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Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbaje: NAPTIP urges children passing through similar situations to speak out

Text of the press conference addressed by the Director – General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, (NAPTIP), Dame Julie Okah – Donli, on the death of the 13 year old student of the Federal Government Girls College, Gboko, Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbaje on Friday 26th October, 2018.

I welcome you all to the Headquarters of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). I also thank you gentlemen of the press for honouring our invitation despite the short notice.

I am addressing you all today with a heavy and a pained heart. This is because, another promising young Nigerian child has been sent down the grave through the suspected actions of an irresponsible person and his son. My heart is heavy because another pride of the nation has been silenced. I am sad because another mother of the nation has been killed. I am talking of the late Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbaje, a 13 years old student of the Federal Government Girls College, Gboko, who died on sunday.

For the record, Ochanya had battled Vesico vaginal fistula (VVF) and other health complications at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi after being allegedly severely abused by one Andrew Ogbuja, Head of Department, Catering and Hotel Management at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, Benue State, and his son, Victor Inalegwu Ogbuja, a final year student of Animal Production at the Federal University of Agriculture,Makurdi.

The duo allegedly consistently and ruthlessly sexually molested little Ochanya, a student of Federal Government Girls’ College, Gboko since she was 9 to age 13 and eventually sent her to her early grave.

Information reaching us indicated that the matter has been charged to court by a sister Law Enforcement Agency.

On behalf of the Management and Staff of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), I wish to express our heartfelt condolence to the family of the late Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbaje, for the great loss. We share their pains and griefs at this challenging moment of their life. Our hearts go to them. May God give them the fortitude to bear the great loss.

As part of our preventive measures, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), as a Federal Government Agency created to ensure protection of Nigerians from human trafficking and other forms of abuses, has continued to lead in awareness creation and advocacy on the need to ensure adequate protection of our children. Being the Agency saddled with the responsibility of implementing the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, 2015, NAPTIP has successfully convicted about three persons for acts related to sexual violence while about five rape cases are presently pending in various law courts.

NAPTIP believes that this unfortunate incident and of course, other looming unpleasant situations that may be occasioned by sexual aggression on helpless Nigerian children are avoidable if the right steps are taken. While vigorously working to ensure justice for the gentle soul of the late Ochanya, NAPTIP wishes to use this medium to appeal to stakeholders to join hands with the Agency in its renewed sensitization and awareness to end sexual violence and rape in Nigeria.

I wish to call on the Governor’s Forum which is an umbrella body for all governors in the country, to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) so as to address nagging issues relating to sexual violence being recorded in various states of the federation. It is disturbing that incidences of rape and sexual violence against minors and other vulnerable segments of the society seem to be on the increase of recent and efforts must be made to address the ugly situation. The necessary legal framework must be put in place, as no effort should be spared in a bid to protect our children.

On the other hand, the Agency calls on the society and precisely children passing through similar situations to speak out and report to the appropriate Agency for prompt response. It is said that a closed mouth is a closed destiny and that may have accounted for the painful development that befell the innocent girl in question. Children who are victims of sexual violence and rape should defy any threat and open up, and I assure them that succor will surely come their way. We must all break the culture of silence and free our children from the constant threat of sexual violence.

The development is also a challenge to parents to keep their  eyes on their children and wards by ensuring that they are in safe hands. Keeping children under the custody of people with questionable sexual appetite remain a major threat to their wellbeing. We as parents and even teachers should be very vigilant and study the countenance and mood of children and wards under our watch. We should periodically embark on intimate interaction with them so as to make them trust and confide in us. Similarly, the Society must jointly rise up and say no to the wave of rapes across the country.

On our part, since the matter is already in court, we shall continue to monitor the situation with a view to ensuring justice to the deceased. Securing justice is the only way to make her soul that was violently sent to the early grave by these sexually reckless individuals, to rest. NAPTIP is joining hands with other Law Enforcement Agencies in this regard.

In addition to the ongoing prosecution of the principal suspects in the matter, the Makurdi Zonal Command of the Agency has been given a directive to ensure that the roles of other accomplices in the matter especially those whose conspiracy of silence led to the tragedy, are reviewed for any possible action.

This sad development has also reinvigorated our resolve to commence the compilation of the Sex Offenders Register. We strongly believe that the likes of the father and son who threw caution and dignity to the winds and sexually devoured a helpless child under their care, have no reason to hold any public office. Their particulars should feature prominently in the said register.

Finally, while NAPTIP continues its advocacy and sensitization on the need to protect our children from human trafficking, it is our determination to ensure that those who take pleasure in the sexual violation of Nigerian children shall one day have a date with the dark part of history. NAPTIP shall continue to be their voice and their defence.

Let us therefore rise up and protect, defend, cherish and care for our children because they remain precious ornament in our hands.

We say no to continuous sexual violence and rape on Nigerian children today.

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