John Charles, Makurdi
The Chief Magistrate’s Court One, Makurdi, Benue State, on Thursday remanded a 51-year-old lecturer in the Department of Catering and Hotel Management, Benue State Polytechnic, Mr Andrew Ogbuja, in custody.
The lecturer, who had earlier been charged for allegedly raping his 13-year-old housemaid, Miss Elizabeth Ogbanje, was on Thursday arraigned on fresh charges of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide.
Ogbanje was also Victor’s wife’s cousin.
When the case came up, the First Information Report read to the accused stated in part, “That on October 22, 2018, a case was reported by one Evangelist Enuwa Soo of Potter Avenue, Otada, Otukpo Local Governmrnt Area, through a letter of petition to the Commissioner of Police, Benue State Police Command.
“That on June 23, 2018, the family of one Miss Elizabeth Ogbanje of Agene Amen, Okpokwu LGA, aged 13, noticed that one Andrew Ogbuja, a lecturer at the Benue State Polytechnic, and his son, one Victor Ogbuja, had been criminally having unlawful carnal knowledge of her since she was living with them in their house which resulted in her being diagnosed with Vesicovaginal Fistulaand other related diseases.
“Ogbanje was admitted to a hospital for treatment where she later died on October 17, 2018, at the Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi.”
The court further heard that during police investigation, Andrew was arrested for the offence while his son, Victor Ogbuja, escaped.
The FIR further stated that the offence was punishable under sections 97 and 222 of the Penal Code of Benue State, 2004.
The counsel for the accused, Anthony Onoja, observed that the media had been carrying the reports of his client who had not been proven guilty.
“If care is not taken, the reports will not allow the matter to go on smoothly. I appeal to you for protection (for lawyers) from journalists and caution the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA),” the lawyer added.
However, counsel for FIDA, Prica Ula, said FIDA had the right to watch brief for the police, adding that no law prohibited the organisation from doing so.
The presiding magistrate, Issac Ajim, overruled Onoja, saying the activities of FIDA and journalists had not caused any harm.
Since no plea was taken for lack of jurisdiction, the magistrate ordered that the accused be remanded at the Federal Medium Prison, Makurdi.
He adjourned the case till November 29.
Meanwhile, pupils of the Federal Government Girls College, Gboko, on Thursday protested against the death of Ogbanje.
The pupils, who stood outside the school premises, displayed placards to show their displeasure.
Ogbanje was a pupil at the school before her death.
Also, the acting Governor of Benue State, Benson Abounu, on Thursday urged the police and the judiciary to ensure that Ogbanje got justice.
Abounu, in a statement issued by his press secretary, Mr Ede Ogaba, described the act as “inhuman, shameful and deserving of nothing less than appropriate punishment for the perpetrators.”
He promised that the state government would give the police necessary support to prosecute the case to conclusion to serve as a “deterrent to others with similar evil tendencies.”