Child Rights Activists have called on Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State to ensure that the rapists of late Ochanya Ogbanje face the full wrath of the law.
The activists made the call during a one day Child Protection Workshop which was organized by the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection, CEE-HOPE.
Late Ochanya, who was 13 when she died, was raped multiple times by a lecturer, Mr. Ogbuja and his son.
The one-day workshop had in attendance the late Ochanya’s elder brother, Ameh Ejekwonyilo, an Abuja-based journalist. In his remarks, Ameh thanked civil society members, the media as well as the general public for the huge show of support for the cause.
“There is no amount of punishment handed down to the suspects, if found guilty, that will bring Ochanya back to life”, he said.
“But the quest for justice is to ensure that with justice, little girls and vulnerable women in Nigeria as a whole will be safer from the pandemic of sexual violence, and we are convinced that this is why Nigeria and the rest of the world are united in demanding justice for Ochanya”, he added.
Other child’s rights activists including Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode, Olayinka Braide and Anthonia Ojenagbon, also spoke at the event. All three spoke as survivors of child sexual violence, igniting depressed moods and sometimes gasps from the audience.
Dr. Olufemi-Kayode, a sexual violence response expert with background in criminal justice, enlightened the participants consisting of NGO practitioners, journalists, teachers, educationists, students and other stakeholders on detecting and preventing child sexual abuse (CSA) which she described as ‘an epidemic’.
Both Braide and Ojenagbon spoke about their rape encounters as young girls and the blatant vulnerability, stigma and victimization they experienced. Braide narrated passionately about being violated for several years by a clergy with whose family she stayed in order to escape the poverty and accommodation crises her family faced, while Ojenagbo spoke about her several attempts at suicide arising from the abuses she faced and how her survival encouraged her to start a thriving safe place and confidential group to cater for persons for rape victims and others suffering depression.
Ejekwonyilo, speaking with reporters after the event, noted that a year after the ugly incident, the police was yet to declare wanted the second suspect, Victor Ogbuja, a final year student of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi. He also revealed that Mr Ogbuja’s case would come up on October 9 at the state high court in Makurdi, Benue while the case of the wife, Felicia, comes up on October 8 at the Federal High Court, Makurdi. Mrs Ogbuja is being prosecuted by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) for child endangerment, enslavement and negligence.
Mr Ejekwonyilo also advised children undergoing sexual molestation to speak out and let the world know about their challenges. He similarly advised parents to educate their children and to encourage them to speak up.
The workshop, which was organized to mark anniversary of Ochanya’s death, also witnessed the presentation of a book #JusticeForOchanya: Reflections on the Child Sexual Abuse Crisis in Nigeria published by the organization.
The book was a compilation of reports, editorials, opinions, special reports on child sexual abuse and pictorials around the unprecedented nation-wide campaign for Ochanya last year.
While speaking about the book, Betty Abah, the editor who is also a journalist-activist and founder of CEE-HOPE, said the purpose is to document an important phase of activism history in Nigeria, to continue sensitizing the public as to how to prevent child sexual abuse, to probe at the heart of policy makers, law enforcement agents and other stakeholders in light of the prevent but ‘haphazardly addressed’ epidemic.
Abah explained that the book “is also to remind the world that a year after the global outcry that attended Ochanya’s death, justice is yet to be served, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in the body language of the Benue State Government suggesting their seriousness in bringing the suspects to book.”
The book was launched by CEE-HOPE’s board member and media consultant, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin. The participants, through the question and answer sessions and general consensus agreed that more actions needed to be carried out to protect children in Nigeria. They expressed shock that even with all the shock attending Ochanya’s tragic death, the Benue State government has shown little or no effort at ensuring justice for her family.