THE Federal High Court in Makurdi, on Thursday, sentenced Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja, to five months in jail for negligence that led to the rape and death of Ochanya Ogbanje in 2018.
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) had charged her with negligence leading to the rape and death of the 13-year old Ochanya.
Mobolaji Olajunwo, the presiding judge convicted and sentenced her to five months in prison, after her lawyer pleaded “allocutus”, a form of legal leniency for people who have no prior criminal record.
During the course of the trial, Felicia told the court of her intention to reach a plea-bargain agreement with the prosecution, before making a U-turn when talks between both parties collapsed.
The anti-trafficking agency accused Felicia of failing in her duty to protect the deceased teenager who was her niece from “being raped” by her husband, Andrew Ogbuja, and son, Victor.
Ogbuja and his fugitive son, Victor, both maternal relations of the deceased, were accused of serially raping her until she fell ill and subsequently died.
In a twist of events, the Makurdi Federal High Court’s decision coincided with the final judgement of the Benue State High Court, where Ogbuja was acquitted and discharged after the court held that there was no evidence linking him to the charge that he raped the late Ochanya.
Ogbuja’s lawyer, Abel Onoja in his client’s defence, said Ogbuja denied the charges filed against him without substantial evidence linking him to the crime.
The presiding judge, Augustine Ityonyiman acquitted Ogbuja of the four-count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy and rape levelled against him.
Ogbuja, a lecturer at the state polytechnic, until his acquittal was remanded in custody while his son, Victor was on the run.
The manhunt launched for Victor by the police had yet to yield any result at the time of the prosecution.
Speaking to journalists, women and children’s rights campaigner, Lemmy Ughegbe described the court’s decision as a “triumph of technical justice”.
“Today’s judgement is the triumph of technical justice over substantial justice,” he said.
Ochanya’s mother, Rose Abah, had taken her to live with the Ogbujas so she can get a good education.
The Ogbujas’ residence, where they lived with the deceased, is located on a street where Ochanya attended Emmanuel Primary and Secondary School, Ugbokolo, Benue State, for her primary education.
Ochanya was admitted to the Federal Medical Centre in Makurdi for two months before she died on October 17, 2018.
Ogbuja was arraigned on four counts of sexual abuse of the late Ochanya during a period of over five years.
While Ogbuja was arrested and remanded in prison until his acquittal, Victor disappeared and was at large after police started looking for him over the case.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.