From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
After calling eight witnesses, the Benue State Government on Wednesday closed its case on the alleged rape and subsequent death of 13-year-old Ochanya Ogbanje by a suspended senior lecturer at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, Andrew Ogbuja and his son, Victor.
Ogbuja’s son, who is now at large, is a second suspect in the case but the police are yet to arrest him or even declare him wanted.
It would be recalled that the Benue State Government had on October 10, 2019, arraigned Mr Ogbuja, a 57-year-old, before a Makurdi High Court on a four-count charge bordering on rape and murder of little Ogbanje.
Director of Public Prosecution in the State Peter Ukande in court on Wednesday led the eighth witness, a photojournalist, in his evidence in chief.
Earlier, a video cassette was played before the court, where the late Ochanya said Mr Ogbuja and his fugitive son, Victor, serially raped her until she fell ill and was admitted at the Federal Medical Centre in Makurdi for two months.
‘My aunty’s (Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja) son started sleeping with me, and after that, his father, (Andrew Ogbuja) started sleeping with me too. I was sick and admitted at the Federal Medical Centre in Makurdi for two months,’ Ochanya revealed in the video that was played before the court on Wednesday.
In his testimony, the journalist told the trial judge, Justice Augustine Ityonyiman, that he interviewed the deceased teenager at the premises of the court in August 2018 when Mr Ogbuja was first arraigned at an Upper Area Court in Makurdi.
Ogbuja’s counsel, Abel Onoja, objected to the admissibility of the video cassette arguing that he was not properly served with a copy of the video recording.
But upon an appeal by the trial judge to both lawyers in the suit for an accelerated hearing, the defendant’s counsel withdrew his objection, thus, paving the way for the judge to admit the video as evidence.
‘The video cassette tendered is hereby admitted as Exhibit F,’ Justice Ityonyiman said.
Subsequently, the prosecuting lawyer, Mr Ukande closed the state government’s case against Mr Ogbuja.
Reacting, Ogbuja’s counsel asked for an adjournment to enable his client to prepare for his defence and the trial judge adjourned the case till October 8 for the defendant to open his defence.
It would be recalled that there was a wild protest across the country following the death of Ochanya on October 17, 2018, from alleged complications said to have resulted from her prolonged rape by Ogbuja and his son.