The Federal High Court in Makurdi, on Tuesday, remanded, Mrs Felicia Ochiga at the Federal Prisons, Makurdi, for negligence over the alleged 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 in October last year due to complications arising from the alleged sexual molestation she suffered at the hands of Mr Ogbuja and son. Mr Ogbuja, a senior lecturer at the Department of Catering and Hotel Management, Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo while his son, Victor, who is now at large, is a final year student at the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi.
43 years old Ogbuja was arraigned by the Federal Government through her 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. Consequently, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Swanta Bossan, urged the court to remand her in prison pending the commencement of her trial. However, defence counsel, Mr David Ojile, prayed the court to admit his client to bail, arguing that the offences for which she is being tried are bailable. He drew the court’s attention to his client’s bail application dated and filed on April 5, 2019.
After listening to the submissions of counsel in the suit, the trial judge, Justice M. O. Olajuwon, remanded Mrs Ogbuja in prison custody pending when she meets her N6 million bail bond.
“The defendant is admitted to bail in the sum of N2 million with sureties in like sum. The sureties must be civil servants not less than grade-level 12. They must own properties within the jurisdiction of this court. The sureties must submit letters of introduction from their Head of Department to the Court Registrar. They must submit the Certificates of Occupancy of their properties, which must be verified by the Court Registrar. The defendant will be remanded in the Federal Prison, Makurdi, pending when she fulfils her bail conditions,” Justice Olajuwon held and subsequently adjourned the case till May 10, 2019, for trial.
It would be recalled that the news of Ochanya’s death in October last year 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, Andrew.
While Mr Ogbuja has been remanded at the Makurdi prison (where Mrs Ogbuja has also been 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.