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How Do We Make Our Society Safer for Every “Ini ‘Hiny’ Umoren”?

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In the last 24 hours, there have been calls for justice for 26-year-old Iniobong Umoren, a young lady who was sexually assaulted and murdered by 20-year-old Uduak Frank Akpan. The suspect had invited her for a job interview at airport road in the outskirts of Uyo. That was the last time she was seen alive.

On the 29th of April, the search for Ini Umoren began on Twitter when her friend cried out about her disappearance and the strange WhatsApp call she received. 

Nigerians on Twitter immediately swung into action by trending the #FindHinyHumoren hashtag and several people identified Uduak Frank Akpan as the prime suspect.

Unfortunately, efforts to ensure Ini was rescued alive proved futile and on the 2nd of May, she was found dead.

Ini was a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Uyo. She was awaiting NYSC and decided to get a job while waiting.

It is not only harrowing that she met her death in the process, it is also heart-wrenching that her death came barely 24 hours after the world celebrated the International Workers’ Day – a day set aside to honour labourers and the working classes. 

Ini just wanted to be a part of the working class.

For what seems like the umpteenth time, Nigerians have again united in the face of injustice and are lending their voice to the call for justice using the hashtag #JusticeforHinyHumoren.

This is not alien to us, every day, we read reports of women being raped, sexually assaulted or beaten. It’s a continuous tale of anguish and grief – one that keeps giving. A cycle of repeated events that bring tears to one’s eyes and comes with sorrow for lives that could be saved.

These spate of violence were little cracks that swiftly alchemised into canyons of insecurity that are now difficult to bridge. There’s a skyrocketing rate of kidnapping, banditry, robbery, murder, and violence against women seems to be at an all-time high as social media continually highlights and immortalises issues like this that would have been otherwise hidden and forgotten. 

From the issues of insecurity to sexual assault, rape, violence against women, BellaNaija has often lent our voice in demanding justice for victims and proferring solutions to problems that continually claim the lives of Nigerians, and it is with deep sadness and pain that we have again put our pens to paper to call for justice for Iniobong Umoren. 

Ini Umoren, like every Nigerian youth, simply wanted a job. According to the security ‘rule’ many people do not fail to read out when women are victims of sexual assault and murder, Ini did everything right; she disclosed her location and interviewer to her friend and sister before going out, she put on her location all through, she went during the day time, dressed well for the interview, and yet, she was still murdered.

Ini Umoren’s death is a result of multiple system failures and just like many needless deaths – especially of young women and men – we have recorded in  Nigeria, her death could have been prevented.

In other to avoid similar future occurrences, let’s start with rooting out the cause of this problem: the fake job advert; the serial killer on the loose; the not-so-swift response of the police force; the high rate of violence against women in our country.

Almost every Nigerian youth has received one false job advert or another. The high unemployment rate in Nigeria might have made many Nigerians desperate for jobs, but it has also given criminals a huge platform to defraud job-seeking Nigerians. After NYSC, a lot of people receive fake invites from Shell or Mobil or Chevron, they get your name correctly and even the platoon you belonged to in camp. Many people also get invites from different companies telling them they have qualified for interviews even when they did not apply for the job. We have to ask ourselves: who is selling the data of young Nigerians to these shady job recruiters. We have to look into how secure our data is in the hands of those who are meant to protect it. How do we block the easy access fraudsters have to the data and information of people, especially those who are desperate to gain employment and will jump at every job opportunity that looks and feels right?

In light of the recent occurrence, many people on Twitter have written a list of fake job adverts in many parts of Nigeria, especially in Lagos. If the citizens are aware of these fake recruiters and can whip up a list within hours, why have our intelligence services done nothing about it all these years?

It is important, at this point, to have a functional database of fake job locations, adverts, and recruiters so that people that look it up before honouring an interview invite and to make it easy for law enforcement agents to get them arrested. Be it on Twitter, Facebook or any other social medium, we must come up with ways to recognise fake job recruiters and determine which interview invite is legit or not.

We have a serial killer, thankfully, he’s no longer on the loose. Cletus Ukpong, for Premium Times, wrote that the “Suspect is a confessed serial rapist who has owned up to the raping of other victims. Ini is not Uduak Akpan’s first victim; other corpses were found in the shallow grave he dug for her. Like his predecessors who have been nabbed by the police, Uduak’s victims were women who were first raped before they were murdered. Beyond mitigating the level of insecurity, and ensuring that bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, serial killers do not overrun the country, we must also aggressively address issues of gender-based violence in our country and give no room for it.

Nigeria has a long history of violence against women and the efforts made by the government to curb it are simply not enough. In 2016, the Nigerian Police Force launched a “public friendly” gender unit across the country to prosecute anyone culpable of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV). Ironically, in 2019, men of the same Nigeria Police Force raped women they had arrested for alleged prostitution using water sachets in place of condoms – and they were not prosecuted.

In October, 2018, 20-year-old Seun Ajila was raped and murdered in her home and her murderer hasn’t been found or prosecuted.

In 2020, within one week, Uwavera Omozuwa was raped and killed in the church, 19-year-old Barakat was raped and murdered, 18-year-old Jennifer was gang-raped by 5 men, a 12-year-old unidentified girl was gang-raped by 11 men, 21-year-old Grace Oshiagwu was also raped and murdered.

For girls and women in Nigeria, sexual assault and rape is the reality of their daily lives, and as long as their perpetrators go free, we would never be rid of sexual assault.

The only way to end the cycle of sexual abuse, rape, and murder is to ensure that the perpetrators like Uduak Frank Akpan do not slip through the fingers of the law. If we have anything short of justice for victims of abuse, we will continually put the lives of Nigerians at risk.

We must also build a police force that is swift to take action. While it is commendable that Ini’s killer has been apprehended, one cannot help but wonder if she’d still be alive if they had swung into action earlier. When it comes to issues of kidnapping, especially when there is a distress WhatsApp call, there is no need to wait for 24 hours before declaring a person missing. Criminals do not wait for 24 hours before they strike, our police force must learn to match the pace and velocity. It will also help to build a functional emergency number across all states, one that Nigerians can call once they sense danger.

In honouring the memory of Ini Umoren, we must ensure that we do not have other “Ini Umorens.” Aside from ensuring that Uduak and people like him face the law, we must build a society that is well sensitised about the dangers of gender-based violence – and violence in any form and in its littlest form. Let’s start from the constant reminders in our the radio stations, let’s talk about this in our local newspapers, let the sensitisation spread to the remotest areas of the country.

We must also build a system were justice takes place and we must ensure our police force and all security agents are up to task. This is the only way we can honour our dead.

For Ini Umoren and other victims of rape and murder, we must continually call and fight for justice.

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