Miss Iniobong Umoren, 26, was a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Uyo. She was mostly known to her family, friends and perhaps followers on social media but otherwise kept a low profile.
Her murder last week has caused shockwaves across the sleepy Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State, and the rest of the country.
While awaiting her call-up to the mandatory National Youth Service programme after graduating from the university, Iniubong advertised her availability to work on Twitter. Someone responded and invited her to a job interview.
She went on April 29, 2021. The interview appointment in Ibiaku Uruan, along Airport Road, a suburb of Uyo, would be her last.
The man who offered her a job was, Uduak Frank Akpan. He only used the offer to lure her. He raped her and murdered her. Then he buried her in a shallow grave.
A distressed voice message Iniubong had sent before her murder had alerted her friend, who took to Twitter to call for help on behalf of her friend. Soon #FindhinyUmoren was trending on Twitter.
The police got involved and tracked down the suspect, Uduak Frank Akpan, 20, who confessed to the crime and showed where he had buried her remains.
“Suspect is a confessed serial rapist who has owned up to the raping of other victims. He will be charged to court after the investigation,” the State Command Police Public Relations Officer, SP Odiko Macdon, said.
Outraged has followed the murder. Yesterday, women in Uyo including the governor’s wife, Martha Udom Emmanuel. Governor Udom Emmanuel said the government would ensure that justice is served for the deceased.
He also promised immediate succour for the deceased’s family and sent a delegation to condole the family.
“Iniubong in that attempt to earn a living, this tragedy struck. The governor is so sad, it’s painful, a complete defeat of what the governor says often in his drive to take the youths off the street and get them equipped with skills and employment opportunities,” the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, who led the delegation, said.
Her brother, Ukeme Umoren, who received the delegation at the family house in Obio Ndot, Oruk Anam Local Government Area, said Iniubong said they lost their parents while in secondary school.
“We are heartbroken. Iniubong was our last-born. We know how much we struggled to send her to the university and she was awaiting her call-up letter. Now, unfortunately, we lost a sister, a friend,” he said. “All we want is justice for our sister. Whoever is involved in this atrocity should be brought to book.”
When the wife of the governor, Dr Martha Emmanuel on Wednesday led women of the state in a protest match, they all wore black.
She was joined by the Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Dr Ini Adiakpan, Deputy Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mrs Felicia Bassey, and Chairperson, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Barr. Emem Ette, among others.
“There will be justice not only for Iniobong Umoren but all perpetrators of gender-based violence in Akwa Ibom State,” she said. “The good Lord will fight for the defenceless and expose the perpetrators of these crimes.”
A day before, about 2, 000 students of the Faculty of Arts, the University of Uyo where Iniubong had her studies staged a walk around the town campus. They too wore black. They carried placards and palm fronds and sang dirges for Iniobong.
The Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Prof. Joe Ushie said he only recently signed the deceased’s result.
“The whole university is bereaved, the whole University is mourning. It is not just about the Faculty of Arts, it’s not about Oruk Anam students, it’s not about the 2015 set. The whole thing is a shame. It is a disgrace that we have gone to the level of murdering fellow young Nigerians. It is like eating the flesh of our young ones,” he said.
The Akwa Ibom State Council of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) and the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), in Akwa Ibom State also issued statements over the murder and urged the Police to ensure a thorough investigation and timely prosecution of the suspect and his accomplices, no matter how highly placed in the society they may be.
Some of the protests however were not peaceful. Youths from Nnung Ikono Obio in Uruan Local Government Area vandalised the family house of the suspect Uduak Akpan, on Tuesday evening.
They set the gatehouse on fire and then used rocks to vandalise the one storey building. Some of them looted the family’s property.
They didn’t stop there as they took the father of the suspect to the police, explaining that their action was predicated on the complicity of his son in the murder.
The Youth President of the area, Etubom Sunday Essien expressed disappointment that a youth in their area could commit such a crime.
The suspect was first tracked online after he deleted his comment on Iniobong’s post inviting her to an interview. When his phone line was traced, he had switched it off.
When he realised his name is being mentioned on social media concerning the disappearance of Iniobong, he made a post saying that he had not seen the suspect as at the time she called him, his phone went off.
He would later turn himself in. “The suspect confessed to have told his local government chairman of his atrocity before escaping to Calabar and was never at any time handed over to the Police by anyone,” the police said in its report.
The chairman, Mr Iniobong Ekpenyong, said he never concealed information regarding the murder of Iniobong Umoren as the police implied in their report.
He said that he had to clarify issues as he has been inundated with calls that he was involved in the case and had to properly guide the public on the efforts he made towards the arrest of the suspect.
“I first came to know of what turned out to be very a disturbing development on Friday, April 29, 2021, when I received a call from one of my kinsmen stating that an elderly man in my community was arrested and detained by the Police on account of a crime allegedly committed by the man’s son who was reportedly wanted by the Police.
“According to the person who contacted me, he was seeking my intervention to get the Police to allow the man who was said to be in dire medical condition access to his medication, stating that the Police had insisted on detaining the arrestee until the absconded son identified as Uduak Frank Akpan was produced.
“As the Chief Security Officer of Uruan Local Government Area, I immediately swung into action to facilitate the arrest of the suspect and graciously, the effort paid off as the suspect who had earlier hinted that he was at a location in Oron Local Government Area was successfully arrested by the DPO of Uruan following trails facilitated by me and other machinery put in place by the Police.
“For the records, it is not true that the suspect confessed to me of his committing the crime before escaping to Calabar. As matter of fact, when contacted, the suspect who was still denying his role on the trending kidnap/abduction news was persuaded to turn himself to clear his name, if his hands were clean as claimed by him. The suspect had no personal physical contact with me before his arrest by the DPO of Uruan.
“I am deeply saddened by the harrowing incident and hereby condole with the family and friends of the victim. I urge them to, please, find consolation in the fact that the suspect is in Police net and I trust that justice will be served and speedily too”.
While the rhetoric continues, Iniobong’s quest for a job has resulted in her death, living a trail of grieving friends and family behind and an outraged people demanding justice for her murder.