Updated: Jan 12
AFRICA’S GREATEST UNSOLVED MURDERS-4
The US has its share of cold cases, unsolved murders, and murder mysteries that have never been cracked, but there’s murder in Africa too and in this series we are looking at some of Africa’s greatest unsolved murders. In the last blog, we saw a case from Ghana, West Africa. We will stay in the same region for this episode.
Nigeria (Image: Ubakia)
BIBLE AND BLOOD
Eunice Olawale (“Oh-la-wa-lay”) was a deaconess of the Divine Touch Paris of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria. Murdered in 2016 at the age of only 42, her killing was particularly brutal, brazen and ignominious. Hers is only one of thousands upon thousands of homicides in Nigeria, which has a bad name for crime and an intentional homicide rate was 9.85/100,000 in 2015 by WHO estimate (for comparison, that of the US was 5.35 in 2016). The US Department of State has a travel advisory for Nigeria, and foreigners are warned that they may be targeted by violence.
Eunice Olawale portrait (Photo: Informationng.com)
By accounts, Eunice was humble, caring, and passionate about her faith and spreading its word.
Eunice had the custom of leaving her home in Kubwa outside Abuja at around 5 AM to evangelize on the streets of Abuja, a practice called the “morning cry” in Nigeria. As always, she used a megaphone to be heard clearly above the hubbub of people and traffic. Preaching in this fashion is quite common in some West African cities, where Christian piety is taken very seriously.
Eunice Olawale preaching (“morning cry”) [Photo: Nigeria Gists]
Perhaps taking advantage of the relative darkness and solitude at that hour of the morning, Eunice’s attackers stabbed her in the abdomen and thigh, and slit her throat. Online news sites showing photos alleged to be Eunice lying in a pool of blood with her white megaphone and Bible beside her don’t confirm the decapitation. It’s unclear how long she lay there before the police arrived. For the dignity of the victim posthumously, I will not reproduce that photo here.
The grim news soon reached Eunice’s husband, Pastor Olawale. “I went to the station with my children,” Mr. Olawale recounted, “and when we got there, I saw the lifeless body of my wife at the back of the police van . . . from there, she was taken to the mortuary.” Other accounts claiming that Eunice had been decapitated were refuted by the Commissioner of Police, who stated the body was intact. That would correspond to the online photo alleged to be the victim (see above.)
Suspicion initially fell upon an Imam in the area who reportedly asked a bunch of young Muslim men to chase Eunice Olawale away from her preaching spot. Although the Imam confesses to that, he denies ever telling the men to kill the evangelist. Several days before Eunice’s murder, she reportedly overheard Muslims in a mosque behind her home making hostile comments about her preaching, and that it wasn’t the “true word of God.”
Six potential suspects, including the Imam, were arrested amid official declarations that Eunice’s killers would be “brought to justice.” Nothing came of those arrests however. In fact, 2 years after Eunice’s death, the family were still appealing for justice to be done.
The bigger picture
First, if indeed Eunice’s death was as a result of religious violence in Nigeria, it is just one of many examples. After all, the radical Islamic group, Boko Haram, is based in northeastern region of the country. Christian-Islam conflict in Nigeria dates back to the mid-twentieth century.
Second, the evangelist’s murder occurred in a milieu of little or no modern police investigation. For CSI enthusiasts, you can be pretty much assured that no crime scene preservation was carried out by the Kubwa Police. All accounts indicate that Eunice’s body was picked up and that was the end of that. Crime in Nigeria is way ahead of law enforcement, which, plagued with low salaries and corruption, can barely stand up to the huge Nigerian population. The present policing system is overburdened, overstretched, and ill-equipped. There is a pervasive lack of forensic techniques in crime-solving. See my previous article about how Ghana rose above a similar status and made improvements in homicide investigation.
The list of unsolved murders in Nigeria, many of them political, is long. The task of modernizing and transforming the police force in Nigeria is a monumental one. The saddest part, of course, is that although Nigeria is rich in oil and West Africa’s biggest economy, little of that wealth benefits the country as a whole. The inequality gap is wide and severe, with the net worth of just five Nigerian millionaires equal to about $30 billion. Only Norway seems to know how to make oil an equitable business.