The first time I heard about the serial killings in Port Harcourt, it wasn’t from the Nigerian police. There was no public statement detailing the deaths of young women in hotel rooms across the state, no warnings to the citizens to avoid certain hotels, no details of an investigation to catch the culprit or culprits. Instead, the first reports came from women on social media. who have amplified their platforms to warn others of the murders and demand justice for the victims.
All killed same way in hotels in rivers state and some humans are asking what they were doing in a hotel instead of asking about the serial killer with same mood of killing with white anky on the legs and neck meanwhile one of them went to deliver her goods and never returned. pic.twitter.com/EpYajaT6tQ
— Benny Umoren (@BennyUmoren) September 13, 2019
Who is killing our girls in Port Harcourt.
THERE IS A PATTERN!
WHO IS INVESTIGATING THE DEATHS OF OUR WOMEN IN PORT HARCOURT?
— I do usually feminist (@kikimordi) September 11, 2019
Another girl has been found dead in a hotel in Port Harcourt. A serial killer is on the loose, preying on young women and making away with it. Nothing is being done. The police believe the girls deserve it because they’re “prostitutes.” Women are never allowed to win.
— Ada Nwoke (@okemzuruoke) September 15, 2019
People have long contested the possibility of serial killers operating within Nigeria. Many of the quirks of serial killers bear similarities to ritual killings here. Serial killers often kill methodically much like ritualists and take souvenirs of their crimes much like ritualists. The fact that there has been no recorded arrest of a serial killer in the country makes this even more worrying. But social media has made it easier to track killings and make connections between deaths and the person killing girls in Port Harcourt is making an effort to distinguish the murders of his victims from being dismissed as a ritual killing.
He/she/they have a distinct modus operandi. The killer ties up the girls by their arms and legs and strangles them with a white handkerchief, leaving the cloth still tied around their necks for others to find. It is not stated explicitly, but reports suggest the killer also has had sex with a number of these women, though no one can tell if the intercourse is consensual or not. With sex comes DNA residue and most hotels have CCTV in their lobbies and explicit records to ensure they know which rooms are booked or not. There is enough evidence to at least begin a proper investigation and catch the culprit.
It seems however, that the Nigerian Police is far more interested in smearing the victims. After three months and 14 murders with minimal response from the Nigerian police, women in Port Harcourt ked by Soibi Ibibo Jack on the 13th of September marched to the Police state command in Rivers state to protest the negligence of the Nigerian police. In response, the Deputy Commissioner of Police Administration for Rivers state Chuks Enwonwu told protesters that the women who were murdered were most likely prostitutes who fell into the wrong hands. This isnt the first time that the Nigerian police has justified their actions or inaction with sex work, the police raids in Abuja which targeted many women was justified by using this line.
For an official chosen to protect human life to dismiss the humanity of women who engage in sex work and imply that their lives are dispensable is disgraceful and shows why the Nigerian Police has largely ignored the murders in Port Harcourt. This is the one of the ways that Nigeria’s purity culture and rape culture manifest, allowing murderers to operate unhindered and denying women humanity and agency even in death. How do we expect anyone to trust the Nigerian police if they will publicly dehumanize women and abet their murders because of they engaged in sex work? Will the Nigerian Police ever prove itself worthy of our trust?
Until they apprehend the killer, we advise that women inform at least one person of their whereabouts if they are meeting with casual acquaintances or strangers. Smart phones like Samsung and Apple have applications that allow others track a person’s mobile phone, and those functions should be activated. At the very least, Whatsapp and other instant messaging applications allow a person share their location with others for a maximum period of one hour 30 minutes. That information could prove useful in a bind.
The Nigerian Police should have our backs, but until they prioritize our lives over their own agendas we must band together and protect ourselves.