Court acquits lecturer over rape and death of 13-year-old Ochanya; convicts his wife for failing to protect the minor from him and their son
A lecturer at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, Andrew Ogbuja, was on Thursday April 28, acquitted of the charges of rape and causing the death of a 13-year-old schoolgirl, Ochanya Ogbanje in 2018.
Recall that there was an outcry in 2018 after it was reported that the lecturer and his son, Victor, who are both maternal relations of the deceased, allegedly raped the minor until she fell ill and died.
Justice Augustine Ityonyiman of the Benue state High Court acquitted Ogbuja on grounds of the prosecution failing to prove its four counts against him.
Ityonyiman who evaluated two autopsy reports from the Federal Medical Centre in Makurdi and the Nigeria Police Forensic Laboratory in Lagos, left him in quandary, said police investigators failed to subject the defendant to medical examination in order to match his specimen with the findings in the medical reports presented before the court.
“I cannot pick and choose which of the autopsy reports to rely on in reaching a just conclusion of this case.”
The judge also noted that while the autopsy report from the medical centre in Makurdi said Ogbanje died of “natural cause,” the one from the police forensic laboratory said the deceased “suffered diseases that were related to sexual abuse.”
Though Ochanya narrated her ordeals at the hands of the Ogbujas in a video presented in court, Ityonyiman said “it is regrettable that the deceased could not tell her story before she died.” He then said “I hereby acquit and discharge the defendant of all the four counts charge.”
In a separate case instituted by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons against the lecturer’s wife before the Federal High Court in Makurdi, Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja was convicted of negligence in the rape of the minor.
NAPTIP had accused her of failing to protect the deceased teenager from allegedly “being raped” by her husband and son, Victor.
Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon who delivered judgement on the case, held that the defendant failed in her duty to protect Miss Ogbanje from “being sexually abused by her son, Victor.
Olajuwon who noted “Ochanya was being abused by the son of the defendant, but the defendant, who owed the deceased girl ‘the duty of care to ensure that she was protected from such an act,’ failed in doing so even when Mrs Ogbuja’s daughter, Winifred, drew (her attention ) to the sexual assault", also ruled that Mrs Ogbuja “made it impossible for the NAPTIP investigating officer to see and interrogate” her daughter, Winifred, in the course of the investigation of the matter."
The federal high court judge also noted that Felicia failed to challenge the prosecution’s evidence that she “threatened to send Ochanya out of her house if she told anyone about the sexual abuse. This evidence has neither been challenged nor controverted.”
“When Ochanya was examined, it was discovered that the membrane covering the vagina opening was not there, which is an indication that Ochanya had been deflowered.
“During examination, it was discovered that Ochanya had urinated on her bed as she could not hold her bladder.
“The medical report further stated that a working diagnoses of the fecal and urinanary incontinence in a sexually abused child was made”
The Judge further stated that asides the physical injuries inflicted on the deceased, “the (sexual) abuse itself would have scarred her for life, and I so hold.”
She concluded by saying;
“I hold that the defendant is guilty as charged in respect of count one and that the defendant is guilty as charged contrary to Section 314 of the Criminal Code and she is hereby convicted”