Women in Delta State have joined the calls demanding justice for Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje, a 13-year-old student of Federal Government Girls’ College, Gboko, who was allegedly raped by a father and his son in Gboko, Benue State.
Ochanya had battled Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) and other health complications at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi after allegedly being severely abused by her uncle, Andrew Ogbuja, who is the Head of Department of Catering and Hotel Management at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, Benue State, and his son, Victor Inalegwu Ogbuja, who is a final year student of Animal Production at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi.
Ochanya had been abused since she was nine years old.
At the protest which held in Asaba, the Delta State capital at the weekend, Awele Ideal, the convener of the protest, who is a lawyer and member of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), condemned the rape of Elizabeth.
Noting that "Everyone should be their neighbours' keepers and if they hear, see or believe that a child is being abused, they should report to either the Police, lawyers or the Ministry of Justice", she also called on teachers, FIDA, and the Ministry of Justice, to join in creating awareness against rape, child abuse and deprivation in Delta State.
She said: "Elizabeth Ochanya was raped repeatedly for over four years by her uncle and cousin. We join other well-meaning Nigerians to demand that justice must be seen to have been done. We urge that this matter be seen as a federal offence against all children of Nigeria and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should send a high-powered legal team to Benue State to watch this brief. Nigeria should not fail her children.
"Children are special gifts from God Almighty. They are their parents' pride and source of happiness to society. They are decent and innocent. Every reasonable human being should love children and protect their innocence. Rape is one of the worst crimes against humanity. A rape victim lives a daily nightmare and if she speaks up, she is stigmatised and lives the rest of her life in the shadow like an outcast.
"We undertook this walk to highlight the plight of children, particularly the girl child, who is abused routinely by relations. The walk today aims to raise awareness on the plight of rape victims, who are stampeded by society, church and family members to keep quiet. The society keeps blaming the victim and not the perpetrators. We walk to say 'No'. A victim has the right to justice and no amount of provocation gives you right to rape or sexually assault a child.
"Our walk is to raise awareness about the alarming cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence going on in homes in Asaba. The rape of a child by his relations is not a thing that only happens in faraway Benue State, but it is also taking place here in Asaba. There are lots of victims like Elizabeth Ochanya in Asaba. We want them to speak up before it is too late. We shall render free legal and psychological support to any who comes to talk to us. We are not unaware that the male child is also sexually abused and raped. We urge all victims to speak up."
In her address, Xino Monnitey, President and Founder of The Ideal Isoko Woman (TIIW), called for immediate justice to "appease the soul of victim and serve as deterrent to other rapists".
She said: "The Ideal Isoko Woman (TIIW) joins her voice to condemn this wicked and inhumane act against the innocent Ochanya. It’s a reality that has hit us, and harder each day, that the fight against rape, child molestation and abuse, cannot and should not be ignored at any time. The home, which is supposed to be the safest haven for any child, isn’t that safe anymore after all. We mourn the death of this innocent angel. We pray that her soul rests in peace. We say no to ugly parenting like the one given to Ochanya. Let everyone rise up against this madness!
"Our uncles and senior cousins are supposed to be our backbones and support through our teenage years and we can comfortably rely on them for support, with good advice and direction. Unfortunately, Ochanya’s case is another slam and a strong reminder that we cannot let our guard down in this fight. Everyone is a suspect; everyone is a potential threat to our young girl. This is a clarion call to us that we need to rise up to address this menace as it grows deeper and worse by the day. The number of girl children under threat and fear cannot be over-emphasised.
"A child, whose succour and place of comfort would be in the hands of her family, can no longer or totally depend on them for safety. How sad can growing up get? No child deserves such gruesome subjection. It’s a NO. Justice is what we seek for our Ochanya. Keeping quiet has never been an option and now more than ever, the door-to-door crusade has to be taken on by everyone. It’s a crime to let young, innocent, fragile girls go through so much pain and agony at no choice of theirs.
"They have you and I to protect them and we must rise to this challenge. Let’s preach it daily, let’s ask questions when you see the pain in that little girl’s face. Let parenting be a collective effort and above all, let’s take it as a responsibility to help the girl child. We need to make this campaign part of our daily activities. No to rape. No to child molestation. Let the little girl enjoy being a child, leave our children in peace. The Ideal Isoko woman says no to rape; no to child molestation; no to child abuse. We demand justice for Ochanya."