Activists discuss child sexual abuse to mark anniversary of Nigerian minor’s death from rape

Mr and Mrs Ogbanje, Ochanya's parents
Mr and Mrs Ogbanje, Ochanya's parents

Nigeria has not given much attention to the protection of children against sexual abuse and violations, an activist said on Monday at a workshop on child sexual violation and abuse.

The workshop was organised by the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) Nigeria to commemorate one year since Ochanya Ogbanje, a 13-year-old girl died due to sexual abuse.

A book titled ‘Reflections on the Child Abuse Crisis in Nigeria’ was also publicly presented to mark the anniversary. The book is a documentary of the events around the death of Miss Ogbanje, thoughts of Nigerians on the issue and the general child sexual abuse problem in the country.

Princess Olufemi-Kayode, one of the speakers at the workshop, said a circle of abuse exists in Nigeria because when some children are abused, they also eventually become abusers regardless of their sex.

She recommended a massive awareness campaign on sexual abuse by religious leaders, schools and parents. She said people should also be made to understand damages associated with child sexual abuse.

The organiser of the workshop, Betty Abah, said Nigerian children have become endangered because agencies that are meant to enforce their wellbeing and deal with the people that threaten their futures are not in place.

“When the government talks about the Child’s Right Act, most of the time, they just pay lip service. They want to impress international donors, they want to impress the rest of the world because that is the direction of the world.

“A country is deemed to be serious and progressive when they have child-friendly policies and look out for the well-being of the children, including the poorest and richest and the most-vulnerable.”

Miss Ogbanje was a 13-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by her guardian, Andrew Ogbuja, and his son, Victor, for five years.

Mr Ogbuja was a lecturer at Benue State Polytechnic, while his son who has been on the run since the incident was a student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Markurdi.

Miss Ogbanje died on October 17, from complications of five years of anal and vaginal rape which led to Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) and other health complications.

As a result of her death, nationwide protests were held across Nigeria seeking justice for the child. Aside from Nigeria-based advocacy groups and NGOs, her case also attracted international attention all calling for justice to be meted on the perpetrators.

Mrs Abah, while making comment on Miss Ogbanje’s case, said the protection of children has not been prioritised which is why people who violate the rights of children, including fathers who rape their children and toddlers, go scot-free without severe punishment.

“That is why the Ochanya’s case is still dragging. If we are a serious society, with all the mobilisation and the international outcry, by now, that case should have been settled. By now, we should have known the fate of the accused. One of the accused is on the run and the police are yet to declare him wanted.”

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Amej Ejekwonyilo, the brother of Miss Ogbanje, was present at the event.

He said that people who hold positions in the government do not see child sexual abuse as a problem because it hardly affects them. In his sister’s case, Mr Ejekwonyilo said, the alleged perpetrators are those who have political connections and are powerful.

He said Victor Ogbuja has been on the run since the incident and no one was talking about it. He said the police were yet to give reasons on why he is yet to be apprehended.

He stated that the hope of the family is that the authorities in charge of the case will act to ensure that justice is served. He further expressed hope that children would find safe spaces to learn and pursue whatever they want to in life.

“I’m optimistic that the judiciary will do what is required of it by law and those who have been called to account for their roles in what has happened to Ochanya would be made to face the wrath of the law.”

He said Mr Ogbuja’s case comes up on October 9 at the state high court in Makurdi, while the case of the wife, Felicia, comes up on October 8 at the Federal High Court, Makurdi. Mrs Ogbuja was arraigned for allowing the persistent rape of the late victim to continue despite that it was brought to her notice.

Mr Ejekwonyilo advised children undergoing sexual molestation to speak out and let the world know about their challenges. He said parents must also educate their children and ensure their children are confident in speaking up.

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