The world woke up penultimate Wednesday to the shocking story of a 23-year-old University of Benin undergraduate gang-raped and murdered by some heartless men who invaded the parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Benin City where she had gone to read. Southsouth Bureau Chief BISI OLANIYI reports on how the parents of the deceased student received the shocking news of her gruesome death.
When she departed her family’s residence at No. 3, Michael Avenue, Ohovbe Quarters, Ikpoba Hill, Benin, Edo State penultimate Wednesday, 23-year-old Uwaila Vera Omozuwa had no inkling of the ugly fate that awaited her.
Since going to the nearby Miracle Sanctuary Mega Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) at Amadasun Street, in the same Ohovbe Quarters to study had become a routine for her, she had no reason to suspect that death, of all things, could be lurking in the corner.
After all, it is the church that she and other members of the Omozuwa family had attended for more than 10 years.
Uwaila was said to have been a regular face at the church while she was preparing for both her Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) through which she secured admission into the University of Benin (UNIBEN).
On arriving the church in the morning of May 27, she collected the keys to the main auditorium from a nearby house, where they were always kept. The holder of the keys had no problem releasing the keys to her as a familiar, God-fearing member of the church.
She quickly settled down and was studying alone inside the church’s main auditorium. A few hours later, some men found their way into the sacred chamber, gang-raping her after they had thoroughly beaten her and later smashed her head with the cylinder of the fire extinguisher kept inside the church.
While the choir member’s struggle with the criminals lasted, nobody in the neighbourhood heard her scream or cry for help, hence none came to her rescue until she was left unconscious near the altar, after the agents of darkness had fled, forgetting that their fingerprints were on the blood-stained cylinder.
When the church’s security man arrived around 6 pm to resume duty, as usual, he could not find the keys to the church’s auditorium at the neighbour’s place. He asked for the keys but was told that Uwaila had come to collect them and was studying in the church’s main auditorium. The guard then moved to the church auditorium only to be confronted by the horrible sight of Uwaila’s smashed head and near lifeless body in a pool of blood!
The security man immediately raised the alarm, drawing the attention of the pastor, some senior members of the church and neighbours. Uwaila mother’s, Mrs. Joy Omozuwa, was also contacted immediately. The victim was immediately rushed to nearby Enoma Hospital, Ogbeson Quarters, Ikpoba Hill, Benin, from where she was moved to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) where she was given special attention at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital.
In spite of her critical condition, the innocent young woman was said to have managed to tell the medical doctors and nurses what actually happened to her and the brains behind the dastardly act before she gave up the ghost last Saturday.
Uwaila’s distraught father, Elder Johnson Omozuwa, later relayed the efforts made by him, his wife and others to keep Uwaila alive, describing the undergraduate as a well-behaved daughter who kept her virginity.
Elder Omozuwa said his biggest pains were provoked by the tears that kept pouring from Uwaila’s eyes in the four days she remained in coma at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the UBTH.
The 49-year-old mother of Uwaila, Mrs. Joy Omozuwa, also spoke about her lovely daughter, whom she fondly called Uwa, and her last days.
The mother of five, who spoke in Pidgin English, said: “What happened to my daughter pains me a lot, because I did not expect that she would die in that horrible manner.
“We left home together on that fateful day (May 27). She was very vibrant and she loved reading. She had been going to the same church to read for the past five years.
“She had also been reading inside the RCCG’s main auditorium since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. She said she did not want to have a carry-over in her examinations, to avoid the extra expenses that it would bring.
“She used to come back home early. At times, she would return around 2 pm to eat and at times, she would read till about 5 p.m. Moreover, she had sight problem. So, she was not keeping late night.
“She would always tell me not to panic if she did not come back home on time and that she would be fine. On May 27, a friend from our church (the RCCG) came to visit me. While my friend was with me, I tried to call Uwa around 5 pm, but her line did not connect. When I returned home, after seeing off my friend, I saw in my phone three missed calls from a friend, Mrs. Osula.
“When I called back, Mrs. Osula told me to come immediately, that my daughter (Uwaila) had been rushed to the nearby hospital. As I was running to the place, my husband was asking where I was going, but I told him it was Uwa and I kept running.
“When I reached the hospital, I was told that they met Uwa in the church, her mouth was gagged with a piece of cloth, her eyes were blind-folded and her hands were tied to her back.
“My friend said when she untied her hands, she thought Uwa had died, but when she saw that Uwa was moving her fingers, she realised that she was still alive. So, she rushed her to the private hospital in the neighbourhood.
“When I arrived at the hospital, the sight of my daughter was quite pathetic. She was bleeding from her ears and nose. Her eyes were swollen with blood and there was a big cut on her head. They also raped Uwa. I could not with stand the sight. So, I stepped out of the hospital.
“On that May 27, Uwa wore a jean skirt with a white top, but the white top was soaked with blood and it turned red. I cried bitterly. The beating on Uwa was so much. The cylinder of the fire extinguisher that was in the church was used to smash my daughter’s head.
“When I finally summoned courage, I took a bucket with water and a napkin and I began to clean Uwa. Her breathing was faint. She was infused to revive her, but she struggled in agony at intervals.
“When my devastated husband arrived at the private hospital, he said the main auditorium of RCCG where Uwa was attacked, looked like a place where a cow had just been slaughtered, while insisting that Uwa must quickly be moved to UBTH for better treatment. On arrival at UBTH, the doctors tried their best.
“I later confronted one of the doctors, who frankly told me, that the injuries were deep and that Uwa had lost so much blood, while declaring that her case was 50-50, but assured me that they would do their utmost. They really tried their best, but Uwa died on May 30.”
The pained mother disclosed that Uwaila, her second daughter, was not troublesome and she was the most gentle of her five children, who was always reading her books.
Mrs. Joy Omozuwa noted that the previous week, Uwaila’s elder brother teased her by requesting to know her boyfriend, but she responded that it was time to study and not to love, while stating that her husband would come at the appropriate time, unknown to her that the assailants would not allow her to get married.
Uwaila’s shattered mother revealed that her daughter also had male friends, but they were not lovers.
The Public Relations Officer of the Edo State Police Command, Chidi Nwabuzor, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), assured that justice would be served for the gang-raped and murdered undergraduate.
The command commiserated with members of the family of Elder Omozuwa on the death of the brilliant and intelligent undergraduate, while praying to God to give them the fortitude to bear the loss.