Ogbanje’s death: Family, others urge Benue Govt to appeal suspect’s acquittal

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The family of 13-year-old Ochanya Ogbanje, on Thursday, urged Benue Government to appeal the decision of the state’s High Court exonerating Andrew Ogbuja in the alleged rape and death of the teenager in 2018

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Members of a civil society organisation (CSO) also called on Governor Samuel Ortom to ensure that the family of the late girl gets justice.

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Ogbanje’s elder brother, John Ameh, at a press briefing in Abuja, appealed to Benue Governor to issue a fiat to team of private legal practitioners to file an appeal with a view to upturning the Makurdi High Court decision.

It would be recalled that Justice Augustine Ityonyiman of the Makurdi High Court, had, on April 28, discharged and acquitted Mr Ogbuja, a lecturer at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, of rape that led to Ogbanje’s death.

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But another judge of the Federal High Court in Makurdi, Justice Mobolaji Olajunwo, on same day, convicted Ogbuja’s wife, Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja, of negligence in the sexual assault of Ochanya, who died of complications linked to rape.

Until her death, Ochanya was a JSS1 pupil of the Federal Government Girls College, Gboko in Benue.

Ameh described Justice Ityonyiman’s ruling as “a dark day for anti-sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) campaigners across Nigeria.”

He commended Governor Ortom for resisting political pressure during Mr. Ogbuja’s trial.

According to him, the Makurdi High Court judgement must never stand.

“Governor Ortom must see to the end of this legal battle.

“We urge him to give fiat (permission) to a private legal practitioner of note, to take up the process of filing an appeal to challenge Mr. Ogbuja’s acquittal.

“We appeal to the governor not to allow the 90-day window of appeal to lapse, as history has its eyes on him,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, the chairperson of the Federal Government Girls’ College (FGGC) Gboko Alumni Association in Abuja, Ngozi Azodoh, enjoined the state government to appeal the Makurdi High Court judgement that acquitted Mr. Ogbuja.

Azodoh, a medical doctor, lauded Gov. Ortom for his efforts in getting justice served over Ochanya’s death, urging him to do same in pushing for an appeal against Justice Ityonyiman’s verdict.

Lemmy Ughegbe, founder, Men Against Rape, faulted the court judgement, condemning Justice Ityonyiman’s refusal to consider a video recording of the deceased teenager which was admitted in evidence before the court as well as the findings of the autopsy report from the Nigerian Police forensic laboratory in Lagos.

The human rights activists advised the governor to take up the task of issuing permission to private lawyer to challenge the court decision on Mr. Ogbuja’s acquittal. 

The late Miss Ogbanje, who died at age 13 in October 2018, was alleged to have suffered years of sexual abuse and molestation while living as a ward under the care of Ogbuja and his wife, who is a cousin to Ochanya’s mother, Rose Abah.

Ochnaya was diagnosed with Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) infection among other diseases, resulting from the years of sexual abuse and torture while she lived with the Ogbujas.

Before her death, she spoke about the years of torture and sexual abuses in court, where she pointed accusing fingers at Mr. Ogbuja and his fugitive son, Victor.

Although Mr. Ogbuja was freed, on April 28, his wife Felicia, in a  separate trial, was convicted and sentenced to a five-month imprisonment “for failing in her duty of care to protect” the deceased teenager.

Meanwhile, their son, Victor, has remained in hiding nearly four years after the news of Miss Ogbanje’s rape broke out./SHARE THIS Tags: Ochanya Ogbanje, Andrew Ogbuja, John Ameh, Gov Samuel Ortom

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