A 51-year-old senior lecturer in the Department of Catering and Hotel Management at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, Mr. Andrew Ogbuja, was yesterday arraigned before a Makurdi Chief Magistrate’s Court for criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide.
Consequently, the court remanded Ogbuja in prison custody for alleged rape and persistent molestation of his 13-year-old housemaid, Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbaje. When the case came up, the First Information Report (FIR), read to the accused, showed that on October 22, 2018, the case was reported by Evangelist Enuwa Soo (F) of No. 2/4 Potter Avenue, Otada, Otukpo Local Government through a petition to the state Commissioner of Police.
The FIR reads in part: “On 23-06-2018, the family of Miss Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbaje (f) of Agene Amen, Okpokwu Local Government aged 13, noticed that Andrew Ogbuja (m) a lecturer with Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo and his son, Victor Ogbuja, had been criminally having unlawful canal knowledge of her since she was living with them in their house which resulted to her being diagnosed with VVF and other related diseases.
“Ochanya was admitted in the hospital for treatment where she later died on 17-10- 2018 at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Makurdi.” The court further heard that during police investigation, Andrew Ogbuja was arrested for the offence.
The offence is punishable under Sections 97 and 222 of the Penal Code, Laws of Benue State, 2004. Counsel to the accused, Anthony Onoja, however, observed that the media had been awash with reports of his client who had not been proven guilty and if care was not taken, such reports would not allow the matter to go on smoothly.
He appealed to the trial judge to protect them (lawyers) from the hands of journalists and caution the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA). Onoja added that he had no objection to the remand of his client.
However, the magistrate, Issac Ajim, overruled Onoja, saying no plea was taken for want of jurisdiction and the accused was remanded at the Federal Prison in Makurdi, and adjourned the case till November 29 for further mention.
Meanwhile, the Benue State government and the National Council for Women Society (NCWS), Benue State chapter, have urged the police and judiciary to ensure that justice is done over the death of Ogbaje. The girl died allegedly after being violated sexually.
The acting Governor, Mr. Benson Abounu, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Ogaba Ede, described the act as inhuman, shameful and deserving of nothing less than appropriate punishment for the perpetrators.
He said the Benue State government would give the police necessary support towards the prosecution of the case to its conclusion, to serve as deterrent to others with similar evil tendencies. The acting governor said mere thought of sexually molesting a minor was in itself condemnable.
According to him, those who take advantage of vulnerable persons in the society commit unpardonable sins against God and humanity.