It was indeed a sad day, when the social media broke the news of the death of 13- year-old Ochanya Elizabeth Ogbanje, who was said to have battled Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) and other health complications at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi and finally died at the Ultimate Care Hospital, a private hospital in Otukpo, Benue State.
Her death followed allegations of severe incidences of rape by her aunt’s husband and his son, identified as Andrew Ogbuja and Victor Inalegwu Ogbuja, respectively. Her aunt was her guardian.
The International Federation of Women Lawyers, (FIDA) Nigeria, in a statement demanding justice for the late Ochanya, signed by the national secretary, Rhoda Prevail Tyoden, identified the late, Ochanya Elizabeth Ogbanje as their client.
The statement revealed that “Miss Ochanya’s case was first reported to FIDA Nigeria Benue State Branch in June 2018. She had suffered silently for six years and at the time of reporting, she was already suffering from vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) and other related health complications. It was actually in course of investigating her health complications that the sexual abuse and defilement was discovered, as the root cause of the problems.
The statement had stated that the late Ochanya, while making her report, recalled that at age nine, she had moved in with her aunt, Mrs Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja, after her parents separated, in a bid to attend school.
“Shortly after she started living there, the perverted father-son duo began sexually abusing her. She noted that it was her cousin, Victor, a final year student of Animal Production at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, who first defiled her, but that her uncle also started abusing her after she had reported his son to him.
On the 8th of August, FIDA, Benue took the victim, her mother, Rose Abah and her care giver, Evangelist Margaret Soo, to the Police, and made a complaint of rape against the two suspects. The first suspect, Andrew Ogbuja, was arrested, while his son remains at large till date. He was arraigned before Upper Area Court 1 in Makurdi on 13 August, 2018 and granted bail on 23 August, 2018. On the next adjourned date, 24 September, 2018, the court did not sit so the case was further adjourned to 5 November, 2018.
The statement added that following her report, FIDA Benue was also able to secure free medical treatment for Miss Ochanya through a programme of the First Lady of Benue State, Her Excellency, Eunice Ortom, ‘Free Treatment for VVF cases in Benue State’, after which she was transferred to University of Jos Teaching Hospital for further treatment. Her care giver, Evangelist Margaret Soo, informed the Branch that she was steadily responding to the drugs. Sadly, shortly after Miss Ochanya returned to Benue, her health deteriorated and on 17 October, 2018, she passed away at the Ultimate Care Hospital in Otukpo.
The statement revealed that Miss Ochanya’s case is worthy of national uproar as her case further proves that the rate of defilement of children in Nigeria is almost at epidemic proportions.
FIDA Nigeria in their demands requested that the following recommendations must be implemented. “Firstly, that perpetrators must be held accountable and punishments meted out must be firm and effective enough to serve as a deterrent to others in society. FIDA Nigeria also calls on the government of Benue State to adopt, effectively implement and sensitise the public on the relevant provisions of these laws”
“Our society must also play its role in ensuring that the child defilement epidemic does not continue to persist in Nigeria. There must be greater concern and condemnation for such heinous acts. We can no longer encourage the culture of silence to foster, and we must be more accommodating of victims.
FIDA Nigeria is devastated that Miss Ogbanje did not live long enough to see justice served, but her death has served as the fuel needed to ensure that our efforts will not relent until the perverts are held accountable. The statement added that FIDA Benue had written a petition to the Commissioner of Police for the re-arrest and arrest of both suspects for the offences of Criminal Conspiracy and Culpable Homicide, assuring that.
FIDA Nigeria remains committed to securing justice for women and children whose rights are violated in Nigeria, through the provision of free legal representation and advocacy for gender-friendly reforms of the law.
Another group, the Federal Government Girls’ College Gboko, Old Girls’ Association, in a statement signed by the national president and national secretary respectively, stated that the Late Ochanya, until her demise, was a student of the school.
The statement which called for justice for the late Ochanya was addressed to -the president, vice-president, senate president, speaker of the house of representatives, the governor of Benue State, the minister, the federal ministry of education, the minister, federal ministry of women affairs, the inspector-general of the Nigeria police, the controller-general of the Nigeria security and civil defence corps, the woman leader of the All Progressives Congress, NIGERIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, NAPTIP among several others, the Association had
The statement read, “We bring to your attention the incident of the death of 13-year-old Ochanya Ochiga; a student of Federal Government Girls’ College, Gboko in Benue State. She died less than 48 hours ago, at Benue State University Teaching Hospital in Makurdi.
The statement revealed that the autopsy report revealed that the young lady died from severe health complications, including the dreaded Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF); which arose from a six-year series of vaginal and sodomic abuse from members of her extended family.
“In other words, from age eight till her final collapse at age 13, Ochanya had been serially abused in both nether regions by her aunt’s husband and son; namely Messrs Andrew Ogbuja and Victor Inalegwu Ogbuja, respectively. Mr Andrew Ogbuja is a member of staff at Benue State Polytechnic Ugbokolo, whilst his son, Victor Inalegwu Ogbuja, is a final year student at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi.”
“As a body, we demand that the perpetrators, indeed murderers, be called to justice and severely punished. Messrs Andrew Ogbuja and Victor Inalegwu Ogbuja should be arrested for homicide and charged with first degree murder. They should be made to feel the full wrath of Lady Justice. They should bear the brunt of the Law in quantum measures. It was not enough for them to hurt young Ochanya from age eight; they had to repeat the barbaric sessions within a six-year period. We can only describe such tendencies as animalistic, with special apologies to animals. As such, they deserve jungle justice. No mercy.
“We have not forgotten the supposed aunt and actual guardian of Ochanya, Mrs Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja. We are ashamed that a woman was within the perimeter of this series and yet remained silent or unmoved. We also demand that Lady Justice lets her wrath loose in that quarter.”
The Old Girls’ Association was also heavily involved in the protest march held by various bodies, in honour of the deceased in Abuja, yesterday.
Similarly, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) FCT Chapter, in a statement signed by the chairperson, Okoh-Esene Stella, expressed disgust at the injustice on late Ochanya, stating that the perpetrators be brought to book.
The statement read, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) FCT Chapter, expressed disgust on Ochanya’s case and called for immediate action to be taken against the perpetrators.
“Ochanya’s killers must be brought to book,” it stated.
Meanwhile, adding her voice, Global Rights, Executive Director, Abiodun Baiyewu-Teru, has lamented that Ochanya’s unfortunate circumstance is a cardinal pointer to government’s failure to safeguard Nigeria’s children and systemically end the impunity associated with sexual violence and child abuse in Nigeria.
“When children are born in Nigeria, apart from issuing them birth certificates, (and sometimes when they die – death certificates); no one provides state oversight of them, or prescribes a minimum standard of care that caregivers must provide. Whether they go to school, are denied essential medicine, subjected to slavery, trafficked, or sexually violated, the state does not concern itself with these important obligations that Nigeria subscribed to by ratifying the Child’s Rights Act.
She said, “A country will only be taken as seriously as it takes its future”
In the context of our human resource – our children, we are not doing well at all. In spite of the fact that there have been an upsurge in the number of children that suffer sexual violence in Nigeria, government (apart from Lagos state) has failed to provide safety buffers for these children.
“Where do children turn to when they are being violated by their caregivers? What are the true functions of our social welfare departments? Why do we have ministries of youth affairs? How is our Ministry of Education empowered to spot and assist abused children? How do we hold passive bystanders accountable? How do we assist neighbours and other persons who suspect the abuse of children to report and get these children help?” She queried
Ochanya’s case has brought public outrage because she died and the truth became public. We have a short memory span as a country. The big question then is how do we safeguard our future? Our children are too important to waste, and the government must be accountable for them.
However, the accused are yet to respond to the allegations of depravity laid on them, this is one case too many that, all well-meaning Nigerians, men and women are not willing to lay to rest, as more organisations join the cry for Justice for Ochanya.
Meanwhile, the Leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics has come out to say that the Union was handicapped in that the case was not between a staff and student, stating the Union can only observe as events unfolded in court.
The Union, in a statement jointly signed by the chairman and national publicity secretary, Comrade Oshogwu and Emma Adah, stated that since the matter was before a competent court of law, making further comments on the issue would amount to subjudice. It further called on concerned persons to allow the law take its full course in this regard.
It was learned that , Andrew Ogboju was friday,arraigned yesterday on charges of culpable homicide and rape.