• Petition urging Gov Ortom to appeal court verdict garners 1,387 signatories
The ‘Men Against Rape Foundation’ and the family of the late Ochanya Elizabeth Ogbanje have called on Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, to appeal the judgment of Justice Augustine Ityonyima of Benue State High Court, which they considered to be a travesty of justice in a rape case involving Ogbanje.
They also urged the government to grant a fiat to a private legal practitioner, who is experienced in issues concerning Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in particular and human rights in general, to prosecute the appeal.
The teenager was allegedly drugged and raped by her uncle and cousin. When her body could no longer bear the pain of the regular sexual abuse, she died from sexual abuse related complications.
But the judge had exonerated the suspects following non admission of autopsy report issued by the Police forensic laboratory in Lagos State.
Already, the petition to compel the governor to appeal the judgment has garnered 1,387 signatories out of the expected 1,500. The petition by Lemmy Ughegbe, on behalf of the foundation and Ogbanje’s family, stated that at the tender age of five, most girls play with dolls and dream of what they would like to become when they grow up.
But for Ochanya, her dream for the next eight years of her life that would follow, was that the pain of being raped would stop.
“When our beloved daughter clocked five, we prioritised her education ,so much that we were willing to sacrifice the joy of her presence, just so she could have a chance at a brighter future. Based on the fact that the nearest school, which she could attend was dilapidated and abandoned, we opted to send her to live with her aunt and uncle who were much closer to a school, which we considered good enough.
“We gladly paid her school fees as at when due. But little did we know that our precious daughter was being forced to pay for living there with her body and eventually, she ended up paying the ultimate price with her life.
“For eight years, our beloved Ochanya was drugged and raped by her uncle and cousin, Andrew Ogbuja and Victor Ogbuja. When her body could no longer bear the pain of the regular sexual abuse, she died from sexual abuse related complications.
“While we remain thankful for all the individuals and organisations who rose to the occasion and called for justice for our daughter, we have been blatantly robbed of justice, even though her case made it to the court of law.
“The judge assigned to her case in the person of Justice Augustine Ityonyima of the Benue State High Court, abdicated his responsibility, when he failed to evaluate Ochanya’s video evidence, which was already admitted as evidence and marked ‘Exhibit F.’ In legal terms, the said ‘Exhibit F’ is called a ‘dying declaration’. He failed to carry out the aforementioned based on technical grounds.
“Furthermore, Justice Ityonyiwa jettisoned the corroborating evidence contained in the autopsy report issued by the Police forensic laboratory in Lagos State, which declared that Ochanya died of sexual abused related complications.
“ If the judge had placed ‘Exhibit F’ beside the said corroborating autopsy report from the Police forensic laboratory, this would have been enough grounds for the judge to enter a judgment in favour of the deceased and find the accused, Andrew Ogbuja guilty as charged.
“Global best practices and deliberate policies of countries, concerned about arresting the scourge of child sexual abuse and sexual violence, frown against technicalities being used to rob victims and survivors of the justice they deserve.
“The implication of this judgment passed by Justice Ityonyima on the basis of technicalities, is that victims and survivors of sexual violence have been dealt a fatal blow and discouraged from speaking up when they suffer from such sexual abuses.”