By Amos Aar, in Makurdi
THE Benue State Government on Wednesday concluded its case against Mr Andrew Ogbuja who is standing trial at the Makurdi Judicial Division of the Benue State High Court for allegedly raping to death a 13-year-old school girl, Ochanya Ogbanje.
54-year-old Ogbuja, a senior lecturer at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, who has been in remand at the Makurdi Minimum Correctional Centre since October 2019 is facing a four-count charge bordering on rape and murder of Ochanya Ogbanje, who was until her death a JSS 1 student at the Federal Government College, Gboko, Benue State.
At the court on Wednesday, family members of the late Ochanya could not hold back their tears as the video of an interview the deceased teenager had with the African Independent Television (AIT) and tendered by the prosecution was played. The video was subsequently admitted by the court as evidence against Mr Ogbuja.
Mr Ogbuja was arraigned on October 10, 2019, by the Benue State Government.
At Wednesday’s sitting, the Benue State Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mr Peter Ukande (Esq), sought the consent of the court to play the video of Miss Ogbanje’s interview with AIT before her demise at the premises of a Makurdi Upper Area Court in August 2018, when the police first arraigned Mr Ogbuja and sought for his remand.
In the video, Ochanya said Mr Ogbuja and his son, Victor, who is now at large, serially raped her until she fell ill and was admitted at the Federal Medical Centre in Makurdi for two months.
“My Aunty’s [Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja] son started sleeping with me, and after that his father, [Andrew Ogbuja] started sleeping with me too. I was sick and admitted at the Federal Medical Centre in Makurdi for two months,” Ochanya stated in the video.
The journalist/cameraman who recrded the video, Mr Michael Bulus, who was subpoenaed by the prosecution, also testified to confirm the authenticity of the video. He admitted that the video was recorded when the AIT covered the arraignment of Mr Ogbuja at an Upper Area Court sometime in August of 2018.
Ogbuja’s son, Victor, who is the second suspect in the case, is yet to be arrested or even declared wanted, the prosecution told National Record on Wednesday.
When the video was first tendered by the prosecution, Ogbuja’s lawyer, Mr Abel Onoja (Esq), objected to its admissibility arguing that he was not properly served with a copy of the video recording. While he did not advance reasons on points of law for his objection, he queried the mode of service of the evidence.
Upon the appeal by the trial judge, His Lordship, the Honourable Justice Ityonyiman, to both lawyers to do away with legal technicalities and allow the suit that has lingered for nearly three years to proceed; the defendant’s counsel withdrew his objection, paving the way for the judge to admit the piece of evidence.
Subsequently, the prosecuting lawyer, Mr Ukande closed the state government’s case against Ogbuja giving the way for Ogbuja’s counsel, Mr Onoja, to commence his defence.
In his reaction, Mr Onoja however asked for adjournment to enable his client to prepare properly for his defence. Thereafter, Justice Ityonyiman adjourned the case till October 8, 2021, for commencement of defence.
The Director of Public Prosecution said he called a total of eight witnesses made up of medical experts, Ochanya’s family members and police officers who investigated the case.
“We called a total of eight witnesses comprising medical experts, police officers, family members and we tendered medical reports and statements of witnesses before closing our case today,” the DPP told journalists shortly after Wednesday’s proceedings in Makurdi.
Feature picture is that of the late Ochanya.