Several students raped by robbers amid rising insecurity

The alarming spate of security incidents in Nigeria’s south-eastern region took a turn for the worst when armed robbers reportedly raped several female students of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, an institution located in the region.

According to the Daily Trust, about nine students were raped and brutalised by robbers heavily armed with guns, axes and machetes.

Eyewitnesses said the robbers shot rounds for at least 10 minutes and security operatives failed to reach the scene on time, as the event lasted from 8pm on Thursday until about 5am on Friday 20 January 2023.

One of the students told University World News that she was in her hostel when she heard gunfire that lasted for several minutes. She said: “Most of us ran to hide but some of us were raped.” One of the rape victims was a virgin, she said.

“She was a virgin and they raped her twice and [afterwards] we were holding her because she wanted to commit suicide,” the woman said.

A week after the rape incident, and while the public was still awaiting the arrests of the suspected rapists, another female student at the university was reportedly beaten up by policemen attached to the Special Anti-Cult Unit of the Police Command. The heavily armed policemen stormed the hostel at about 4am, Voice of Naija reported.

Narrating her ordeal in a video clip recorded by aggrieved students of the institution, the brutalised female student said the policemen beat her while she was naked, PUNCH Metro reported.

Nigeria is one of the African nations plagued with attacks by terrorist organisations and other non-state armed groups and has reportedly remained a hotbed for militant insurrections, violent killings and kidnappings. In 2022, University World News reported on the disruption in the West African nation’s education sector caused by terror groups and non-state actors.

This time, south-east Nigeria’s protracted period of insecurity has crippled economic and social activity in the region, contributing to the already massive heap of dysfunctions plaguing the country’s education sector.

A plethora of attacks

According to data obtained from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) – a website that tracks violent incidents in the West African country – about 287 people were killed in 154 incidents across south-east Nigeria within five months.

Local media sources reported that, at a time, 31 people were killed within 72 hours across two states in the region – Anambra and Ebonyi.

The deaths resulted from the alleged activities of the Indigenous People Of Biafra, Eastern Security Network, armed robbers, kidnappers, unknown gunmen and security operatives. In January alone, at least 10 people have been killed in Anambra, following the pattern of attacks from 2022. The alarming rate of attacks in the region led to the death of at least one student in January 2023.

Ten days before the rape incidents, a 200-level student of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, identified simply as Daniel, was shot dead by armed robbers while trying to recover his phone from armed robbers in his lodge, PUNCH reported. State police confirmed the incident.

Four days before the incident, students were reportedly attacked at bars and restaurants in the area. University World News gathered from local sources that the hoodlums visit restaurants and bars, robbing students and bar owners at gunpoint between 7pm and 9pm daily.

While the police public relations officer of the Anambra State Command, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, confirmed the incident, the command has yet to disclose the number of suspects arrested, claiming that divulging such information would interrupt investigations, Sahara Reporters noted. Ikenga also confirmed the Sunday attack but said the case was still being investigated. “I can assure you the police command will get to the root of all this,” he said.

University doubts rape incidents

Meanwhile, Nnamdi Azikwe University, the institution where Friday’s rape incidents reportedly took place, believes the number of rape victims has been exaggerated. The head of the information and public relations unit at the university, Chika Ene, in a statement obtained by University World News said: “such level of rape incidence” had not occurred.

“In as much as there have been some robbery incidents in the Ifite axis where most off-campus student lodges are domiciled, it is untrue from our preliminary investigations that such level of rape incidence occurred,” he said. He, however, failed to confirm the actual number of victims raped or provide further information concerning their well-being.

Ene said the institution has held meetings with the state government and Nigerian police to “provide maximum security in the student area”. The school also mentioned the engagement of a private agency to secure the premises.

Students protest peacefully

Two days after the rape attacks, the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) criticised Anambra State Governor Chukwuma Soludo for failing to stem the unprecedented attacks, rapes, killings, and kidnappings in the state since he took over in May 2022.

The students also held a three-day peaceful event from 20-22 January 2023 to protest insecurity in the state, particularly for students, mummylizzysblog reported.