums attacked the hapless female students of the institution. At the end of the sordid attack, the lucky ones contended with just their stolen personal effects, while five others were mercilessly raped by the invaders!
For these unfortunate five, the trauma occasioned by the ugly incident may linger for a life time! They have to contend with the possibility of being infected with the dreaded HIV virus. While in the school, there is the likelihood that their fellow students may occasionally taunt them as a result of the incident.
An equally traumatized Principal of the institution (Senior Section), Mrs. Pat Uche Obasi, confirmed the ugly story when anxious newsmen called at the school.
She lamented that rapists numbering about 10 stormed her school and succeeded in raping five girls that ill-fated Sunday and escaped following the intervention of officers and men of the Imo State Police Command.
“These boys came from the back of the school premises. They came through a hole they created on the fence, armed with cutlasses, rods and what looked a gun and went into SS3 dormitory,” the Principal recounted with grief.
In his own reaction, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) at the New Owerri Police Division, Mr. Okezie Okoroafor, explained that when he got a distress call from the former principal of the school, he quickly mobilized his men and intervened.
According to the DPO, his men were able to rescue the school security officers, whose hands were tied to their legs by the rampaging rapists and assured the students and their parents that security have been beefed up in the school.
Meanwhile, it is an established fact that rape is the crime of forcing a woman or girl to have sexual intercourse against her will. Rape has its legal and socio-cultural implications in the Nigerian context. There are also ways to avoid it.
The President of Youth Enhancement Organisation (YEO), Ambassador Obinna Egbuka, described rape as “an anti-social tendency which brazenly violates the pride of womanhood an. It is completely satanic in all ramifications”.
An Owerri based legal practitioner, Mr. Okey Ehieze, gave a lawyer’s view on the issue. He said rape is a serious offence under the Nigerian legal system, which carries life sentence on conviction, while an attempt to commit it attracts 14 years jail term.
It was his considered opinion that because of the social implication, rape victims are usually not exposed but quickly added that it does not mean they have no assistance under the laws of the land.
“The primary thing is that the issue of non-consent to the sexual act must be proved. You will also prove penetration in rape cases. When you prove that there was no consent in rape cases and there was penetration, the prosecution will not have any further problem in proving his case”.
Mr. Ehieze reminded people who indulge in this unwholesome act that they will end up in jail if they refuse to immediately retrace their step.
While describing rape as “a terrible crime against the nation and womanhood”, a female civil servant, Miss Toochukwu Opara, also appealed to her fellow ladies to be on the guard at all times.
“To avoid being raped, ladies or girls should resist the temptation of walking out at night alone, keeping unwholesome company, as well as wearing skimpy dresses that will attract the attention of potential rapists.
What is not too clear at press time is whether the police will ever apprehend the fleeing rapists who stormed Owerri Girls Secondary School. The citizenry will be happy if they do.