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Ochanya: A mother’s two-year wait for justice

Mrs. Rose Abah is the mother of late 13-year-old Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje, who allegedly suffered sexual molestation in the hands of a senior lecturer at…

Mrs. Rose Abah is the mother of late 13-year-old Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje, who allegedly suffered sexual molestation in the hands of a senior lecturer at the Benue State Polytechnic in Ugbokolo, Andrew Ogbuja, and his son, Victor.

Within a period of five years which the deceased lived with them, they allegedly repeatedly raped her, and as a result, she developed complications that led to her death on October 17, 2018.

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Ogbuja is currently at the Makurdi Medium Custodial Centre, while his son, Victor, is at large.

But as time is passing, many Nigerians – especially on social media – have begun to ask why it’s taking so long.

When the story broke two years ago, it sparked outrage across the nation.

Sequel to a formal report by FIDA Benue, Ogbuja was fingered by the deceased teenager before her death, and he was arrested and arraigned before the Upper Area Court 1 in Makurdi, while his son and co-accused in the matter, escaped and is still at large.

Daily Trust Saturday spoke to Rose Abah, Ochanya’s heartbroken mother, who said her life would never be the same again after the death of her daughter, and the horrific manner in which it happened.

“My entire world came crumbling down, as I watched Ochanya draw her last breath at the hospital.

“Those last moments of her life will remain fresh in my memory till I meet her again,” she said.

She also said each time she visits her local church in Ogene-Amejo, and sees Ochanya’s grave, it triggers grief afresh.

Even after almost two years since Ochanya passed away, her mother Rose still reflects on what and who her beloved daughter could have become.

“She had such great dreams, and she had such academic brilliance.

“She had dreams of becoming a medical doctor, so she could take care of my medical needs in old age,” she said, adding gravely, “But when I think of the pain she went through for several years at the hands of the Ogbujas, the thought of ending it all comes to my mind.”

With the casein court for nearly two years now, two lawsuits – which the Federal and Benue State governments have instituted over Ochanya’s death – Rose has been attending all the court proceedings in both.

Even though she travels a long distance to Makurdi to witness the court sittings, she feels nothing is too big a sacrifice in the family’s quest for justice for Ochanya.

“This is a lifelong battle.

“When I meet Ochanya in Heaven, I will tell her that we did our best to bring Andrew Ogbuja and his fugitive son Victor to justice,” she said, with a fire in her eyes.

Though Rose says she worries over the prolonged trials, she tells Daily Trust Saturday that her son, a journalist familiar with the way the courts work in Nigeria, often advises her to be patient.

But Rose is also quick to point out that despite the lag, there has been appreciable progress.

“The government lawyer has been quite courageous and diligent in his conduct of the trial, in spite of difficulties I can’t disclose right now,” she said.

Rose says she has no doubt that Ochanya will get justice, because the court will evaluate the evidence before it and come to a just determination.

“My initial fear was when Ogbuja and his wife were bragging around the community that nothing was going to happen to them as they have political connections, as well as the financial wherewithal to frustrate any attempt to arrest or prosecute them,” she said.

Rose also spoke about Benue State governor, Ortom, and his kindness to her.

“History will be kind to him; he personally came with his entourage to sympathise with me in the village, and made many commitments towards getting justice served.”

A family source told Daily Trust Saturday that some of the most shocking parts of the whole thing, is a lack of remorse from the Ogbuja family.

Rose also wants the harshest sentence as contained in the law to be handed down to the Ogbujas.

“I continue to wonder why the police has not deemed it necessary to declare Victor Ogbuja wanted concerning Ochanya’s death.

“I would like to use this opportunity to implore the Inspector General of Police to direct the Benue State Police Command to intensify efforts in apprehending him, and bringing him to justice.”

The Benue State government had promised to immortalize Ochanya by changing the face of the community and primary schools.

Rose offered an update: “The process of rebuilding the school is on. Just last week, a team of government officials was at the school to inspect the progress of work.

“When the team stormed the community, I had thought it was the governor that came, owing to the retinue of security personnel that came with the visiting team.

“It is my firm belief that the governor will fulfil all that he has promised to do, by God’s grace.”

Something else which gives Rose hope, she says, is the courage and resilience of a number of individuals and organisations in fighting for justice for Ochanya: “These individuals and human rights organisations took on the Ogbujas, even at great personal risk.

“They are too numerous to mention.

“Just look at the personal sacrifices by these individuals and groups who pooled their resources together to organise marches and protests all over major cities across Nigeria, to draw the attention of police and other state institutions to the atrocities that were perpetrated against Ochanya; and thereby, forcing them to act.”

Rose also added, tearfully, that for persons who have no biological ties to her late daughter, to take up such a massive legal battle, can only be situated in an unwavering love for justice and humanity.

“For this, I’m eternally grateful,” she said.

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