Justice-for-Late Stella Abugu



It is a mother’s plea for justice. Mary Abugu’s daughter, Stella Abugu, was on the verge of starting a life of full adulthood. She had just completed her National Youth Service Corps programme. She had met her intended suitor and was only a few weeks from marriage. She left her home in the southeast to settle in Abuja where she met her fiancé, Afam Ugwunwa. Then she met her end allegedly in the hands of members of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

This happened in Ugwunwa’s Abuja apartment. Three men of the dreaded SARS allegedly raped and strangled her and whisked her away from the apartment. That was not the only horror. They claimed that Stella Abugu died of drug overdose.

Mary Abugu said: “I want justice to prevail in the case of my daughter, who was raped and strangled to death. The perpetrators of this crime have lost the right to life. I want the law to pronounce a death sentence on them. That is the only thing that can assuage the way I feel about this tragic loss. It is a loss too much for me.”

The autopsy has allegedly proved that she was raped and strangled. The matter is in the court now, while Abugu’s remains are now in mother earth. It is pertinent to note that the police seemed reluctant to pursue the truth. They said they did not have the resources to perform the autopsy on the deceased. The family said the cost was N600,000, but the police had demanded that the family pay half the sum.

It was not until the Federal Capital Territory stepped in that the police obliged. It is obvious that they wanted to cover up the charges of rape and murder. We want the courts to expedite hearing and adjudication on the matter. The Abugu family wants justice, and so does the society. Judicial justice does not provide closure, but it helps with clarity. Even some can ask, where is the justice when the deceased cannot get back her life?

What happens with a verdict is a semblance of accountability, and those who committed the felony are punished according to the law.

It is worthy of note that the family is unhappy that the three SARS operatives who were initially arrested and prosecuted are, in the words of Stella’s elder brother, walking free on the streets.

Rape, assault and murder were some of the dark and recurring episodes of the dreaded SARS that erupted into protests and riots across the country. The killing of a young woman on the cusp of her wedding was just one of the painful stories that now fill the news as various panels across the country, including Lagos, look into the atrocities of the SARS era.

It is not only a story of police savagery but also of a family loss. Just as Mary Abugu has lamented her daughter’s passing, so are many in the country, some on the panels, and most of them in the heated closets of their homes.

It is also about the larger impunity in our society. People who think they can exercise little authority exploit it over weak and vulnerable fellow citizens. We are seeing it, even as SARS has been disbanded, in the orgy of killings and kidnappings in the society.

The nation has never fallen into more turmoil since the civil war, and the failure of the institutions to hold the culprits to account has emboldened others to continue the carnage.

That explains why we should get the culprit sorry who cut Stella’s life short and make them examples in constitutional comeuppance.



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