The last one month has witnessed the murder of at least 10 young women in low-priced hotels in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The victims are usually found strangled and gagged with a white handkerchief, giving room for suspicion that it is being carried out by a serial killer or a gang operating in a uniform manner.
Just as the 10th victim was found dead at a hotel over the weekend, speculations that the victims are mostly sex workers heightened and generated a shun prostitution campaign by some persons.
An all-girls group known as Port Harcourt Significant Girls (PHSG) took to the streets of Port Harcourt on Sunday to campaign against prostitution and also took the word to social media.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Administration, Chuks Enwonwu, while addressing them, asked women to shun prostitution and other vices.
“In as much as societal values are disintegrating, we must go back to try to educate them (women) and discourage them from going into prostitution because that is how they fall victim to these crimes,” he said
But The Punch on Monday, quoted the Executive Director, Project Alert on Violence Against Women, Dr. Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, as saying that it was wrong of the police to castigate the victims instead of focusing on the killers.
Effah-Chukwuma said serial murder should not be treated with kid gloves even as she said those killed may be as high as 13.
She said, “It is a sad one for me. Assuming without conceding that they are prostitutes, does it mean their lives don’t matter. Yes, prostitution is wrong but if there are no buyers, there will not be sellers. Are the killings now justified? This doesn’t make sense
“We cannot say for sure that all those ladies are commercial sex workers. What we are playing with is serial killing and Nigerians are not used to this. The thing about serial killers is that if they are not caught on time they get bolder. The one that happened yesterday happened in the afternoon, not at night.
“After prostitutes, he will move on to the next victim. It is now about 13 victims in the last three months.”
She called on the authorities to clampdown on hotels that don’t have CCTV, saying absence of the facility was helping the killers to escape.
Outrage against what looked like a diversion of the issue of murder to that of prostitution went wild on Twitter on Monday, with #ProtectPhGirls and #Protect PHWomen trending.
Reacting to the sensitization campaign, @EniolaMiracle2, said: “Let the society stop putting all the work on the women like they are the cause of whatever is happening
Even if a lady is a prostitute,,she does not deserve to the killed like that., no matter what!!
So that placard that says prostitution is not an option doesn’t make sense.”
Several other Twitter users expressed displeasure at the sensitization campign describing it as a diversion from the serial murder cases.
PHSG did not take the criticism kindly. Reacting on Twitter, they did a U-turn claiming that their sensitization campaign meant “prostitution should not be an excuse to justify the killing of PH girls”.
The government of Rivers State is also belong being criticised for seemingky being queit as the hotel murders increase every week.
The police in Rivers have however denied treating the murders with kid gloves, promising to address the press on Tuesday.