A state High Court sitting in Makurdi, Benue State, discharged and acquitted a lecturer at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, Andrew Ogbuja, of the charges of rape and causing the death of a 13-year-old schoolgirl, Ochanya Ogbanje, in 2018.
But in a separate case at the Federal High Court in Makurdi, the court convicted the lecturer’s wife, Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja, for negligence in the rape of the deceased teenager.
The lecturer and his son, Victor, who are both maternal relations of the deceased, were accused of raping her until she fell ill and died.
Following the uproar that trailed the death of the victim, the Benue State Government on October 10, 2019, instituted a case at the state High Court against the lecturer, while a manhunt for the son, Victor, had yet to yield any result.
Delivering judgement at the state High Court, Justice Augustine Ityonyiman held that the prosecution failed to prove its four counts against Andrew.
Justice Ityonyiman, while acquitting Andrew, held that 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.
In evaluating the evidence, the judge held that two autopsy reports from the Federal Medical Centre in Makurdi and the Nigeria Police Forensic Laboratory in Lagos, left him in quandary.
“I cannot pick and choose which of the autopsy reports to rely on in reaching a just conclusion of this case,” Ityonyiman said.
He said 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.”
Despite narrating her ordeals at the hands of the Ogbujas in a video — tendered before the court, Ityonyiman said, “it is regrettable that the deceased could not tell her story before she died.”
“I hereby acquit and discharge the defendant of all the four counts charge,” the judge held.
However, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons had instituted a case against the lecturer’s wife, Felicia with negligence leading to the rape and death of Ochanya.
The anti-trafficking agency accused her of failing to protect the deceased teenager from “being raped” by her husband and son, Victor.
Also delivering the judgement , Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon of the Federal High Court, Makurdi, held that the defendant failed in her duty to protect Miss Ogbanje from “being sexually abused by her son, Victor.”
Justice Olajunwo held that “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.”
The judge noted 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 judge further held 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 court said.
Detailing Miss Ogbanje’s ordeal in the hands of the Ogbujas, the judge held that asides the physical injuries inflicted on the deceased, “the (sexual) abuse itself would have scarred her for life, and I so hold.”
“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,” Mrs Olajunwo declared.