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Obaseki orders probe into death of 22-yr old lady, Uwa at local church

... Nigerians, NGOs outraged at rape and killing of women

Edo state governor Godwin Obaseki has ordered the Nigeria Police Force to thoroughly investigate the circumstances that led to the death of Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year old University of Benin (UNIBEN) said to have been raped and killed whilst studying at a local church in Benin City.

“The @PoliceNG has been mandated to identify, arrest and prosecute anyone found culpable in her death,” Obaseki said on Sunday via Twitter. “The Violence Against Persons (VAP) Law is in effect in our state.”

Obaseki said the law which was expanded late last year to criminalize violence against women including physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic violence, would be evoked to deal “decisively with the those found complicit in the dastardly act, whoever they might be.”

Uwaila, who was a 100-level Microbiology student in UNIBEN, died on May 30, shortly after being attacked at a church near her house.

Her death, a few days after an unrelated police killing of a 17-year old girl in Lagos, sparked outrage against violence targeted at women.

“What is the excuse now? She was in a CHURCH. Women get brutalized, raped and killed while reading in CHURCH,” tweeted Ozzy Etomi, a feminist and writer, echoing the frustration of many Nigerians. “This is a societal sickness! Don’t … justify or excuse rape!”

Amnesty International, and several other Non-Profits condemned the act and called for the government to bring the culprits to book.

Edo State Police department PRO told the BBC the police was treating the case as a physical assault not a rape; according to the police there was a fight in the church that led the lady’s injury, hospitalization and death three days after.

The family of the deceased told journalists that Uwaila was raped.

Many hope that the arrest and conviction of her assaulters would deter would-be rapist in the country.

In 2011 Human rights lawyer Caroline Ajie estimated that more than two million Nigerian girls experience sexual abuse every year, with only 28 percent of rape cases reported and 12 percent of those reported leading to convictions of the perpetrators.

Ifeoma solanke, a Lagos-based lawyer on Sunday said in April last year there were less than 100 reported convictions on sexual assault.

She described the number of convictions as laughable for “a country where people are raped and sexually assaulted every day.”

Solanke said rape cases have failed because they were being prosecuted by the state which makes a lot of mistakes, due to reversal of judgements against accused in appeal courts, the lack of evidence, and the unwillingness of the polices to investigate cases.

To help ensure perpetrators are convicted she is setting up a non-profit, Beyond Hashtags (@Beyond_Hashtags) for lawyers to assist victims, she said.

“I understand that the state prosecutes… I also know that the DPP can give a private prosecutor a fiat to take on cases. We shall be looking at obtaining these fiats,” Solanke said. ‘If we can’t, we would watch Briefs and be sure the state is prosecuting right. We would partner with organisations”

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