Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The Federal High Court in Makurdi, Benue State on Thursday, dismissed the no-case-submission of Mrs. Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja over the rape and death of 13 year old Ochanya Ogbanje by the defendant’s husband and son, Mr Andrew Ogbuja and Victor Ogbuja, respectively.
Recall that Ochanya died on October 17, 2018 as a result of complications arising from the alleged sexual molestation she suffered at the hands of Mr. Ogbuja and son who allegedly persistently raped her while she was living with the family.
Mr Ogbuja is a senior lecturer in the Department of Catering and Hotel Management, Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo while his son, Victor (now at large), was a final year student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi.
Mrs Ogbuja, 43 and a staff at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, was arraigned by the Federal Government through its agency, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) on a two-count charge.
The counts were read to her thus;
Count 1: “That you, Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja (Female) 43 years of Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, Benue State, sometime between 2014 and 2018, in Ugbokolo, Benue State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did omit to take action against the sexual exploitation of one Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje (Female) 13 years by your husband, Andrew Ogbuja and your son, Victor Ogbuja, thereby committing an offence contrary to section 13 (4) (b) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
Count 2: “That you, Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja (Female) 43 years of Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, Benue State, sometime between 2014 and 2018, in Ugbokolo, Benue State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did keep, detain or harbour one Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje (Female) 13 years, knowing that she is likely to be sexually exploited by your husband, Andrew Ogbuja and your son, Victor Ogbuja, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 15 (b) of the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.”
After hearkng the charged against her, Mrs Ogbuja pleaded not guilty and the trial Judge, Justice M O Olajuwon stated that the prosecution had led substantial evidence to warrant the defendant to enter her defence.
“The prosecution in this matter has put substantial evidence before the court to warrant the defendant to enter her defence. Consequently, the defendant’s no-case-submission is hereby dismissed,” the court declared.
The case was therefore adjourned till July 27, 2020, for Mrs. Ogbuja to open her defence.
In 2018, the news of Ochanya’s death arising from complications resulting from the alleged serial sexual assault by father and son provoked national outrage and demonstrations across the country with calls from human rights activists for the arrest and prosecution of Mr Ogbuja and his son, Victor.
While Mr Ogbuja has been remanded at the Makurdi prison (where Mrs Ogbuja was also remanded), Victor is reportedly still at large since then.