Uwaila Vera Omozuwa
The deceased, Miss Vera Uwaila

By Francis Ewherido

I knew it would not take time before he would be arrested. It was too brazen and repulsive. It is an affront on God, the Nigerian Police and our collective sensibilities. God would not allow the rapist and killer to escape arrest for too long. Even if God did, our collective cries and prayers would rouse HIM to action. Also, at times like this, the Nigerian Police shake off their inertia and show their capabilities. How did the rapist/murderer expect to get away with this heinous crime?

Schools are on COVID-19-enforced closure. Rather than loaf and mess around, UWAILA VERA OMOZUWA, 22, decided to spend the time studying. And what safer place than the hallowed house of God. The monster must have been following Vera’s routine. On the day, he struck, he raped and brutally violated her. He was not done yet, he took her life. Who the hell do you think you are taking another person’s life? Are you God? Can you create life? Only HE who created life has the authority to take it. But humans now play God and take life with impunity.

Conscience has flown out of the window in our individual and collective lives. When we were growing up, children were too scared to fart in church, not out of etiquette, but we were taught that the church is the house of God, a holy place, so we held our fart until Mass/service was over. If we could not hold it, we went out, while Mass/service was still on, to fart.

Even at home, we could not fart in the sitting room because the altar of God was there. We went to our rooms or outside the house to fart. The reverence was that high.These days, reverence for God and places of worship is receding. We have had cases of churches where whole human beings or human heads are allegedly buried. It is the same lack of reverence that led this monster to rape and kill Uwa in a church.

This is one rape too many. LikeUwa, Miss Barakat Bello, an 18-year-old student, was raped and killed in Ibadan on Monday this week. The girl child has not received enough protection in Nigeria. I have always maintained that the punishment for rape in Nigeria is not stringent enough. The sentence should be a minimum of 70 years.

By the time the convict comes out of jail – that is if he survives those years – his offending “instrument” will be old and useless to commit any further rape. In the case of Uwa and Barakat, where murder is involved, the culprits should get the death penalty. Why should we be campaigning against death penalty when the convicts also took life?

There should be no place for rape in our society. Sex must be consensual. The most annoying thing about rape in our society is that it is totally unnecessary. Sex is currently one of the cheapest commodities in Nigeria. Virtually everyone can afford it. Some people even hawk sex for free. The main restraints people have are fear of God and fear of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. So why rape and kill because of sex?

I am tempted to say that parents should train their male children well so that they do not grow into rapists, but it just occurred to me that police have not revealed the identity of the alleged rapist and killer yet. He might just turn out to be a father. Many of the rapists exposed in the past are fathers, some of them septuagenarians. Some of these fathers also raped their own daughters? Are these among the people I am supposed to appeal to train their sons to eschew rape?

READ ALSO: MURDER: FIDA demands justice for Uwaila Omozuwa

I sympathise with Uwa’s family. Even though I cannot feel their pains as only they can, I empathise with them. Nothing can bring their daughter back, but Uwa should get justice to the maximum. The prosecutors should handle the case diligently. Anything but full justice will add salt not only to Uwa family’s injuries, but also, to our collective injuries.

Let students be

Earlier in the week, the government came up with fresh guidelines on easing the COVID-19-induced lockdown. Schools are to remain closed, while religious houses are to open, albeit with strict COVID-19-prevention protocols, and subject to the concurrence of the state governments. Some people were aghast at the government action. They traced our underdevelopment to too much attention to religion and little attention to acquisition of knowledge. Even if they are right in other cases, I disagree with them on this case.

It is not yet time for schools to reopen. I do not even believe it is ripe for places of religious worship to open. There is an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and we still do not know how much the opening of market places has contributed to the increase. It would have been nice to have these statistics before reopening more public places.

I hope that religious houses will observe necessary protocols and not spike up the number of COVID-19 cases. But I have my reservations with reopening of schools. Students are minors and you cannot get a high standard of compliance from them. Children will always be children. They will play and throw caution to the winds. I feel we should see how the number of new COVID-19 cases goes in the next three weeks to one month before we think of resumption of schools.

The government owns most schools. It must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and put in place strict protocols before schools resume. The owners of private schools also need to do the same. Sending children to school in this COVID-19 era is not as easy as some people think. By the time schools resume, the reality will hit them.

As young as these children are, some of them have asthma, diabetes and other underlying ailments, which make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. Also, once the children resume school, children will pose a danger to other members of the family as they go and come back from school daily. If they get infected with COVID-19, many of them will easily overcome the infection, but what if they infect their parents, especially parents who are vulnerable with underlying ailments? Resumption of schools is a delicate matter.

The health of the students and their families should be paramount when considering resumption of schools. There is not enough on ground to show that we are ready for schools to resume. The government needs to increase capacity in terms of testing and treating of COVID-19 patients. More protective and sanitary equipment also need to be in place.

Then there should be massive enlightenment campaigns in English, Pidgin English and native languages. As we have found out in the past, some students in remote areas and some parts of the country cannot communicate in English even at secondary school level. The only language they understand is their native tongue. There is a trailer-load of work to be done before schools should be allowed to resume. We should be cautious.



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