The rape and murder of Barakat Bello, a teenager, in Ibadan, Oyo State is the latest to reignite national outrage against rapists in the past week.

18-year-old Bello was found raped and stabbed to death at the back of the home she shared with her family in the Akinyele area of Ibadan on Monday, June 1, 2020.

The deceased, described as a "nice and easy-going" girl by a family friend, was a student of the Federal College of Animal and Production Technology, Moor Plantation, Apata, Ibadan.

She joined the college last year to undertake the National Diploma programme in Science Laboratory Technology.

Onaolapo Farouq, another family friend, who taught her extra mural classes in preparation for her UTME before she joined the college, told Pulse that Bello was a decent student who was easy-going.

The deceased, the older of her parents' two children, was also described by neighbours as a lively, respectful person who got along well with everyone in the area.

But that lively, respectful person was found sexually assaulted and dead in the comfort of her home, no idea of who could have done such a thing.

The spokesperson of the Oyo State Police Command, Fadeyi Olugbenga, told Pulse on Wednesday, June 3 that officers of the Moniya Division have already commenced investigations.

"The Police there are working on it and details will be communicated later," he said.

The tragedy has left many residents reeling, as everyone is curious to understand how such an easy-going young lady became the victim of such a vicious crime.

Her rape and murder is now the latest in a string of sexual crimes that have gained national prominence and outrage fueled mostly through social media channels.

Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year-old first year student of the University of Benin, was similarly raped and fatally wounded while reading inside a Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) parish on May 27.

She died three days later, the same day that the Jigawa State Police Command announced the arrest of 11 men who had, at different times and on many occasions, allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl.

These cases have kicked up a social media storm that have penetrated the highest corridors of power and gained even the attention of, and reaction from a usually reticent President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, also ordered the immediate transfer of the ongoing investigations of Uwa's rape and murder by the Edo State Police Command to the Force Headquarters, Abuja.

The Deputy Inspector-General in charge of the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), Anthony Ogbizi Michael, was directed to ensure speedy and thorough investigation of the case.

Uwa's case also gained the attention of the Senate where a motion was raised to condemn the increasing cases of rape and brutality against the girl child in Nigeria.

Uwa's brutal rape and murder has reignited conversations about sexual crimes in Nigeria [Punch]
Uwa's brutal rape and murder has reignited conversations about sexual crimes in Nigeria [Punch]

When news emerged last year that Biodun Fatoyinbo, a well-known pastor, had raped Busola Dakolo, a celebrity photographer, nearly two decades ago, lawmakers had considered a similar motion.

Many called for stiffer penalties for rapists to serve as deterrent, with some advocating the death penalty, and a bill to amend certain sections of the Criminal Code Act in relation to rape passed second reading last November.

During plenary on Tuesday, June 2, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, called on State Assemblies to amend the penal and criminal code to deter rapists with stiffer penalties.

"We stand together shoulder to shoulder on this, and I think we need to make the penalties for rape stiffer to be sufficient deterrent for those who are involved in this, or who even desire to be involved," he said.

Section 358 of the Criminal Code Act already prescribes life imprisonment for anyone convicted for rape, but Nigerians are more worried that enough convictions are not being made due to lax implementation of current laws and the inadequacies of agencies to faithfully prosecute rape allegations.

No comprehensive statistics for rape incidents exist in Nigeria, but many cases are known to go unreported to authorities for many reasons including the fear of stigmatisation, extortion by law enforcement officers, and a lack of trust in the criminal justice system.

Uwa's family alleged that police officers had initially asked them to pay a 'mobilisation fee', an unorthodox incentive to investigate her brutal death, before the case gained national attention.

While the IGP can feel like he has fixed the situation by transferring the case to a more senior authority in Abuja, more permanent solutions are needed so that every rape case doesn't need to attract national attention before it is prosecuted diligently.

In light of the Uwa case, the Police chief also ordered the immediate deployment of specialised investigators and additional investigation assets to all the Gender Desks Offices and the Juvenile Welfare Centres (JWC) across the country.

This is a step in the right direction, but there have been way too many false dawns in the area of reforming police operations for as long as anyone can remember that it doesn't fill everyone with total confidence.

This is why it is important that every other instrument of the law, from the lawmaking aspect right through to the judicial process is refined in a way that every victim gets justice without having to first become the centre of national attention.