By Abo Agbochenu
The Federal High Court in Makurdi, 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.
Little Ochanya died on October 17, 2018 due to complications arising from the alleged sexual molestation she suffered at the hands of Mr. Ogbuja and son.
Mr Ogbuja is a senior lecturer at the Department of Catering and Hotel Management, Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo while his son, Victor, who is now at large, was a final year student at the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi.
Mrs Ogbuja, 43, was arraigned by the Federal Government through its agency, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) on a two-count charge.
In the suit marked: FHC/MKD/CR/12/209, Mrs. Ogbuja who is also a staff at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, is standing trial on the following counts:
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.”
Mrs Ogbuja pleaded not guilty to the charges after they were read to her.
While ruling on Mrs. Ogbuja’s no-case-submission on Thursday, the trial judge, Justice M. O. Olajunwo held 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.
Subsequently, the court adjourned the suit till July 27, 2020, for Mrs. Ogbuja to open her defence.
It would be recalled that the prosecution counsel, Mr. Ja’afaru Ayitogo called six witnesses, amongst which was Dr. Babarinde Ojo, a consultant pathologist in the Department of Histopathology, Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi.
While Mr Ogbuja has been remanded at the Makurdi prison (where Mrs Ogbuja was also remanded), Victor is reportedly still at large although he has not been officially declared wanted by the police or any security agency or the court.
It would be recalled that the news of Ochanya’s death in October 2018 following complications arising from the alleged serial sexual assault 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.