Despite informing the court that it had established a case of culpable homicide against suspended lecturer of the Benue State Polytechnic, Andrew Ogbuja, the state government is yet to amend the charge to include the allegation, one month after.
The Benue government’s inaction was used by Mr Ogbuja’s lawyer as a reason to demand the release of his client on bail.
Mr Ogbuja and his son, Victor, are accused by the Benue State Government of serially raping 13-year-old Ochanya Ogbanje, till the victim became infected with Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF), resulting in her untimely death.
The government had said in a letter dated January 10 and addressed to the court, that it had established a prima-facie case of culpable homicide against the defendants, punishable by death.
In legal advice contained in the letter, read out at a previous sitting, the prosecution said its conclusion was based on a refill observation of the effects of sexual abuse on the victim which resulted in her death.
“Arising from the health condition of the deceased due to multiple rape and sexual abuse resulting to grievous injuries confirmed by medical reports, it is our legal opinion that a case of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide punishable with death under Sections 97 and 222 of the Penal Code Revised Edition (Laws of Benue State) 2004 has been made out against the above named accused person and shall be prosecuted accordingly,” the state’s attorney general, Micheal Gusa, had said, in the legal advice
Although Mr Ogbuja has been rearrested after the death of the late 13-year-old, his son, Victor, is still at large.
At Tuesday’s hearing of the matter, Mr Ogbuja’s lawyer asked the court to grant his client bail on the grounds that the prosecution is yet to file a valid charge against his client.
The lawyer, Andrew Onoja, argued that the legal advice, which contained the alleged evidence of culpable homicide against his client, was yet to be converted into a valid charge.
“Our submission is that there is no valid charge before this court against our client. The only way the court can be intimidated into refusing our bail application is for the prosecution to place a charge before the court.
“We urge the court to discountenance the legal advice against our client, as it did not disclose any material evidence against him,” Mr Onoja said.
Responding, the lawyer representing the prosecution, Awashima Addingi, insisted that the case against the accused involves an allegation that attracts capital punishment and urged the court to refuse him bail.
“Going by Section 341 of the State Criminal Code, the offences which the accused was brought to court is capital in nature; he is not entitled to bail.”
Efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to confirm why the charge sheet has not been updated from the state government failed.
Mr Gusa did not respond to calls and text messages from this newspaper on the matter on Wednesday.
In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, however, Ms Adingi said the charge has not been updated to include the allegation.
The prosecution lawyer would not speak further on the matter, as at the time of filing in this report.
The death of Ochanya attracted widespread criticisms against Nigeria’s government over the menace of rape in the country.
While few rape cases have resulted in court judgements, many cases of rape are poorly prosecuted in Nigeria.