Sitting on the bed in a room at Ogene-Amejo village and listening to Rose Abah, mother of the deceased rape victim, Ochanya Ogbanje; there was almost no way of telling what her next stunning revelation would be.
She earlier narrated the horrible details about her daughter, Ochanya’s death.
Mrs Abah told PREMIUM TIMES that Andrew Ogbuja made several attempts to rape her other 26-year-old daughter, Esther Ameh.
According to Mrs Abah, the incident happened in April, 2018, when Miss Ameh went to the Ogbuja’s to care for her 13-year-old sister who had become perennially sick, after going to live with Mrs Ogbuja who was a maternal second cousin to the siblings.
“Do you know that he also tried to sleep with my late daughter’s elder sister, Esther? That one is 13 years older than Ochanya,” Ms Abah said.
Pointing at Miss Ameh’s picture hung on the wall, Mrs Abah said her other daughter had gone to the Ogbuja’s to care of the late Miss Ochanya, when the incident occurred.
The woman added that her elder daughter, who had travelled back to Lagos for work, made an audio record of some conversations with Mr Ogbuja.
Mrs Abah spoke with PREMIUM TIMES during a visit to the Ogene-Amejo village where the late Ochanya’s parents had lived with their daughter till 2010.
In search of sound education, Mrs Abah had taken Miss Ochanya, at the age of five, to live with Mrs Ogbuja whose residence was located on a street almost opposite the Emmanuel Primary and Secondary School where Miss Ochanya obtained her primary education in Ugbokolo, Benue State.
According to Miss Ochanya’s parents, Mrs Ogbuja’s maternal grand-father was a direct sibling to Mrs Abah’s mother, making the suspended lecturer’s wife a niece to Mrs Abah and second cousin to the late Miss Ochanya.
Mrs Abah and her family were, however, plunged into sorrow when medical practitioners pronounced their daughter dead in October after 13-year-old Ochanya suffered from Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF).
This followed a series of rapes allegedly perpetrated by her niece’s husband, Andrew, and his fugitive son, Victor Ogbuja, during the eight years when Miss Ochanya stayed with them.
Conversations with the suspect
Due to the current revelation by Mrs Abah, PREMIUM TIMES contacted Miss Ameh who provided curious records of a conversation between the 51-year-old man and herself during a night at the Ogbuja’s.
Miss Ameh said she recorded the conversation oblivious of the cause of her kid sister’s terminal illness because it was difficult to believe the mischief intended by Mr Ogbuja.
In the recorded conversation, Mr Ogbuja’s voice is heard begging Miss Esther to meet him at a lonely place within his matrimonial home during night time.
“I am waiting oh,” the voice beckons on Mr Ogbuja’s end of the phone conversation, recorded by Miss Ameh.
“I can’t come, oh. What if someone sees us?” Miss Ameh’s voice is heard responding to Mr Ogbuja on the other end of the phone in Idoma language.
As if to prove his state of desperation; Mr Ogbuja starts pleading with the young lady “in God’s name.”
“Please now, please! I beg you with God. Nobody is here. I have seen everywhere is clear. They have all slept. The place is clear,” said the now suspended Catholic Knight and lecturer of the Benue State Polytechnic.
Before ending the call, Miss Esther announces her decision to meet with him, outside the house, during day time.
“In fact, me: I want to see you. I want us to sit and talk. Though not this night and not in this house,” Miss Ameh said.
Miss Ameh later recalled how Mr Ogbuja began his strange sexual advances towards her.
According to the lady, Mr Ogbuja started making casual romantic passes at her, each time she was working alone in the kitchen.
Confused about the situation, Miss Ameh said she wondered how to place the actions of Mr Ogbuja whom she fondly regarded as her uncle, until the suspected rapist demanded her audience.
“The man told me that he had been eyeing me since I was small. That he wanted to ask my parents to let me come to stay at his house,” Miss Ameh told PREMIUM TIMES.
She added that following her consistent refusal to yield to Mr Ogbuja’s request, the accused rapist instigated his wife to send both siblings packing.
This development marked the end of the late Ochanya’s eight years of misery at the Ogbuja’s residence and subsequently resulted in the discoveries about the source of her illness.
The trial of the two suspects accused of raping Miss Ochanya has already suffered two successive and controversial adjournments, at the instance of the court.
After finding out the true nature of their daughter’s sickness with the aid of a caregiver, Enuwa Soo, the case was reported to the Benue State’s branch of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA, who filed a two-count charge against the suspects at an area court in Benue, before the death of Miss Ochanya in October.
However, after a previous adjournment of the matter in November, following the absence of the presiding judge, Isaac Ajim, who was said to be attending a conference in Abuja, the court again shifted the case till January 22 on the grounds that the judge “had another meeting at a separate court in Benue.”
Even the prosecution team present in court that December, 14 could not immediately provide a sufficient explanation to journalists on the reason for the second adjournment, after the court announced its next hearing date.
“We are not happy that the court did not sit. We have not been told that there is a cogent reason why,” a spokeswoman for the prosecution, Terfa Suswam told journalists, suggesting that she and her team of lawyers were not informed about the alleged attendance of Mr Ajim at the said meeting.
A court clerk later told PREMIUM TIMES during further enquiries about the absence of the judge; that he (the judge) could not sit because he had a meeting to attend at another court that same day.
Similarly, the younger Ogbuja who was also accused of sexually abusing the late victim is still at large, five months after the case began in August.
How it began
The late Ochanya’s unfortunate journey began, following her quest for qualitative education, after the only primary school in Ogene-Amejo village became abandoned by the government.
According to the Ogene-Amejo community leader Onaji Cletus, the village with a population of 2000 people in 170 households had battled to educate its young ones, in a dilapidated government primary school under the rain and sunshine until a small part of the school was renovated three years ago.
“Before the renovation; there were times when the roofing top covering the dilapidated building would fall off and we will have to fetch them and continue managing the place, so that our poor children can get whatever kind of education is affordable,” Mr Cletus told PREMIUM TIMES.
The renovated building described by Mr Cletus is a block of few classes, currently managed by children within the village, after it was rebuilt by government.
A larger part of the school still appears devastated, like a set of buildings destroyed by storm, or some form of crisis.
According to Mr Cletus, the villagers are only able to manage the renovated block because a lot of children currently do not go to school in the village.
Efforts by this newspaper to find out when the state government plans to complete the renovation failed.
After repeated visits to the state ministry of education, this reporter was told by an official of the practically deserted department of information at the state ministry, Cecelia Akegh that the two people authorised to speak on the matter; namely the commissioner for education and permanent secretary were not available.
The state’s commissioner and his permanent secretary are not the only ones whose absence have left more questions unanswered regarding the unfortunate story of the late victim.
Nigeria’s rape cases
The prosecution of rape cases is dismal in Nigeria.
Evans Ufeli, a lawyer who has worked on child rape cases for over a decade, in 2015, said only 18 rape matters reported in courts had resulted in convictions throughout Nigeria’s history.
Mr Ufeli said this at a quarterly public dialogue that focuses on child abuses and parenting in Lagos.
As explained by Mr Ufeli, a lot of rape cases are frustrated by the prosecution team who are mostly employed by the Nigerian Police Force.
According to a 2014 statistics provided by NOIPolls, a data website, about 78 percent of reported rape cases involving children within the ages of seven to 12, were taken to the police for necessary action.
And according to data provided by the UNICEF for children within the same age group in Nigeria, only 25 percent of female rape victims actually reported the matter, while 11 percent was recorded for men.
A previous investigation by PREMIUM TIMES had shown how the poor prosecution of a rape case involving an eight-year-old victim and her neighbour, Victor Enejor, resulted in the discharge of the matter.
This was after a medical report indicating that the victim contracted sexually transmitted disease from her alleged rapist was removed from the case file by the prosecution during their investigation.
A lawyer representing the second victim in another report by this newspaper, Beneath Nnemeka, told PREMIUM TIMES in a recent telephone interview that his client’s father was frustrated by the case and has taken his daughter to the village.
The victim, now 15, was raped and impregnated by her schoolmates in 2016 at a public school in Abuja.
A child rights advocate, Ronke Ojeikere, who is the South-south zonal coordinator, National Council of Child Rights Advocates of Nigeria, (NACCRAN) said the country is practically living in “a state of denial on many issues affecting Nigerian children”.
“We should sit down and look at our child right laws and examine critically the many gaps that remain silent. We are living in denial over so many things that are happening to children,” Ms Ojeikere said.
Another child rights advocate, Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga, noted the consequence of poor prosecution or abandonment of rape cases in Nigeria.
“The one (suspect) you let go yesterday, may end up raping more tomorrow,” Mrs Ogunlana-Nkanga told PREMIUM TIMES.