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Black Tuesday as Enugu buries girl raped to death

· Youths protest against non-investigation of rape and death of Miss Ngozi Eze · Mohammed Dan-Malam, CP when Miss Eze’s violent death was reported and against whose incompetent handling of the case Enugu protested, now AIG

AbeyaNews Correspondent IHECHUKWU SUNDAY writes on the calamity that befell an idyllic agrarian community in Enugu-Ezike, Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State when what was hitherto thought impossible happened: the rape to death of a tennager in a community to which such violence was, by and large, a stranger.

Mourners march around Ogrute, Enugu-Ezike, Igbo-Eze North LGA of Enugu State in demonstration against the violent death of a rape victim as she is buried.

It was Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Like any other day, it started well with clement and serene atmosphere. Birds of the air were singing as usual and folks were up for the day’s activities. The Imufu community in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State was bubbling with economic, social and cultural activities. Nobody had any inkling of what lied in the belly of the day. Suddenly, all hell was let loose and darkness enveloped the entire community. An innocent 20 year-old girl had been abducted, gang-raped and cold-bloodedly strangled to death by some disgruntled and evil-minded individuals in the community.

That was the fate of Miss Ngozi Eze who would have turned 21 years of age on July 21, 2020. She was living happily and peacefully with her parents in Abuja, until she was sent down to her village in Imufu to attend extra-mural lessons in preparation for the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME). Her brutal and savagely death occurred because of her parent’s quest to bequeath good education to her.

On that ill-fated day, he father had dropped her off at Township School 1, Ogurute, where she was attending the extra-mural lesson and left, hoping to see his daughter at the end of the day’s lesson. But alas, that never happened. The evil men had trailed her to the school, waited patiently for her until she was on her way back home before they struck. They seized her, took her into a nearby bush, gang-raped her, strangled her to death and dumped her naked body by the bush beside the school.

When her father waited for her return and did not see her, he raised the alarm and a search party was organised. The search party combed every nook and cranny of the community until the next day when her dead body was found. She was stark naked, lying face up.

That was the most trying moment in the community as a sacrilege and an abomination of the highest order had just been committed. The community was thrown into mourning.

The agony of her parents, friends and well-wishers as well as the entire community was made worse as the police allegedly prevented them from taking their beloved daughter’s body for burial. After the back and forth dealings with the police, who insisted that investigating into the matter was still ongoing, the deceased’s body was finally released to the family for burial.

What ought to have been a reprieve for the deceased’s family turned out to be a mournful moment as the entire community relapsed into brooding mood on the day of her burial.

Ngozi’s journey to eternal rest started at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Imufu, where a requiem mass was celebrated for the eternal repose of her soul. The Imufu youths, dressed in black attires with painted faces to demonstrate how abominable the act was, marched outside the church premises, chanting that murder was an abomination.

Mourners march around Ogrute, Enugu-Ezike, Igbo-Eze North LGA of Enugu State in demonstration against the violent death of a rape victim as she is buried.

Sadness and anger took better part of most youths even as others broke down in paroxysms of tears, wailing uncontrollably and raining curses on the perpetrators of the evil act.

Ngozi’s mother and siblings also wailed uncontrollably as her body was lowered into the grave where she would have eternal rest. It was a sad moment in the lives of the people of Imufu.

Ngozi’s distraught mother recalled the event that made her daughter to go to the village and how she tried in vain to speak to her on the fateful day. “I bought UTME and nursing forms for her and sent her down to the village from Abuja for extramural lessons, so she could prepare very well for the exams. On the day she died, I called her several times but she didn’t pick up her calls. I called her dad the next day and he told me how they found her naked and dead in the bush after a 24-hour search,” she said.

Her father was not any better as he expressed sadness that even the prime suspect had been let off the hook and is walking a free man. “I am not happy. I am devastated,” he said.

According to the deceased’s parents, the prime suspect was Ngozi’s suitor, who threatened her life because she rejected his marriage proposal. They lamented that the man had been discharged for lack of evidence to back up the allegation.

They are also not happy that 17 months down the line, the Enugu State Police Command has not been able to conduct any autopsy; a development residents claimed had robbed them of justice in the case.

Narrating the family’s ordeal in the hands of the police, a relation of the deceased and veteran journalist, Emeka Mamah, who spoke during the burial, informed that they were instructed by the police to go and arrest the prime suspect, resident in Onitsha, Anambra State. “We travelled to Onitsha with some members of the Neighbourhood Watch to arrest him. Thereafter, we kept him at Fegge Police Station, Onitsha,” he said.

He lamented that rather than do their work, the police treated the matter with levity and instead, extorted money from them. He said: “We still paid money to the police and hired a bus for them to go and bring the same man they asked us to arrest. So, it has been like that; they didn’t do any serious work on the matter.

An Imufu resident, identified as Tony Eyo insisted that nothing short of diligent investigation and prosecution of those involved in the dastardly act would assuage the anger of the community. “Let justice be done. We want to see the police do the normal thing, which is to review the matter and tell us what actually happened,” he added.

Mourners march around Ogrute, Enugu-Ezike, Igbo-Eze North LGA of Enugu State in demonstration against the violent death of a rape victim as she is buried.

Responding to alleged delay by the police, which many consider as denial of justice to the deceased’s family, the Enugu State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Daniel Ekeja, was reported to have admitted that there was delay in investigating the murder case but attributed the delay to lack of wherewithal on their part to carry out the task. “There were delays due to administrative and other bottlenecks,” he admitted.

Although, Ngozi is gone and gone forever; no amount of tears would bring her back to life, her spirit will remain restless until justice is served. And it is on that note that her parents are calling on well-meaning Nigerians, non-governmental organisations, and government at all levels as well as the Nigeria Police to ensure that those who are involved, directly or indirectly, in the blue murder the promising young girl, are brought to book to serve as deterrent to others and forestall similar occurrence in the future

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