Girls play multiple roles in the household, society and the economy.
It is said that the interests of the girl-child must take pre-eminence over every other consideration because she is the hand that cradles family units and communities.
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Little wonder the world celebrates the girl-child on October 11 every year; but sadly, the story of 11-year-old Favour Okechukwu, who was recently gang-raped to death by some hoodlums in Lagos, reinforces the sorry state of the girl-child in Nigeria.
Favour, a JSS3 student of Deo-Lively Stone International School, had on September 30, woken up and left for school with unfound zeal and enthusiasm, and after close of school was welcomed home by her siblings before she was sent on an errand by her mum – from where she never returned home.
After rigorous search for Favour, her lifeless body was found in a dilapidated building at Agbare Avenue under Powerline in Ejigbo, a densely populated area of Lagos; thus, abruptly shattering her voice and future.
Just like many other girls who have been sexually abused and sent to their early graves by some unscrupulous elements in the society; friends, families, neighbours, parents, teachers and non-governmental organizations are calling for justice for the late Favour who was made to die a painful death for no sin than being a girl.
The late Favour, who was first of four children, was planning to celebrate her 12th birthday on October 21, 2020 before her life was cut short by her killers who took to their heels after committing the heinous act.
Mrs. Ruth Okechukwu, the deceased’s mother, said “After waiting for a while without seeing her, I went to where I sent her to and was told that she never came there.
“I and her father went to some of her schoolmates’ houses to ask after her, some parents also joined us in the search, all to no avail.
“After hours of search, her father went to the police station around 8pm; he did not come back until about 2am the next day.
“It was later in the morning; the news was broken to me that my daughter’s lifeless body was found where she was raped to death.
“Though I learnt that the room owner came back from work to find the corpse in his room and raised an alarm, he has been arrested by the police and has said that he knows the perpetrators of the evil act.”
She also said that the police have arrested a nurse that was said to have been called in the process by the hoodlums.
Favour’s father, John Okechukwu, said he was shocked when his wife said Favour hadn’t returned from where she was sent to collect a carton of gala, which sounded very unusual because she doesn’t stay long outside.
“I searched for my daughter, walking like a mad man on the streets, asking everyone about her whereabouts.
“Later, I saw a man who told me that he had to close early from his shop because a little girl was raped to death in a building close to his shop, an incident, which he said had caused panic in the area.
“I decided to go and check since I was looking for my daughter and he accompanied me to the building.
“When I got to the compound, the people I met there pointed to the room where the incident happened and shockingly, I saw my daughter’s lifeless body on the floor.
“She was naked with blood all over her body,” he said.
The Civic Education teacher in late Favour’s school, Mrs. Peter Ugo, described her as a girl loved by everyone, saying the proprietor of the school is yet to recover from the shock of the news of her death.
She called on government to ensure that Favour’s killers are apprehended and made to face the wrath of the law.
Also, a family friend, Mrs. Ifeoma Okwara, described the deceased as a rare gem with high level of intelligence.
“I want government to help me find the killers of my daughter, they should not go scot free, starting from the nurse who is presently in police custody, whom I learnt usually assist the hoodlums.
“I learnt this is not the first time they are abusing young and innocent girls, and the nurse has been working with them.
“They should be tortured to death the way they made my daughter go through pain before they killed her,” said late Favour’s mother.
She called on government to demolish the house where the remains of her daughter were found as well as other structures used as hideouts by hoodlums to perpetrate evil in the area.
Like Favour, some other young girls have been caught in the web of the deadly rapists, whose audacity seem to be taking another dimension as they, in spite of the public outcry for an end to this heinous crime, have continued to perpetrate their dastardly acts.
While some girls have been able to survive and live with the pain and trauma, some like Favour could not make it.
With the recent rape and killing of Favour in Lagos, it is clearer that Nigeria’s fight against rape is far from being over.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, who expressed shock at the dastardly act meted out on Favour by her killers, promised that the full weight of the law would be brought to bear when they are nabbed.
How many more will go down before the girl-child gets justice?
The girl child is still not safe in Nigeria as the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl tomorrow with the theme ‘My voice, our equal future’.
With the theme, girls worldwide are demanding a life free from gender-based violence, access to health, skills, recognition and investment as leaders of social change.