Monday, June 20, 2011

Late Nigerian in Cotonou now identified but body still unclaimed

Finally, late Nigerian in Cotonou identified but body still unclaimed
…I’ll arrest survivors – says aide of Nigerian community leader

At last, the unidentified Nigerian man, who died in Cotonou, Benin Republic; on 23 May has been identified. It could be recalled that the local Nigerian community had sought logistic support from Nigerian Embassy, Cotonou with a view to burying the victim in the Benin economic capital, in the event that no one came forward to collect the dead man’s remains.

But, that plan was shelved; after someone turned up on May 31 and identified himself as the dead man’s sibbling. However, members of the Cotonou Chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) have expressed worries that survivors of the dead man have not returned to collect the corpse. Amid rising bills, fears are also being expressed that the body could be abandoned; but, Mr. Okezie Jonathan, an aide to Cotonou NIDO President, Chief Emmanuel Uko Elendu; has said that unpleasant surprises await anyone contemplating such an act of irresponsibility.

Although the deceased’s remains are still lying at a local morgue, Morgue de l’Hopital de la Mere et de l’Enfant, Lagune (HOMEL) in the Tokpa Hoho neighbourhood; Mr. Tony Ezeokenwa, a brother of the late man told Travels during a telephone conversation that the body of his brother would be collected latest next week. From our chat, it came to light that the dead man, who died at age 25; was one of only two sons of his parents. Sadly, the late Ekene died childless as he was still single.

According to Mr. Tony Ezeokenwa, who identified himself as an elder brother of the deceased; the dead man was Mr. Ekene Ezeokenwa. Tony went to Cotonou and contacted Chief Elendu, President of NIDO Cotonou Chapter after reading our report of the tragedy in Daily Sun.

Tony revealed the late Ekene hailed from Ejinandu Village of Awka Etiti in Idemili South Local Government Area (LGA) of Anambra State. Tony, who said he is currently resident of Olisanuma Compound in Egbumunnam, Otolo-Nnewi; gave the names of their parents as Leonard and Cecilia.

‘We’re not taking this matter lightly’
But, more than two weeks since Tony’s visit to Cotonou; nothing had been heard from him again and efforts to reach him had proven futile as the man would not take calls to his phone, according to Mr. Jonathan. Speaking with Travels in Cotonou last Tuesday, an ostensibly upset Mr. Jonathan charged: “If they think they can dump the corpse on me, I am also determined not to bury their son because I did not kill him. Moreover, I cannot bury the man because tomorrow, somebody can wake up and decide to make a case against me.

“So, on my part, I’m not taking this issue lightly: if his people do not come and collect the body in the next one week; I will personally travel to their home-town and inform their igwe (traditional ruler) after which I will get the police to arrest his people”.

Jonathan went on to recall: “When the late man’s brother came on May 31, he had promised to return with money to collect the corpse and take it home for burial. We had calculated that, apart from money to settle mortuary bills, the family would need another N90,000 to pay for coffin and freighting of the body from Cotonou to Nigeria.

“To cut costs, we had arranged for an ambulance that will come to wait for us at Nigeria’s border. Once the ambulance that took the coffin from Cotonou gets to Seme, the coffin would be transferred into the Nigerian ambulance; and, with necessary papers already prepared by Nigerian Embassy in Cotonou as well as relevant Benin Republic authorities, we had made everything smooth for them. Unfortunately, since the man left on May 31; I have not heard from him again.

“I called Tony Ezeokenwa, when I visited Lagos two weeks ago. He came with an uncle of his to meet me at a church; where I gave them every information they required, including the cost implications. Then, there is the issue of the morgue bills; and, I had told them the exact fee could only be known, if the date for collecting the corpse was certain. I had told them to let me know the exact date that they would come to pick the body, and I would liaise with the morgue authorities for the total cost.

“But, since then; we’ve been waiting without further response from them. To ease their burden, Chief Elendu; who had spent a lot of money for the victim’s hospitalisation as well as paid the fee for depositing the body in the morgue; had waived that aspect from the bereaved bills. Chief Elendu had graciously told them he wouldn’t bother them for a refund considering their circumstances; yet, we have not seen them again. Even today, Tuesday, May 14; I have called Tony but no response, he did not take my call”.

But, when contacted, Mr. Tony Ezeokenwa told Travels during a telephone conversation Tuesday afternoon that he was in touch with an official of NIDO Cotonou president’s office. He said he had been advised to call later that day for the exact cost of the mortuary fees; and, promised that “by next week, latest, the body will be collected and brought home for burial”. As we wrote, the late man’s survivors were still pooling resources together.

Investigations carried out by the local NIDO president’s office indicate an okada rider had phoned the local emergency services after he witnessed a man, earlier walking ahead of him; suddenly slump and lay on the ground convulsing. This was on Monday, May 23; and, when emergency services personnel got to the scene, one of them had dialed the number from which a call was put to their office. The okada rider that had called Safeur Pompier was still in the crowd of onlookers gathered around the sick man; and, had stepped out to narrate what he had seen.

At the same spot, a member of the local congregation of a Celestial Church near La Roche roundabout had told Sapeur Pompier officials that the man had been seen in chains and bare-chested inside their house of worship the previous day. When contacted, church elders had confirmed the victim was on their premises Sunday till Monday, and that they had thought another member had brought the man there for spiritual healing.

They claimed that the man had kept mummuring, intermittently, uninteligible sentences in English and Igbo languages, while there. Aside his monologues, the man; they further alleged, had acted in ways that created fear. When, at the end of the evening’s service the bare-chested man was still roaming the premises; and, there was no sign that anybody was coming to take him away, he was consequently bound in chains to avoid a situation, where the perceived sick man could cause harm to other people.

Cele members further submitted that the victim had rejected a top to protect him from cold the previous night; and, that he had also turned down an offer of food from a female member that night. The following morning, seeing that nobody had come for the man and that his situation was worsening; and, fearful that they would be in trouble should the man die on their premises; church elders decided to send the fellow out of their compound.

It remains unclear how the sick man was ejected; and, questions would be asked why the Celestial Church leaders did not call in state health services since the man was ostensibly unwell. In any case, it is believed that the man slumped shortly after leaving the Celestial Church compound.

Curiously, too; instead of the rescuers taking the sick man to a health centre, they had carried him to Missebo Market in search of NIDO Cotonou office. There, after a search; they had found a French-speaking Igbo youth, who led them to the office of the NIDO president. Through immediate moral and financial support from Chief Elendu, the victim had been rushed to Centre de Sante Al-Faycal (Al-Faycal Health Centre). Sadly, he had later died, while undergoing treatment there.

Expectedly, officials of the Nigerian Embassy in Cotonou had been informed and briefed of ongoing developments. In response, the local Nigerian mission had despatched memos to Abuja; and, copies of such letters had also been sent to relevant police divisional officers, Interpol and so on.

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