Ochanya: Rape of a deceased minor, cases of death are brought to the defense in Benue
Two courts in Makurdi, BÃ©nouÃ© State, heard part of the defense of a couple pending trial on Friday over the alleged rape and subsequent death of 13-year-old Ochanya Ogbanje, whose news sparked public outrage in 2018.
Andrew Ogbuja, professor at Benue State Polytechnic, is on trial in Benue State High Court in Makurdi for allegedly serial raping Ochanya, whom she fell ill and later died of. illnesses attributable to prolonged sexual exploitation in October 2018.
His wife, Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja, also an employee of the polytechnic, faces separate charges in the Federal High Court in Makurdi for negligence in allegedly failing to take steps to end the sexual exploitation of the minor by her husband and son, Victor Ogbuja. , who is said to be on the run.
Ochanya, until her death, a JSS1 student at Federal Government Girls College in Gboko, Benue State, was Ms. Ochiga-Ogbuja’s maternal niece and had lived with the family during her primary school years in Ugbokolo. , the city where the State Polytechnic School is located. located.
Mr. Ogbuja, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Catering and Hotel Management of the State Polytechnic School, and his son Victor, a final year student at the Federal University of Agriculture in Makurdi, until his disappearance, allegedly raped the girl between 2014 and 2018. while the minor was living with the family.
Ochanya then reportedly fell ill with illnesses allegedly attributable to the prolonged rape by the two adults.
She was admitted to Makurdi Federal Medical Center for two months before she died in October 2018.
While Mr. Ogbuja is being held in the prison where he is attending his trial, Victor is still at large. Ms. Ochiga-Ogbuja, for her part, was released on bail by the court where she is being prosecuted.
While the police manhunt against Victor had yet to yield any results, the Benue government on October 10, 2019, brought Mr. Ogbuja, 54, to justice in the Makurdi High Court on four counts. accusation bordering on the rape and death of Ochanya.
Defense hearing begins
PREMIUM TIMES gathered from journalists observing the trial that Mr. Ogbuja, suspended by the polytechnic, opened his defense on Friday, after Benue state prosecutors closed their case in August.
Prosecutors had closed their case after they released a video clip in court showing the final moments of the deceased schoolgirl recounting how Mr Ogbuja and his son allegedly serial raped her until she fell ill and then was admitted to hospital.
State Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Peter Ukande, who obtained court permission to broadcast the video recording, told judge Augustine Ityonyiman that the deceased teenager was questioned at the premises court in August 2018 when Mr. Ogbuja was arrested for the first time at a high court in Makurdi over the rape allegation.
Ochanya is said to have died later in October 2018.
Mr. Ogbuja had denied the charges, and his case has now been adjourned until
November 12 for the continuation of his defense.
The woman closes the defense
Meanwhile, Ms Ochiga-Ogbuja also opened her defense and closed it after calling her older sister, Ann Ochigia, on Friday as her only defense witness before the Federal High Court in Makurdi.
The accused, now 45, who was arrested by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) in 2019, had informed the court of her intention to enter into a plea agreement with the prosecution, before turning around when talks between the parties failed.
Led into evidence by defense attorney David Ojile, Ms. Ochigia confirmed that Ochanya began living with the Ogbujas when she was five years old.
The witness stated that she did not sleep in the same room as the late Ochanya “to find out what was happening to her at night”.
During cross-examination by the prosecutor, Mary Fagwam, the 57-year-old witness, explained how Ochanya began to fall ill.
âOchanya started to feel sick and was taken to a health center in Ugbokolo (Benue State), and her mother (Rose Abah) was in the village.
âI followed her to the hospital the first time, but then I did not follow her. Ochanya was also taken to the Makurdi Federal Medical Center, âMs. Ochiga told the court, adding that she was not aware of the debilitating health problems of the deceased teenager.
She was asked if she knew the whereabouts of Mr. Ogbuja and his son Victor.
In response, the defense witness said Mr. Ogbuja was in prison while his son, Victor, was still at large.
The trial was adjourned until November 12 for the adoption of the final written addresses.
On June 25, 2020, the Federal High Court rejected Ms. Ochiga-Ogbuja’s request for dismissal in the case.
In the trial marked: FHC / MKD / CR / 12/2019, the prosecution alleged that the accused “failed to take action against the sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje (Female) by your husband, Andrew Ogbuja and your son. , Victor Ogbuja âbetween 2014 and 2018.
The offense is contrary to section 13 (4) (b) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
On another count, the prosecution alleged that she “kept, detained or harbored a 13-year-old Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje (Female), knowing that she was likely to be sexually exploited by your husband, Andrew Ogbuja and your son, Victor Ogbuja, thereby committing an offense contrary to Section 15 (b) of the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Enforcement and Administration Act 2015. â
The court had rejected her request for dismissal which she had filed after
NAPTIP called a total of six witnesses.
Prosecution witnesses called by NAPTIP included a medical expert from Benue State University Hospital, Makurdi, and family members of the deceased teenager.
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