WHILE Nigerians were still reeling in shock over the case of Vera Omozuwa, a year-one student of Microbiology at the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Edo State, who was raped and then bludgeoned to death by her assailants with a fire extinguisher while studying at the Miracle Sanctuary Mega Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Benin, their sensibilities were again assaulted by yet another barbaric incident. On Monday, June 1, Barakat Bello, an 18-year-old, was raped and brutally killed in Akinyele Kara Market area along old Oyo-Ibadan road, Ibadan. It fell to her father, Mr. Bello Kasimu’s lot to narrate to the police how the life of his daughter, Barakat, was cut short by the mindless criminals who raped and later macheted her to death.
Barakat, a student of the Department of Science Laboratory Technology (SLT), Federal College of Animal Health and Production, Ibadan, was home alone on that fateful day while her parents had gone in search of daily bread. Her only sibling, Abdulazeez, had gone to a Quranic school for lessons. According to an account, the hoodlums who had already stolen some items from the house were on their way out when they were accosted by Barakat who had gone to fetch water to take her bath. By another account, they found her bathing in the bathroom located in the backyard of the yet-to-be completed building and then hit on the idea of raping and killing her. Her body was discovered by Abdulazeez on his return home from his Quranic school. Curious about the lack of a response after repeatedly calling out her name, Abdulazeez went to the backyard, only to discover her lying in a pool of blood with different marks on her body. He then ran out, screaming for help.
It is indeed unfortunate that Nigerian women have suddenly become an endangered species and there seems to be no pattern to the mindless killings that follow the recent rapes. While the nation was still agonizing over Barakat, another sad report filtered through, this time from Ogun State: a septuagenarian was allegedly raped by a 25-year-old, one Wasiu Bankole, while sleeping in her own home. Luckily, this time round, the assailant was caught in the act by a neighbour who responded to the old woman’s cry for help, and has been taken into police custody.
To say the least, Barakat’s tragic story has compounded the agony of an already traumatized nation. The Presidency and the legislature have joined in the call for a thorough investigation into the deaths of Vera Omozuwa and Barakat Bello. Priority must be given to the investigation of these mindless killings; the culprits must not escape justice. If they do, it will only further embolden those who commit these grievous crimes either for demonic rituals or sadistic pleasure. It is certainly unfortunate that most rape cases get truncated in the process of prosecution when financial inducement or some primordial sentiments are brought into play. Instructively, in the instant case, according to Gbenga Fadeyi, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Oyo State, the teenager was buried without any formal report made to the police until two days later. The failure to quickly file a formal complaint could be as a result of the loss of confidence in the police. This should be seen as a challenge by the police hierarchy. It must do everything humanly possible to win back public trust and confidence.
Sometimes, critics justify rape, blaming the victims for tempting the criminals by their seductive dressing. But Barakat’s death has put paid to this lie. She was a thoroughbred Muslim lady, as signified by her dressing in the photographs freely circulated in the media, and there was nothing that could have justified her rape. Besides, the maladjusted minds of these rapists provides ample evidence that they lack proper upbringing. As we have noted time and again, family values have collapsed in the country and this should be a cause for concern by the government, faith leaders and parents. Modern living, aided by technology, seems to have deprived many young males of the chivalry in which their gender thrived in times of yore. Their misdirected energy needs to be re-channeled in ways that will be useful to humanity. The local, state and federal governments must rise up to the challenge of productively engaging the youths, especially through sports and the vocations. The society owes it to itself to educate its youths in order to ensure they do not self-annihilate. If an unduly large percentage of the country’s youths end up in correctional centres or are awaiting their dates with the hangman, who then will propel its future?
We call on the police to do a thorough and painstaking job in this case. Barakat’s murder must not be added to the long list of the country’s unresolved murders. We sympathise with her family and friends and hope that they get all the moral support that they need at these trying times. May her soul rest in sweet repose.
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