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Ochanya: Appeal court upholds lecturer’s wife’s conviction

A Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi, on Friday, upheld the conviction of Mrs Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja for failing in her duties to protect the late Elizabeth…

A Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi, on Friday, upheld the conviction of Mrs Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja for failing in her duties to protect the late Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje from being raped by her husband and son, Victor.

The late Ochanya, a 13-year-old schoolgirl died in October 2018 from complications of Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) following prolonged sexual abuse by her guardian, Andrew Ogbuja, a lecturer with the Benue State Polytechnic and his son, Victor.

While Victor is still at large, Andrew Ogbuja was on April 28, this year, acquitted by a Benue State High Court in Makurdi of the accusations levelled against him as causing the death of the teenage girl.

But, the Federal High Court in Makurdi, in a separate case on the same day, convicted Ogbuja’s wife (Felicia) of negligence, for failing to protect the deceased from her husband and son. 

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) had in April 2019 charged Felicia, an aunt of the deceased, with negligence.

However, Felicia filed an appeal which sought to upturn the verdict against her as she challenged the lower court’s jurisdiction to entertain the suit amongst other things.

Delivering judgement on the appeal via Zoom, on Friday, the Court of Appeal in Makurdi, agreed with the Federal High Court in Makurdi that Felicia failed in her duty to protect Ochanya from the sexual exploitation of her husband and son. 

A three-member panel of the appellate court led by Hassan Muslim dismissed Mrs Ogbuja’s argument that the charge was unknown to the law upon which she was convicted and sentenced.

The court held that “The offence is the defendant’s omission to take action against the sexual exploitation of Ochanya by her husband and her son.”

The judge further held that Felicia “does not deserve any sympathetic consideration of this court.”