More women accuse detained lecturer of sexual harrasment

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Pic.13. Acting IGP, Mohammed Adamu, during the handing over ceremony of the 19th to the 20th IGP at the Police Headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday (16/1/19). 00555/16/1/2019/Anthony Alabi/NAN

March 5, 2019 Premium Times

Mr Ogbuja, sitting to the far right, is awaiting the start of trial.

Mr Ogbuja, sitting to the far right, is awaiting the start of trial for alleged raping of Ochanya Ogbanje.

“He told me that if I insist on stopping him from sucking my breast, I should go and bury a live goat in my compound.”

Those were the words of a 30-year-old former student of the Benue State Polytechnic, who narrated a conversation she allegedly had with a suspended lecturer of the institution, Andrew Ogbuja, to PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview.

This newspaper contacted the woman, along with other students, who opened up on various encounters with Mr Ogbuja, after the case of his alleged involvement in serial rape of a 13-year-old girl, Ochanya Ogbanje, broke out.

In a tone suggesting disgust, the woman who is now a member of the National Youth Service Corps said: “Ogbuja told me that either that or I should give up the thought of graduating.”

The lady who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity told this newspaper that she was confronted with such threats after Mr Ogbuja tried without success to rape her.

“He was my class adviser at the time and had called me into his office, under the guise of trying to settle a score between my project supervisor and myself, because there was a misunderstanding between me and the project supervisor at the time.

“Within minutes, Mr Ogbuja began telling me that the project supervisor liked me and that I am not different from other girls. I tried to ‘talk him down’ on his proposals, but my efforts appeared futile,” she said.

According to the lady, Mr Ogbuja soon became very daring and scary.

“After he made that threat, I became very worried. I started praying seriously about my studies. I prayed and fasted for days. Thank God, I did not have any problems with my result,” said the young lady.

Poor Prosecution

Mr Ogbuja is currently facing trial for allegedly raping 13-year-old Ochanya Ogbanje repeatedly till the young girl became infected with the Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF).

This development resulted in her untimely death in October 2018.

Mr Ogbuja and his son, Victor, are suspected of having raped the child for several years before her death.

Activists say six months after security operatives arrested Mr Ogbuja, the case has not progressed speedily as expected.

While Mr Ogbuja’s son remains at large, the suspended lecturer has cited the prosecution’s unnecessary delay in amending the charge as grounds for seeking his release on bail.

After writing the court on January 10 and stating that a prima facie case of culpable homicide had been established against the suspects, the Benue State Ministry of Justice prosecuting the matter failed to amend the charge to include the details, over a month after.

According to section 341 of the criminal procedure code, which guides the justice system in Benue State; “a suspect accused of culpable homicide; punishable by death, shall not be granted bail.”

Unless the case against the suspended lecturer and knight of the Catholic Church is amended to include alleged homicide, Mr Ogbuja may soon regain his freedom.

More Students Open Up

Another woman, a Benue Polytechnic student, told PREMIUM TIMES that her encounter with Mr Ogbuja had haunted her for the past seven years.

“Because of that man, I had to leave my result, after graduating from the hotel and catering department in 2012.”

The lady, who explained that Mr Ogbuja was regarded more as a close friend and an uncle alleged that ”her mistake was trusting Mr Ogbuja, despite repeated advances made towards her”.

According to the 29-year-old woman, who resides now in Abuja with her family, the problem began after she got married during her school days and returned to school.

“When I came back, he confronted me with a question seeking to know if I was married. And I told him I was. He then asked why I married someone else when he said he liked me. I thought it was a joke and asked him why he did not indicate interest in time.

“After I got pregnant, towards the end of our time in school, I left and gave my SIWES logbook to him to help me submit.

“I never knew that was a grave mistake. I just gave the logbook to him, without any evidence. Mr Ogbuja later denied; saying I did not give anything to him. He, however, confided in a friend saying he did that to ‘get back at me’ for turning down his romantic advances. He added that the only way to get the logbook back is if I agreed to get ‘intimate’ with him.

“And the department was clear in its directive, that we would not get our result, without the logbook. At that point, I got frustrated and decided just to let the result be,” the woman added.

A male student who asked that his name be protected, also spoke about Mr Ogbuja.

“The first time he was arrested, we were happy that he had been apprehended, but when he returned, he was mad and ‘tormented’ our lives than in school. He has connections with people in the high places,” said the student who added that he was close enough to frequently visit Mr Ogbuja’s family home.

“When discovered that we are related to a girl whom he wants to date, and she does not agree with him, he takes us as his enemies,” he said.

The young man, who said he held an official position on behalf of his classmates added that Mr Ogbuja was always careful not to confront his male targets directly, ”but punished them by tampering with their exam scores”.

According to the student, Mr Ogbuja had such a firm grip of the department ”that prevented students from daring him”.

In yet another interview, another student who said she had lived in Mr Ogbuja’s family home a few years ago, and added that the senior lecturer is “capable of doing what he is currently accused of and many more.”

“All I can say concerning Ochanya’s case is that I know Mr Ogbuja. He is capable of doing such a thing. I have stayed in his house, and at nights he will come, making sexual advances towards me. You know he is a caterer, he gets students to come to his house to work, and then he sleeps with them. I see that man as a beast; a two-sided coin who; when he says one thing, he means another.”

The student, who was also afraid of victimisation, spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, on the condition of anonymity.

She described as unfortunate her failure to recognise the late victim’s pains, during her stay at the Ogbuja’s house.

PREMIUM TIMES could not independently substantiate these allegations. The newspaper could not also get reactions from the suspect as he is presently in police detention.

Dismal Trend

According to Ronke Ojeikere, the South-south zonal coordinator, National Council of Child Rights Advocates of Nigeria, the attitude of the society towards rape victims, especially children has become a major problem.

She added that the situation had forced women of all ages to remain silent, in a manner that requires urgent attention.

“As far as we are concerned, children are to be seen and not heard. Children have voices. Until we start to respect the voices of our children, things will continue to happen. In many rape cases, when the child is taken to the police station and the police is talking to the child: they will suggest that; “the child does not know;” even when the child is giving you a vivid description of what has happened, they will regard it as a figment of the child’s imagination,” Mrs Ojeikere said.

In 2017, the United States of America, known to have one of the world’s largest population of vocal women, experienced a remarkable outburst from victims of sexual abuse following the introduction of the “Me too” hashtag.

The hashtag was introduced by American actress, Alyssa Milano, to encourage women like her to speak out against renowned movie producer, Hervey Weinstein who had been involved in several allegations of rape.

According to American newspaper, The Guardian, 4.7 million people around the world, joined the #Me too conversation, within 24 hours after it was launched in October 2017.

The figure included over 50 women like British actress Lysette Anthony who told the police, following the outcry, that she was raped by Mr Weinstein in 1982.

Many of the affected women like Ms Anthony did not report their cases to respective authorities before the social media campaign.

Another factor is the socio-economic situation of the country, which has resulted in many parents entrusting their children to wards, like in the case of late Ochanya.

The late Miss Ogbanje journeyed to the Ogbuja’s in search of a qualitative education.

‘Friendly Enemies’

According to a survey conducted by the UNICEF in 2015, the major perpetrators of violence against children of Ochanya’s age include parents and biological relatives.

Interestingly, the survey found the second most prevalent perpetrators of violence against children are mothers of such children with 41 per cent involvement in such violations, while the stepfathers were found to be the most prevalent perpetrator, with 58. 8 per cent prevalence rate of cases reported.

Equally interesting is the fact that 50 per cent of the sexually abused children within that age, were raped at the homes of their perpetrators.

Also, over 70 per cent of these victims reported the cases only to their families, while only three per cent of sexual abuse cases made it to formal or professional service providers from female children and five per cent from males, according to the report.

Even where some cases are reported, a controversial agreement is sometimes reached between parents and culprits, forcing an abrupt end to the case in court.

But according to Ngozi Ikenga, Chairperson of the International Federation of women Lawyer; FIDA, Abuja chapter: “Neither the parents nor the police has a right to talk about out of court settlements. It is an offence against the state.”