By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri
Several civil society groups and activists in Imo State have cried out for justice for a 13-year-old girl, Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje, who was said to have died as a result of rape by her aunt’s husband and son.The story weaved around Ochanya’s death was that she allegedly suffered excessive unsolicited and forcible sex and as a result, she developed vesicovaginal fistula ,VVF, among other health complications and could not survive them. Ochanya couldn’t make it at the Benue State Teaching Hospital, Markurdi where doctors were battling to save her soul.
The man at the center of it all is her aunt’s husband, Andrew Ogbuja and son, Victor Inalegwu Ogbuja who were said to have turned the teenage girl into a sex machine since age 8. Ogbuja is a lecturer with Benue State Polytechnic Ugbokolo and Head of Department, Catering and Hotel Management, while his son is a student of Animal Production at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi. He was said to be a final year student. The case is coming up on November 29 for further mention. Both father and son were reportedly charged for criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide, after several amendments.
Meanwhile, a cross section of civil society organisations have remained resolute in their demand for justice as activists in Imo State, were not left out. According to the Alliances for Africa in Imo State which spoke through their communication officer, Mrs. Chiwendu Anozie, the vagina was designed for consensual sex, child birth and menstruation. Anozie said rape is punishable under sections 97 and 284 of the Penal Code of Benue State 2004 and that according to the Child Rights Act, offenders are liable to life imprisonment.
Speaking also, Executive Director of Virgin Heart Foundation, Peace Dike was of the opinion that the life of children are no longer guaranteed in the country, adding that Felicia, wife and mother to the accused persons should also face the law.
According to Alliances for Africa, “No conversation on rape is complete without mentioning the vagina. Rape involves some sort of penetration through the vagina. My sisters out there can attest to the fact that our vaginas were designed for consensual sexual pleasures, menstruation and childbirth.No vagina is a means to an end for rapists. According to recent reports from Pulse Nigeria, late Elizabeth was allegedly molested, defiled, drugged and abused for five (5) years by her own uncle and his son. Elizabeth’s physical and mental health gradually deteriorated with exposure to constant rape.
“Have you thought about the underlying factors contributing to this nightmare? Why did Elizabeth have to die of rape? I believe the rape narrative, short arms of the law, unequal power relations between sexes, and dysfunctional system of government are to blame. I mean stories or conversations about rape are intimidating rather than educative. We rarely talk about rape in Nigeria, we prefer to keep silent and pretend it does not happen. When we do talk rape, it’s preferably discussed in private spaces. I am not surprised that one David Ojile said that Ochanya’s rape case was a family matter. Public conversations about rape barely offer steps for constructive actions.Rather, survivors are shamed.
“You can see why Elizabeth could not speak up about the abuse on time. Rape is perceived as a situational problem and not societal problem. The parents or guardians of a girl-child will advise her to be mindful of her situation so rape will not happen. However, until we realize that rape is a societal issue, we can have broader conversations about rape, prevent rape, protect survivors and name perpetrators. In Nigeria, we have rape laws but implementation is technically a challenge. Rape is punishable under sections 97 and 284 of the Penal Code of Benue State 2004.
“ Benue State Child Rights law exists to protect the rights of the child in the state. Section 13 of the Benue State Child Rights Law stipulates that a child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his or her person, that no child shall be subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment. The Child Rights Law further provides that sex with a child is rape and perpetrators are liable to imprisonment for life. However, I think the arms of the law are too short. Many rapists still walk the streets of our Nigeria free,” Dike said, adding that Ochanya’s aunt cannot deny being aware of the actions of her spouse and son”.
She added that some women prefer to conceal their husband’s flaws probably not to bring the family to disrepute.
Speaking further, she said ”Mrs. Felicia Ogbuja should be made to face the full wrath of the law, having allegedly aided her son and husband in taking turns to rape her niece.The abuse of children has long be treated with levity and Virgin Heart Foundation had for the past one year, championed the cause of women and the girl-child in rural areas and in demanding that rapists and indeed murderers, be called to justice.
It was not enough for them to hurt young Ochanya from age 8; they had to repeat their barbaric conduct for 5 years.We call on the judiciary and security operatives to ensure the deceased’s family finds peace by getting justice for her and that all organizations in solidarity should monitor the proceedings, as any form of jungle justice will not be tolerated.”