DEATH came knocking on the door of her family house. It lurked in
the corner for a while until it threw its pang on the once vivacious
and vibrant Francisca Ngozi Okoli, snatching her in her prime and
puncturing to uselessness and eternity, all her lofty dream for a better
Some dare devil armed men had, in their dastardly operation and
satanic mission, visited the family house of Mr & Mrs Okoli in
Awka Etiti community in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra
State. After robbing the already impoverished family of their precious
belongings, they attempted to rob their precious daughter,
Francisca Ngozi Okoli, of her prized virtue through attempted rape.
They herded her into an isolated dilapidated building while her parents
were securely locked inside. She resisted their attempt with all the
feminine force in her and the gun men, out of annoyance, killed her with
a pestle. This sad event occurred in a morning raid on their premises
on Sunday, 29th July, 2012.
Since the painful and untimely demise of beautiful and promising
Francisca, heavens have not ceased outpouring grief just as her mother,
parents and every Nigerian with conscience have been thrown into
Francisca, no doubt, stood out as a shining star and model for her
display of such an uncommon and exemplary courage even in the face of
imminent and unwarranted death. She stood firm despite having an option
to succumb to their lustful wishes and thereafter lick her wounds while
suffering in silence.
At this juncture, we ask ourselves some salient questions: What has
gone wrong with our moral values. Why is our conscience and ability to
choose what is right so dead that nothing good comes out of us? It is
sad that such an evil could be visited on such innocent and defenseless
girls, women and mothers in our society. Francisca, our hearts are
pained and our souls soured. We share in the grief of your parents and
we take solace in the fact that the law of karma would take its rightful
effects, when the perpetrators of this dastardly act may have forgotten
their evil deed. We shall continue to salute your uncommon courage
while we bid you farewell as you rightfully join the martyrs and heroes
Courage is an attribute that is not common today. It is a quality possessed and applied by very few people like Francisca.
So many other women around the world have equally displayed such
courage in the face of imminent rape and after such a horrible
In Meerwala, Pakistan, 32-year-old school teacher, Mukhtar Mai, was
gang-raped by four men in connivance with two other accomplices.
Unfortunately, factors of social stigma, culture, taboo, discriminating
law and victimisation threw a spanner in her attempts to seek redress in
the court. She persisted, despite doing it alone, and won the court
case, leading to their being sentenced to death on June 22, 2002.
In South Kivu’s provincial capital of Bakavu, Congo, Jeanetta Nbaragu
Manana was raped by four soldiers under the leadership of Shelala
Tamasieme in November 2008. Despite the social stigma, she pursued her
case at the Bakavu’s Military Tribunal and the main culprit, Shelala
Tamasieme, was finally sentenced to 20 years in prison, ending
Jeanette’s sustained struggles to convict these rapists.
Rape has, no doubt, become a recurring decimal in our country today
and even beyond. Men and women are victims altogether. While boys are
sodomised, girls are violated. No one is secure anymore. Worse still,
rape has no class barrier; kings and celebrities are involved in it,
just as the poor are also enmeshed in the act. Celebrities had at one
time or the other been linked to rape, just as many unidentified poor
people have also been involved in it. Not too long, some young men
reportedly raped old women in Enugu State. The state government
intervened, tried to rehabilitate them, and gave them succor. But these
rapists went back to the recovering women and raped them repeatedly,
until many of them ran out of the state.
All these indicate that rapists are on the prowl and we must be more proactive enough to contain this ugly crime.
Rape is defined as a sexual intercourse with a woman or man without
her/his consent and chiefly by force or deception. Rape is a crime of
felony, regardless of the offender’s relationship with the victim. Rape
is an internationally recognised human rights violation and a crime of
violence, rage and hate that demonstrate an extreme disrespect for the
wishes and feelings of the raped. The committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination Against Women (EDAW) stated in its general recommendation
number 19, that gender-based violence was a form of discrimination
which the convention required its state parties to eliminate in all its
ramification. Nigeria ratified the convention on June 13, 1985.
Though it is enshrined in different acts of all the states in
Nigeria, the federal law for rape prosecution is found under section 138
(1) Evidence Act, Cap 112, laws of the federation 1990. Despite the
existence of the law, most rape victims do not seek redress due to
social stigma. They prefer to suffer in silence. Even when they try to
go to court to press their case, the nation’s judicial process becomes
so frustrating and harrowing for them and thus a successful prosecution
of rape cases becomes a mirage. The burden of proving the incident
solely rests on the victims. The complainant must prove beyond
reasonable doubts that in the unlawful sex, which is not between husband
and wife, complete penetration of the woman occurred without her
consent. She must also prove that the suspect had the prior intention to
have intercourse with her without her consent or was reckless, with or
without her consent. The evidence can be corroborated but this condition
Despite all the stringent legislations, rape incidents are on the
increase and many more women are keeping such violations to their minds,
suffering alone in the process. Rape saga is not peculiar to Nigeria
alone; it is a global phenomenon. But unlike Nigeria, other countries
are trying to be active in its control.
Though the offence is a crime in Nigeria, it is not listed in the
police crime statistic reports. Perhaps this is so due to the extremely
low frequency of occurrence or unwillingness by victims to report the
crime to the police. In cases where there are statistical evidences,
these are at times disputed by authorities and regarded as
exaggerations, arguing that the official crime statistics fail to give
the full pictures of the incident.
Several factors predispose people to rape. These include hatred of
the opposite sex due to unresolved and problematic childhood incident,
sexual cleansing and ritual practices. Rapes are committed everywhere
and anywhere for instance, on highways, pathways, in refugee camps,
night buses and prisons.
The impacts of rape have been high and devastating, causing feelings
of hopelessness and trauma that may lead to suicide, sexually
transmitted diseases, insomnia and madness, or sudden aggressive
Rape should be prevented with extra vigilance, provision of adequate
security and shunning of provocative dresses. As a society, we need to
do more to prevent rape cases in our midst. It is so sad that the young
Francisca had to die this pathetic way.
Insecurity of lives and property in Nigeria is on the increase and
government must do everything possible to address the problem.
The pain of losing her is too much for us to bear, but we must bear
its pain and take solace in the fact that it is God who gives and it is
God, who takes away. The robbers have done their worst, but they cannot
live in peace. If they have children, they should know that nemeses will
catch up with them, no matter how long.
We should have the courage to say no to things that are demeaning to
our soul and spirit. We should have the courage of the heroines like
Francisca, who will continue to live in our hearts and serve as a
positive reference point.