Segun Owolabi: This edition of Viewpoint concerns a personality that a lot of Nigerians know so much. He was a revered Nigerian businessman. In 2012, the Forbes Magazine named him as one of the 40th richest Africans with an asset estimate worth over $5million then. He is the founder and Chairman of Monipolo.
News came that in 2018, precisely 27th December, that he had passed on. Since then, it has been one issue or the other. Since the 27th December, 2018 when we gathered that High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs passed, his burial is yet to be fixed and a lot of people are wondering. This has developed into very big issue. Ordinarily, it should have been a family affair but Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs represents so many things and symbolizes a whole lot of things. And many of these things are now in dispute with a lot of comments, particularly when it has to do with tradition, custom, processes and procedures.
The news we heard was that your father died at the ripe age of 88 on the 27th of December, 2018. Ordinarily, anyone would be excited to have a father die at that age and given his pedigree and his personality. But again, all seems not to be well and you seem to have queried the stories that are coming up. Tell us, what exactly is it that you are finding difficult to believe about your father's death? How in your thinking did your father die?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: Thank you, Segun and thank you, Rivers people and listeners all over the world. I thank God for this wonderful opportunity. I had prayed and hoped that I will never be constrained and feel compelled to come and speak publicly on this issue. But it's quite emotional because the person we are talking about here is my father. I have to thank you for the very complimentary, very kind words that you have used to describe my father this morning. Thank you so very much.
As you know, he was a great man and great philanthropist who lived his life for others. So, at his passing we all should be very happy. He died at 88 and we all looked forward to give him a very befitting rest but unfortunately, that is not the situation.
Segun, you asked a very pertinent question that if a man died at 88 and of course we know he has been through some procedures and wasn't completely well but God took him up to the ripe age of 88. However, in law, you will presume that, all things being equal, death at that age would be a natural death. But we also know that if there are any Novus actus intevenes, i.e. in event of any intervening events, then ofcourse those can be brought to bear on the issue. But in this particular situation, what were the intervening events?
We were told much later, not by family sources, not by those who were supposed to be on the flight with him on the 27th of December, 2018 when they claimed that they were going on holiday to Ghana. But by other sources that, months into his death that they were in a chartered aircraft at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa for more than five hours. The aircraft doors were shut, my father, his wife and some other persons were already on board the flight. The engines were steaming, yet the flight was on ground and not taking off to anywhere. And ofcourse, I saw my father on the 26th of December, 2018 in Abonnema where we had a Thanksgiving Service. He wasn't looking too well and there was no indication that there was any intending travel. And so in that situation you will not expect that there will be any holidays taking him by flight to Ghana on the 27th December, 2018.
But they were in that plane for more than 5 hours before they finally took off to Accra. And what was the excuse? That the aircraft didn't have a landing permit to arrive in Accra. Segun, this was a chartered plane and the whole purpose from what we were told, was to take passengers to Accra on holiday.
Now, the aircraft leaves Malta, a chartered aircraft, Visat Jet Services, one of the most reputable chartered services company. It leaves its destination and coming to Port Harcourt for the sole purpose of picking passengers to Accra but failed to obtain permit to land in Accra. Therefore, for more than 5 hours we were told, they were in the aircraft making calls to Accra trying to get a landing permit by which time all the passengers were already on board the flight. And then we also know that my father had a tracheotomy operation done and had a tracheotomy tube inserted in his throat. Such that even in the comfort of his home he would need suctioning from time to time so that he would be able to clear his lungs to ease his breathing.
So in the artificial setting of an aircraft, for more than even one hour would be very concerning. But in this situation, they were there for more than 5 hours. So that is one situation.
The second one is that one of the passengers on that flight gave a statement to the Police that they took my father into the plane. That by the time they arrived Accra, they could barely carry him out of the aircraft because he was already more than twice his weight.
We also have report from the same Medical Director at the Airport Clinic in Accra that my father was brought in dead. That all his vitals were not recordable - no pulse, no respiration and no blood pressure and his oxygen level were zero and that there was some degree of stiffness. Now we know that stiffness would occur more than 3 hours after death. That would mean that rigor mortis has set and the flying time from Port Harcourt to Accra is about an hour. Therefore it was very concerning that adding all of these intervening events, that one should ask some questions.
And, ofcourse we tried to ask these questions at the family level: Can we see medical death certificate? Can we see mortuary papers? Can we be told what happened?
Some persons felt affronted that as son and sons of our father, we had no right to ask any questions. And of course, at that point we had no choice.
After some persons, chiefs and the clergy had intervened and at some point in time down the line, the Governor had also intervened, we had no choice than to do a petition to the police to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of our father. We hadn't accused anybody of wrong doing. We had only invited the police to investigate those circumstances and that is where we are right now.
Segun Owolabi: If I may come in. You said a lot of things there. I believe a lot of people listening to us are wondering that on that particular aircraft, there were a lot of people on board the aircraft – we gathered that Apostle Zilly Aggrey was on that aircraft and I don't know how correct that is, but that is the story we have in the public domain including some domestic staff to your late father. Have you spoken to any of these people to give an account of what actually happened and why the flight was delayed, according to you, in Port Harcourt?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: Well, some of them have not been allowed to speak with us. But I have with Apostle Zilly Aggrey and he had tried to explain the issues and to me, I can understand his position. His major was to say the family has tried to reconcile but what he said to me instructively was that he noticed at the point they arrived Accra, that my father's head was completely bent over to one side.
Segun Owolabi: That's what Apostle Zilly Aggrey said to you?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: Yes, that's what he said to me and that was very concerning. The earlier stories that we were told was that when they arrived Accra, my father asked them for the time and they told him the time; and of course, at that point they brought him out of the aircraft and the Captain of the aircraft came down, shook hands with everybody including my father; bade everybody goodbye and then got back into the plane and then took off.
Now, all of that story has changed. The story now is that as they arrived Accra, they realized that my father was completely motionless. So, even this lends credence to the fact that a few things had happened and we expect Nigerians to speak out.
Segun Owolabi: I'm just going to do a follow up on this because there is a statement by one Ilaye Philemon who is also supposed to be on that aircraft. Could you tell us what was Ilaye's comment?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: Ilaye was a personal staff of my stepmother, my father's wife. He was our security aide, very heavily built, so you will probably say he was her body guard or something of sort. He was on that flight and he gave statement to the police that as they arrived Accra, while they were on the plane for more than 5 hours, there were no medical attention and no doctor on the flight. Only a nurse but the nurse sat far away from him and never attended to him.
He also gave further statement that as they arrived Accra, it was his responsibility to try and carry my father out of the aircraft because of costs. He was heavily built and would be able to assist. But my father was more than twice his weight and they couldn't carry him out. That in the process of trying to carry my father out, that his jacket and trouser tore because my father was so very heavy and they couldn't carry him out. This was the same person that took him on board the aircraft. So, these were very concerning statements. This was somebody who was on that flight and who was a personal bodyguard of my stepmother. And that was his position.
Segun Owolabi: But let us look at it from the medical point of view. What is in the public domain is that the autopsy has been conducted and results show that your father died of natural causes. Why are you not accepting the results of the autopsy?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: Well I wish that it were as simple as that, that an autopsy had been conducted. But first of all we should note that autopsies in this sort of criminal investigation are conducted by the police. The police would make an appeal to the Coroner for an order to conduct an autopsy which was what was done.
The Nigerian police in trying to investigate this matter got Interpol involved and then approached the Ghanaian authorities to investigate some aspect of the death that occurred in Ghana. On arriving Accra, the Nigeria police were shocked and so were all of us, to be informed by the Ghanaian police that there are no records of our father entering Ghana whether dead or alive. So this is even more concerning because it would also mean that the security infrastructure of Ghana had been breached and how they were able to take my father into the mortuary in Accra without any records of his death at the airport which they claimed with the Ghanaian police or the Ghanaian airport authorities or immigration. There was no stamp anywhere to indicate that such a person arrived Accra on that day and got into Accra. However, my father is in the mortuary. Now an autopsy was conducted on the orders of a Coroner in Accra and we had issues on how the autopsy was conducted. Regardless of that, we are prepared to accept the autopsy report and the Coroner was shocked that since July when he gave the order for the autopsy up to September when he gave a further order that the autopsy report to be brought to him by the police; that he had not received any report of that autopsy and was very concerned. That in the additional information before him, the Coroner ruled that he now had reasonable cause to believe that the deceased didn't die a natural death and that let an inquest begin.
Curiously, my father's wife brought a certiorari application before a High Court in Ghana which is a superior court to the Coroner's Court asking the court to quash the order of the Coroner by calling for an inquest and also asking for the release of the autopsy report.
So it is curious and I will read to you the order of the Coroner. It said: “It is hereby ordered that an inquest should be conducted on the death of the deceased, Chief Olu Benson Lulu-Briggs. Because I ordered for an autopsy to be undertaken on the deceased following an application for a postmortem by the Ghana Police Service CID headquarters. The report is yet to be submitted since July, 2019. With this additional information to the one that forms the basis of the police application, I have reasonable cause to believe that the deceased did not die a natural death and I therefore deem an inquest necessary and accordingly order for one to be done. The Ghanaian Police Service (CID) is ordered to make available to this court all processes and documents in their custody including the autopsy report”. This was signed by the Coroner and the order was given on September 6, 2019.
Segun Owolabi: This means that the Coroner also doubts that your father died of natural cause?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: In fact the Coroner said he has reasonable cause to believe that the death was not natural and therefore an inquest should begin. And he had ordered the police to bring before his court the autopsy report because he gave the order for the autopsy to be done since July and this was September 6. He was surprised that there was not even a preliminary report. However the news media everywhere was agog immediately after the autopsy was done.
A statement from my father's wife that she had been vindicated by the autopsy and you can see that even the Coroner is saying that there is no report of that autopsy and that the report should be brought. Curiously, you will expect that everybody who was on that flight were all family members would be concerned, everybody would be alarmed if the Coroner had reached the conclusion or had come to say that well he had reasonable cause to believe that the deceased didn't die a natural death, that the inquest should begin. An inquest is not a criminal trial, so we all can at least be abreast of the fact of what happened.
Curiously, it was my stepmother that went to a higher court with the certiorari application to quash the order of the coroner; that the Coroner lacks the geographical jurisdiction to have even made the order in the first instance. Her position was that the Coroner's Court was not the court that was most proximate to the Ghana Airport and therefore this Coroner ought not to have heart the matter in the first instance.
Now, we should note that this was the same Coroner that gave the order for the autopsy not to be carried out. Now, you are saying that the Coroner lacks jurisdiction and lacks the authority to have even ordered for an autopsy. So you have brought that application before a High Court in Ghana. That matter is still pending. The application has not been moved. It's been adjourned several times and that's where we are with regards to that. We have to approach another High Court to compel the pathologist to come and file his report before that court.
And we had said 'no'. Let the autopsy report be taken before the Coroner who ordered for it. Therefore if we have any issues concerning how the autopsy was conducted or even the report, then the whole world would have an opportunity to put the pathologist on the stand and ask him a few questions. Now, if you go to your High Court and even order for the autopsy to be done, that the autopsy report be filed in that court. You deny all the parties the opportunity to examine that expert evidence whatever it may contain. So up to this day we have not even seen any autopsy report which is noteworthy. But that if my stepmother was concerned about an autopsy report and felt would have vindicated her, then of course she would have taken advantage of the order of the Coroner compelling the police to bring the report, assuming they had a report to bring before the Coroner. She was the same person that went to court to say that the Coroner lacks the jurisdiction to have even given the order in the first instance.
Segun Owolabi: This is a lit bit of news to us because we don't even know that your stepmother had gone to court to stop the decision of the inquest by the Coroner. Because what we know and what is in the public domain is that you deliberately delayed the burial of your father so that you can use his mortal body as a bargaining chip over his assets. That everything has been done, autopsy report is ready and date has been fixed but you deliberately delayed this so that you are using his mortal remains as a bargaining chip. Could you clarify this to us again?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: Segun, what I shared with my father is not what I can even explain. I had so much love for my father and I love him to this day. I loved him until he was taken away. Therefore, for a son, the biggest honour I could give to my father would have been to give him a very befitting burial and in good time. However, I don't even have access to his mortal remains. My father's body is in a morgue in Ghana.
There are court actions that my stepmother had brought before the Ghanaian High Court asking the court to restrain the transition funeral home where the body is kept from giving the body to me or anybody else in the world other than her; and to also restrain us from having access to the mortal remains of our father. That matter was ruled upon by the High Court on December 23rd, 2019. So, how do you bury your father when you don't even have his mortal remains? When there is a legal effort to prevent you from even having access to his mortal remains.
In December, the court ruled that I am the head of the O.B. Lulu-Briggs family and that the body be released to the family.
Segun Owolabi: I want to come to that because I am aware of that court case and the ruling. In fact, in the face of that ruling, you fixed a date; I think the date was 25th of January, 2020 that your father would be buried. But again that seems not to be going well as well?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: Well, unfortunately, all the statements that have been made in the public domain that my stepmother was interested in giving her husband a befitting burial. That whatever issues that she felt we had, having been ruled upon by a court of competent jurisdiction, on a matter that she brought before the court (because she is the plaintiff in that matter) that the body be released to us and that also we give an undertaking that she not be subjected to any barbaric or inhuman customary practices of the Kalabari people. And I find that very befalling because we do not have any such barbaric practices by Kalabari people. We are a decent people, very very exposed; had interactions with the Europeans at very early age. So there are no such barbaric or inhuman practices.
However, the judge had ruled that the body be released to the family and also that for her comfort, in conveying the body to Nigeria, she should be allowed to send representatives because the judge understands that the customary laws exclude a widow from having custody of the mortal remains of her husband and therefore, to give her some comfort, that she should be allowed to send two representatives while the body will be conveyed.
Right from the following morning on the 24th of December, 2019, less than 24 hours after the ruling was given by the judge, my stepmother filed an appeal before the Court of Appeal in Ghana and also filed a Stay of Execution on the orders of the court that the body should not be given to me; and instructively on the Notice of Appeal, she claimed that the judge erred in law by determining the matter purely on affidavit evidence, and that this was a matter that ought to have had witnesses called; so the judge erred in law and therefore, the Ghana Court of Appeal should send the matter back to the High Court; not to this same judge since he had given the ruling against her, she presumed that he had been biased. That had been the accusation given opinion from her.
So, the matter should be sent back for trial in the High Court. And now you know what that would mean? Should that appeal succeed at the Court of Appeal, it would mean that the matter would go back to the High Court. The Chief Justice would then take his time and reassign the matter to a new judge and that judge would probably take another six, seven or eight months calling witnesses from Nigeria to come and appear before the court and give evidence just to determine between us, his children and between I, the head of the house. An affidavit had been deposed to even by my older brother. The fact that my father made me Chief by himself in 2011 that I am now the head of the house and therefore he accepts that the body be released to the family members led by me.
So, you are now saying that you want this matter tried in the High Court and that for the High Court to take evidence; call witnesses so that that matter could take another six to eight months and at the end of that period to determine whether between the wife and us the sons who should have the mortal remains. So, how are you interested in giving your husband a befitting burial? The story is you want him buried almost immediately. How are you interested in that if you want this matter to set in trial? So, you are not asking the Court of Appeal to give you the body? You are asking the Court of Appeal to send the matter back to the High Court for trial; and I think it is important to note that in their applications, she had made it clear before the court in her affidavit that she would release the body only on the day of the burial. So, she will pick a date; if it is 30th of December, January or whatever date it is; she picks that date. On that date of the burial is when she will release the body. That the body will be airlifted on the day of the burial from the mortuary in Accra and be brought to Abonnema and lowered. What impudence, what indignity. How would you subject a man to that sort of degrading treatment if you had any emotional attachment to him?
How would you say that a man who was a paramount head of the Briggs Oruwari War Canoe House of Abonnema; that there should be no ceremonies and that you will airlift his mortal remains on the day of his burial and come and lower him like he was a nobody. And you expect me, his son to accept that kind of situation. What's her worry? We've heard variously that Dumo wants to conduct a second autopsy. But of course, Dumo is not the police. I am not the party investigating this matter. If the Nigeria police. It the Nigerian police insist on an autopsy, then of course they would do an autopsy. I can't stop that because it is a matter that is before the police and they are investigating the matter.
Segun Owolabi: There are a lot of points I would want you to clarify. There have been several interventions. Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo had intervened. At a time, former President Goodluck Jonathan had intervened. I am also aware that we have Pastor David Ibiyeomie also intervening. But all of these seem not to have brought an end to the matter. Now, there are those silent people who are weeping bitterly because High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs has touched their lives and one thing they would wish is a last respect for him and he is being denied all of these. You said a lot of things but one thing I know which is in their public domain is that your stepmother said you and some Kalabari chiefs are planning to deny her rights as a woman, wife and mother. Also you made mention of that and also you are alleged to want to put her through some form of Kalabari fetish rituals. Perhaps that could explain the reasons she said, just fix a date and we would bring the mortal remains and we would lower. What do you have to say on that?
Dumu Lulu-Briggs: Well you know I think it's very funny and it's very sad that the Kalabari people would be cast in this manner by a Kalabari woman and Kalabari wife. You know she was married under Kalabari native law and custom. In Kalabari, the highest form of marriage is the Iya marriage and our father married her accordingly. Therefore, this was somebody that knows the custom and knows completely that there are no such barbaric or inhuman Kalabari customary practices. In my 55 years on this earth, I have not experienced or witnessed or know of one such incident. If there were any such practices, may be they were practices before I was born. And we made it very clear, even in the intervening situations that the judge found himself, because he tried to mediate in this matter, she had asked to see a detailed funeral plans by us. And of course we send a detailed funeral plan stating clearly her own roles and we also made it clear that she would be involved in all the processes all the way. That there would be a family meeting where we would sit down and agree even the guests. That the kitchen would be handled by her.
We would sit down and write the biography of our father together with her. All of these things, we have agreed with her. And we also know that by Kalabari custom, that on the day of the burial, that the wife is escorted by her family members and friends to the place where the mortal remains would be laid in state and she would sit by his bedside and be speaking to her late husband and appealing to God to receive his soul and to rest him in peace and singing his praises of all the good times they spent together.
We made it clear that all of those roles, we would have her perform because those are her customary laws and of course it is also clear that if any of us try to prevent her from performing those roles, then we have not also given our father the dignity that he deserves. So, there is no attempt by anybody and she knows that so very clearly that there is no attempt by anybody. Her concern is that she says that I want to jail her. I am not the authority. I have no powers to jail anybody. However much I dislike your face. However much I hate you, but there is no person that I do hate, I have no right to jail that person. What is clear here is that the police is the party doing an investigation and she says she doesn't want any further scrutiny of the body and therefore, would bring in the body on the day of the burial to avoid any further scrutiny.
Now, whether or not there would be any further scrutiny, it is up to the police. If I want an autopsy as a son, then of course, whatever is done is purely for my own comfort. It is not admissible in law, so I can't conduct an autopsy. If the police insist on doing an autopsy and call other investigations, an autopsy is necessary. Even first, second and third autopsy is necessary. That is the decision of the police. So, it is not mine. Therefore, there is nothing that we had planned to do yesterday, today and even tomorrow that we shall plan to do to prevent her from playing her roles as a mother and wife. There is no such thing. There has never been a time. Rather, we are the parties that have been affronted here. I have no access to my father's home. The whole place is shut against all of us – I, my older brother and my younger brother. We have no access because according to my stepmother, that we intend to kill her therefore she avoids the place.
Segun Owolabi: Before we entertain calls from our listeners, we would want Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs to explain some of the things so that we would have a thorough understanding. You said you don't have access to your homes; you don't have access to your father's rooms. I am just trying to explain this and based on what I have read, perhaps the reason for that is in some publications made by your stepmother, she said you have been estranged from your father and that some time ago; your father had given you your own share of inheritance which is to the tune of about $18million. Explain that to us. Were you estranged from your father and were there a situation that led to your father saying 'Ok, you and your brothers, this is your share of his inheritance?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: Part of why I have to come to do this was to put to rest some of these very injurious lies that have been told; malicious lies that have been told about myself and the family. I am not happy speaking about these issues but of course I am compelled to speak about them. Now, is it not curious that these same things were filed in court in Ghana, that we have been estranged from our father. And when I went to court in Ghana, I went with three albums and some videos to show activities that we had with our father. They say we had been estranged from our father from 2003, 2004 and only emerged at the point of his death.
Now, everybody who knows me in this state, knows me with my father and that in all events with my father, you will find me there. I brought albums to show myself and my father at his hospital bed at the Wellington Hospital in London. There are pictures to show my father and me in his bedroom here in Port Harcourt. Pictures of my father and me, even with my stepmom on several occasions. Pictures of myself, my father and even the King of Ashanti when he came to Abonnema. Now, my father, if we were estranged, made me Chief on October 8, 2011 as the Paramount Head of the Briggs Oruwari War Canoe House. The first official function that he performed was to install I, his second son the Chief of the house.
So, how do you explain that these persons have been estranged from their father who made me Chief? We were also together on the 26th of December, 2018. Instructively, it was even my stepmother that called me on the phone on the 26th of December, 2018 that a Thanksgiving Service was being held in Abonnema and she thought that I would be there. I said, Oh well, given the campaigns and all that for Governorship at the time, that it had escaped me but that I would come. I had to rush to Abonnema to be part of the Thanksgiving Service on the 26th of December, 2018.
That was a day before my father was put on that ill-fated flight to Accra. So, I don't know how anybody would say that I, Dumo Lulu-Briggs was at any point in time estranged from my father. These are lies from the pit of hell.
Segun Owolabi: Let me quote what your stepmother said in one of the publications – 'In fact, Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs considered the settlement he made to them, the payment of their inheritance. I am my husband's next of kin, and I would not allow anyone to disrespect the wishes he had in his Will which will be read at God's appointed time'. She is saying that your father considered that settlement he made to you in 2004 as your settlement. Was there any settlement?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: Well, I would wish that they bring evidence and show to the public about the settlement. There had never been a payment of any sort other than the usual father and son relationship and you know that O.B. Lulu-Briggs was father to everybody.
There has not been any payment from High Chief (Dr) O.B. Lulu-Briggs to Dumo O.B. Lulu-Briggs or to my older brother or to my younger brother or to whosoever as settlement for anything. If we had anything at all, it was father and son and no more than that. Segun, how do you settle your son? For instance, I bought my son a car and perhaps I would say at some point that because I gave him a car, that I have settled him. And the issues here had nothing to do with settlement or whatever.
The issue here is about the burial of our father. Nobody is talking about any settlement. And so if you say that her husband considered it that well, having a relationship with his children, that whatever he did with them was settlement, we must also know that this was a man who loved everybody and lived for everybody. Almost every day of his life, he gave gifts and monies to his wife. So, perhaps, are we saying he has settled everybody including his wife because that was his nature? And there is no evidence that there was any settlement at any point in time where Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs had to give us any monies for whatsoever purpose. These are all the things that no sane person, knowing the facts would say this. And, of course, this is coming from my own stepmother.
Let me read to you, a text message that my stepmother, on January 10, 2019 sent to the Secretary of the Ine Agboyema House, my father's house (Oruwari House), because we had convened a meeting of the Ine Agboyema family and then he convened the meeting in my name and my older brother.
And I read: “We have a legacy and it shall be protected in the name of Jesus Christ. It pleased God in His own wisdom to make Dumo a Chief in our house. His position cannot be shared or be reduced. There are elders in the house and we should speak up. I stand by the truth just like my beloved husband whether it is palatable to me or not, I have a responsibility and by God's grace, even as I mourn my beloved, I shall carry it out as the Lord God directs. My point is this, where there is a chief in a family meeting, according to Kalabari custom and tradition, he presides irrespective of his age. Please I request that you resend the notice of meeting with Chief Dumo as the convener. Whether he turns up for the meeting or not, is not relevant. Please I await your recall of the last notice and the proper one sent. Thank you. God keep us. Seinye.
Segun Owolabi: This is very funny because in another publication, your stepmother said, and I quote: “It is now clear to me that the animosity I am facing at the hands of Dumo and his siblings is related to attempts to take control of Moni Pulo from their father, charging him to court in Abuja, Lagos and London in early 2000 though I was not a party to the proceeding, I bore the brunt of a lot of their accusation against their father”.
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: You know, it's so very funny. I was instrumental…
Segun Owolabi: Were there court cases in Lagos, Abuja, Houston and London relating to attempts to taking over of Muno Pulo?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: There were court cases. No case in Houston. There were court cases in Abuja that were brought by my brothers. I was the Managing Director of Muno Polo so I was a party to those cases. But of course, I gave evidence and swore some affidavit in that matter. Now, what we should know is that in 2002, I had on the instructions of my father, gone to Olu Obasanjo Police Station where my stepmother was being detained. She wasn't a part of the family at the time. She had been detained for more than 24 hours because of allegations that had to do with some funds that had been embezzled by the W.W. White Family and she had been kept there for more than 24 hours already.
So, I went and bailed her because she was my friend and subsequently my father's wife. Now, in 2003 and 2004, less than a year after she became part of the family, a lot of events became orchestrated and the family that had so much peace didn't know any peace any more.
We were forewarned that W.W. White children at the time that if you know what this woman did to us, you would allow us to keep her here. Now, all of these issues were orchestrated by the involvement of our stepmother and my brothers couldn't take it anymore and they went to court because they realized that at the heart of all these, she was not somebody who had come to marry but somebody who had come to acquire. And they felt very concerned and said we were going to bring some actions to ensure there was no further hand remotely controlling the affairs of the main family business which I was running.
But, of course the issues got to a head and we said 'Ok, let's be father and sons and today we see what has become of that. None of us has declared any interest in the assets of my father. How do we even talk about the assets of our father when his mortal remains are still in Accra, when he has not even been buried? When his wife has not even allowed us to have custody of his mortal remains.
Now, if I needed to access my father's property, I can only have access to his estate perhaps after he's been buried. So, it should be my interest to want to bury my father. Somebody who has not buried her husband and his remains are in her custody some place in Accra has gone to read a purported Will claiming that everything had been given to her. So the only person who is interested in asset as a matter of fact is the party that are interested in reading a Will of her husband even when his remains is still in a morgue in Accra.
We have not asked for any Will to be read. We have not asked for any sharing of anything. We have just said, can we have the mortal remains of our father so we can give him a befitting burial. To muddle up stories and give people the impression that this was a fight over assets, this sustained barrage of attacks, of lies and innuendoes have filled the public space, just to get the public confused from what the issues are.
As you can see, even from the ruling of the High Court which happened only on the 23rd of December, 2019, it was to decide who should have the mortal remains because we had asked that the body be given to us so we can give him a befitting burial. So, that's the only issue. Whatever issues we may have as a family can be taken care of after we have given him a befitting burial. This is somebody who says 'I want to give my husband a quick burial and at the same time, you are stopping the release of his mortal remains to his family. It has never happened. I say this very sad. As a son and as a Kalabari man, that my father unfortunately would have made history as the first Kalabari man whose mortal remains have been kept in the custody of his wife, not for one day but for more than one year and of course, in far away Ghana. How much more dishonor, how much more desecration of the mortal remains of my father?
So, part of why I am here is not just to set the records strait but to appeal to Rivers people to call on my stepmother to do the needful and release his body so we can give him a befitting burial. Let us stop this lying and confusing the public. The issue at hand now is that the mortal remains of High Chief (Dr) O.B. Lulu-Briggs, OON, is still kept somewhere in a morgue in Accra and we have no access to it. There is an injunction that was given to restrain us from even access to the mortal remains and let alone having custody of the mortal remains.
When that matter was decided by the courts, we would have thought that would have been the end of the matter but of course, an appeal had been filed by Mrs. Lulu-Briggs at the Court of Appeal and that matter would come up on the 24th of January, 2020 in Accra. How that would play out, we do not know.
COMMENTS FROM SOCIAL MEDIA:
Kiari Teddy: “Dumo Lulu-Briggs, your God is not asleep. He will show himself at the right time. I pray peace find its way in your family”.
Amin Akani: “No matter what, I know the Kalabari have a stake tradition that forbids woman from taking away the mortal remains of her husband from her children or stepchildren. This is a taboo”.
Oraye St. Franklin: “Thanks for confirming that you plan to have another autopsy in Nigeria”.
Segun Owolabi: Did you actually have that plan (to have another autopsy in Nigeria)?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: Well, he says thanks for confirming. I am glad that all of us are here and I do not know, perhaps, you remind me if I said that I plan to have another autopsy done.
This is the same Oraye who was recruited by my stepmother who said first he was coming to help rebrand the La Sien brand. And all he has done from the very first day that he took over that assignment was to vilify me in the public space, to malign my character and you can see here he says 'thanks for confirming that you intend to have a second autopsy'. But if I intend to have a second autopsy, don't I have a right as a son to want to know how my father died? So why should it be a problem for Oraye or his principal that an autopsy would be conducted?
So, you can see that all they are concerned about is that an autopsy should not be done, there should be no scrutiny. And of course, there is so much evidence to suggest that there is a need for the public to know. The Coroner himself has said that he has reasonable cause to believe that the deceased didn't die a natural death. So, as his wife and widow now, would she not be interested in knowing how her husband died? It is not an accusation. By saying that he did not die a natural death, we are not saying you have a hand in his death. It's just to say that there are issues there we need to clear at the public space. And then you bring etcetera application to try to stop that.
Saturday Udoh: “God bless you and the soul of your father for having an intelligent son like you”.
Achor Amadi: “I never met High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs while he was alive but his good deeds announced him in everywhere you turn. We miss him, great father, grandfather, brother, uncle and benefactor. You were a true Riversman of the Kalabari extraction. The Kalabari like many other tribes in Rivers State is so rich in culture and tradition and even when other tribes are fast losing the valuable parts of their heritage, the Kalabaris are holding tenaciously to theirs. When a man dies, his wife who was with him at the time of his death is asked to explain to the family how he died. Its culture and tradition to do that. It is a traditional fulfillment before the deceased is buried. So, family inquest after a man dies is an old existing tradition in Rivers State. The son and extended family are not asking too much. The late man's wife should work things out with Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs and the other children, to give the great man a befitting burial.
Rogers Ogan: “I pray you guys settle this issue and organize a burial for a man of peace. High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs, rest in peace”.
Goodluck Piagbara: “With all respect, we have heard that an autopsy test that have been conducted on your late dad in Ghana. It appears you need another autopsy test carried out on your dad. Why do you need another one done and why are you not satisfied with the one already done?”
JAJ: “I feel like weeping but I must say Dumo Lulu-Briggs is the peace maker of the year because if this thing that you explain had happened in some other areas, I don't know… But why is it that she is afraid of autopsy to be carried out by the police in Nigeria? Why is it that a plane that took off from Qatar could not get clearance and have to wait for five hours? What was the pastor you mentioned doing in a family vacation? How come, a man you saw the previous day and he was not too fine suddenly now want to go on family vacation? I just can't add everything together. Lastly, how come the Ghana authorities have not arrested her for smuggling a plane, herself and a stiff body into Ghana? It means anybody can smuggle anything into Ghana especially when you have Boko Haram raging in some parts of Nigeria. How come you have not put up a petition to Ghanaian authorities to investigate that aspect of their own security breach?
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: I have spoken on this issue several times and it's very emotional. The person we are talking about here is my father but unfortunately, this is where we are. We had complained to the Ghanaian authority that what they should be doing is to investigate the breach of the Ghanaian security infrastructure. If the Ghanaian police would say there is no record of the entry of my father dead or alive, and of course the body is at the Transition Funeral Home. I do not even think that the judicial system in Accra should even have allowed somebody to discuss the issues of custody of that body, where the body got into Ghana illegally.
So, it's clear that my father's body was smuggled into Accra. It's clear from all the available evidence that he was not alive. Even the medical report said he was brought in dead. The application that the police made to the Coroner was that there was a report of an incidence where a Nigerian was brought in dead on arrival at the airport clinic in Accra. By the time they got there, the doctor confirmed that there was some degree of stiffness. It's clear that a lot of things had happened.
Like I said earlier on, I am not the police. I am not the party that would conduct the autopsy. If I do an autopsy as a son, it would be for my personal comfort. Perhaps because I want to know what has happened to my dad. You cannot ask the son to stop the police from doing an autopsy if they so desire to do an autopsy.
The question why Dumo would want a second autopsy, if the Nigerian police wants to do an autopsy even if one has been done in Ghana, it is the prerogative of the Nigerian police. It was instructive that the IG of Police had asked the head of the pathology department and AIG of Police to be there as his eye when the autopsy would be done. The authority in Accra said that they are a sovereign nation and not under Nigerian authority. So you see that these are all very concerning issues. So, if the IG has a petition before him, to investigate the matter and the IG sends a rep in the person of an Inspector General of Police to be part of the process in Ghana and report to me what you saw, and the police in Ghana chased the man out of the theatre, if the police in Nigeria said they want to do their own autopsy, why would anybody want to stop them. But if I were the person here, I would want an autopsy done.
Even if you do an autopsy ten times, the story would not change. The same thing that you find yesterday is the same thing you will find today. So, all of these things about trying to moralize are quite befuddling. Autopsy is done in just about less than two hours. But this is a man you cannot explain how he got to Accra in the first instance. You can't explain how he got to the mortuary in Accra and that you have refused to release the mortal remains to the family. Now, how sacrilegious and how so injurious to the memories of your husband that you would do such a thing and then send out in the air all kinds of stories against the children of the same man and claim love for him.
Goodnews: “My interest in this issue is because somehow, affected us at UNIPORT. He built a medical center in Uniport that has impacted on all the students. The very man I am desiring to participate in his burial in my little capacity is the same man I am hearing how they are treating his corpse without respect. Initially, I was not happy to hear Chief talking this on the radio. I was planning to mobilize boys to go to Kalabari but having heard him closely now, it is very touchy that a man who has touched lives including my own, I feel very bad.
Chris Fynebone: “Late High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs was our hero as early as NPN days when he was our Vice Chairman, South. I pray that the immediate family overcome the pain for the remains of our departed father to be given a befitting burial which he very well deserves”.
Olowin Godwin: “Without meaning to cast aspersions, it is obvious that your stepmother is serving some interests. I wish to commend all those who have tried to intervene on the issue. Continue to be focused and accommodative”.
Dr. Gbarango Tariah: “To some extent, this whole thing is seriously embarrassing. But I think these are entirely family issues that are not supposed to be discussed in the public. The request by Dumo to have the mortal remains of his father for a befitting burial is in right order. As a Kalabari man it is a taboo for a woman to hold back the remains of her husband. The corpse belongs to everyone in the family. I think Dumo has established his facts and I commend him for that”.
Dumo Lulu-Briggs: (last words). I want to thank listeners for all the prayers. I am very particularly touched today that everyone who had called on sent text messages had spoken glowingly of my father and his contributions to humanity. That is quite consoling in the face of all the things we have been through as a family. I am glad that people revered my dad and spoke well of him. I urge them not to relent to continue in their own private ways howsoever possible to prevail on our stepmother. We have never said at any point that she was not his wife. It has nothing to do with her rights to his estate. Nobody is talking about his estates. As a matter of fact, the entire estate is at her custody and nobody is having that fight. All that we are saying is release his mortal remains so that we can give him the honour and respect that he deserves.
I don't think that as a son, even if that I was not the head of the family, I don't think I will be asking for too much if I request that his mortal remains be released which is the Kalabari custom, for us to give him a befitting burial.
I didn't want to say this but I will say it now. Unfortunately, my father's father died in faraway Emekuku in 1940s. We didn't have access to his mortal remains and he was buried at the cemetery in Emekuku. My father felt the need to search for the place where his father was buried and they took us to a mortuary by a Catholic Church in Emekuku where my father took some sand and put in a casket and brought his father's remain home and buried eventually in 2008.
Now, this is my father who so much revered his own dad and would go to that length long after his own dad had died at a time when there were difficulties in transportation to ensure there was a wonderful home coming. Now such a person should be kept in a mortuary. That even the story that his mortal remains was smuggled into Ghana is far enough for me as a son. Why would he be subjected to such indignity?