» moreMichael Ogbanje, Ochanya’s father speaks on his late daughter (Pulse)
“Ochanya was a very brave child who wanted good education,” Ochanya’s father, Michael Ogbanje, tells Pulse while sitting behind the grave of the 13-year-old in Ogene-Amejo village in Okpokwu local government area of Benue state.
However, there was a problem.
The only primary school in the rural community, a stone-throw from Ochanya’s family house, was closed since 2011 due to non-payment of teachers’ salaries, multiple sources say.
Rusty roofing sheets, cracked and broken down walls are all that remains of the Local Government Education Authority (L.G.E.A) Primary School, Ogene-Amejo, which was established in 1976.
“When the primary school in this community stopped functioning, her mother took her to the sister’s place in Ugbokolo where she can go to school,” says Ochanya’s father, a retired military personnel and farmer.
Villagers say it’s common practice for children to relocate and attend schools in other communities or risk walking as much as 32 kilometres to and from school every day.
Ochanya goes to school
Ochanya’s only option to getting an education meant leaving the family house where she enjoyed the love and close supervision of her parents for an aunt’s place in Ugbokolo, Benue State.
Ochanya Elizabeth Ogbanje would walk into a home of alleged sexual predators. According to Ochanya, Victor Ogbuja, the son of Andrew Ogbuja, started to sleep with her.
According to a Vanguard article published on August 15, 2018, Ochanya spoke about her ordeal: “It all started in 2013 when I came to live with my mother’s sister in Ugbokolo because there was no school in my village.
“When I was eight years old, the son started sleeping with me and when his sister caught him, she reported him to their father and the father scolded him. From there, the father also started sleeping with me.”
According to her mother, Rose Abah-Ogbanje, Ochanya was constantly in and out of different hospitals during the over five-year period that she was away from their care.
“I took Ochanya to the man’s (Andrew Ogbuja) house so that she can go to school because there is no functional school in this village,” says Ochanya’s mother while recounting her last moments with the girl.
“In 2012, Ochanya became sick. We took her to a hospital in [Saint Mary Hospital]Okpoga where we spent about six days during which she got medical attention. She became well and we came back home. Later, the same sickness came back.
» moreRose Abah-Ogbanje just wants justice for her late daughter (Pulse)
“It started again and we went to Federal Medical Center Makurdi. This time, Ochanya could no longer walk and she had lost weight. We spent about two to five days at the hospital and we were discharged.
“When we came back home, Ochanya began to pass waste out of her body without control. We complained at the hospital but they could not stop it,” she recalls.
Ochanya’s health condition was still unclear to her as the aunt allegedly hid results of eleven tests carried out on the girl from her parents.
‘Four months in diapers’
Worried by the uncontrollable passage of bodily waste, Ochanya’s parents queried her to ascertain what went wrong.
“When Ochanya returned home, she was still urinating on her body and we continued using diapers on her. So, I told the mum to check and ask Ochanya when bathing her. It was at this point that Ochanya’s mother discovered that she had been sexually abused,” Mr Ogbanje says.
“Ochanya’s caregiver in Otukpo took her to the Benue State Teaching Hospital where they ran seventeen tests at N23,000. The tests further revealed that Ochanya was sexually molested through her vagina and anus,” he adds.
Due to the absence of basic social amenities such as a hospital, good road and power, in Ochanya’s village, she was relocated from the Ogbuja house to Restorer of PathCare Foundation.
» moreEvangelist Enewa Margaret Soo recalls Ochanya’s last days (Pulse)
Caregiver and founder of the home, Evangelist Enuwa Margaret Soo who took over Ochanya’s health issues, corroborated the results of these tests during our visit to the facility in Otada-Ehicho, Otukpo.
“Sometime in June 2018, I got a call from Ochanya’s elder sister who narrated her predicament to me,” Mrs Soo began.
“A few days later, Ochanya’s parents brought her to my office. At this time, one could see that she was physically sick. But we had to run some tests to confirm their stories.
“I took her to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi, where it was confirmed that she had been sexually abused carnally and annally. We began to make efforts on how she can be treated,”she adds.
“At the time they brought the girl, she was very sick and when we began to make our findings, we discovered that she was actually raped and the doctors confirmed that she was allegedly sexually abused through the vagina and the anus” she reportedly said.
Angered by this discovery, Mr Ogbanje sought to hear Mr Ogbuja’s side of the story.
“I called Andrew’s brother, Dominic, to come and hear what Ochanya told me. When we got to the [Ogbuja] house, he [Ogbuja] denied sleeping with Ochanya and asked that we go to the hospital and run any form of test. He also said he would swear an oath to prove his innocence.
“He, however, said his son, Victor, was caught sleeping with Ochanya and he quarrelled the boy, they prayed and he asked them to go and play.
“I was angry. He didn’t even tell his wife. When we told her, she suggested that we run more tests to be sure if it was her husband and son’s actions that led to Ochanya’s ill health.
“We fixed a date to go to the hospital but, she never got in touch with us,” he notes.
How Ochanya died
Recalling her last moments with Ochanya, Mrs Soo says prior to her death, she could neither walk, speak nor eat.
“When I came back from an outing on a certain Friday, one of the girls informed me that Ochanya said she was cold. I went in and discovered she was running a temperature,” she says.
“One or two days later, Ochanya could no longer make use of her legs. She was becoming lifeless from her waist downwards. Before then, she had challenges controlling her urine. Her mother told me about her condition. All through Ochanya’s days here [June to October 2018], she was on diapers.
“Before she died, she was in so much pains but she could not talk or eat. That girl went through so much. From age eight to thirteen, she was constantly in and out of the hospital,” Soo says.
Ochanya’s broken, sick parents demand justice
» moreAll Ochanya’s parents want is justice for their daughter (Pulse)
Mr Ogbanje, who now tends to the farms to feed his family, says the judiciary is the only hope of the family in getting justice for their late daughter.
“I have many children but Ochanya is the youngest. I can never forget her death. I have lost so much weight since she died because she is always on my mind. Whenever I see her grave, I become inconsolable. As I speak to you, I am seriously sick,” he says.
“Ochanya was such a brave child who wanted quality education. This was why she could defend herself the way she spoke fluently in court.
“I want to appreciate the government for how far the case has come because I have no power to tackle this matter. If it wasn’t for the government, I could have done nothing because he [Mr Ogbuja] is well connected in the society.
“My plea is that this case ends well because we’re afraid that if justice is perverted, he [Mr Ogbuja] will come and confront us,” he concludes.
» moreMichael Ogbanje fears retaliation if Ogbuja is found non-guilty (Pulse)
Mrs Ogbanje says she’s been unable to eat or sleep since Ochanya’s death.
“Ochanya was a peaceful child who loved school; she was equally intelligent and did well in school before death took her away from us,” says her mother.
“Since Ochanya died and was buried here [pointing at her grave], I have never come to see her grave [breaks down in tears]. I am deeply hurt by her death. Since my daughter, Ochanya, died, I don’t sleep; I don’t feel hungry.
» moreRose Abah-Ogbanje has been heartbroken since the death of her daughter (Pulse)
“The government should have mercy on us and deliver judgement on this case involving Andrew Ogbuja. They should also get his wife and son,” Mrs Ogbanje pleaded amidst tears.