For Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, all the talk about disinheriting his late father's wife and her children are utter balderdash and the hullabaloo over his father's estate should at best take a secondary seat.
What is uppermost in his mind is to quickly establish the true cause of his father's death and give him a befitting burial. These are the least he should do as a worthy son of his father.
Dumo Lulu-Briggs says that any attempt to deny his stepmother, Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs from performing her traditional role during the burial, would demean his father's burial ceremony.
“I know that it would not be right to deny Seinye her role as a wife. It would even demean my father's burial to deny Seinye her role. She needs to come in her splendor as a woman of means.
On the struggle for control over his father's estate, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs says:
“I am a lawyer and if I were concerned about acquiring property, I would have done something regarding Moni Pulo, so that nobody gets revenue from the company, but I haven't done any such thing.
“Seinye is still running Moni Pulo. Our father was the Executive Chairman of the company and he is no more and we have not taken any action.
“We have to separate the issues. What is important to me now is that I give my father a befitting burial. Those who are concerned about property are the ones running up and down. The way they are going about trying to seize his property is why many people think that our father's corpse was taken from Port Harcourt to Accra, so that the death certificate and other papers would be issued to the person who brought the body to Accra and they can use the papers to access banks and other things.
“If our father died in Nigeria and he was not taken out to Accra, all of those papers would be with us. It is the reason his body was taken to Accra to have access to his property. But this is a different matter entirely. Let's come together to clear the doubts about how he died and quickly give him the most befitting burial.
“I became wary when I heard that my father was kept in the plane for more than five hours on the ground and that there were possibilities that he may have died in Port Harcourt before he was flown to Accra".
Suspicion became rife that the widow may have smuggled the dead body from Port Harcourt to Accra, knowing that Kalabari-Ijaw custom forbids her from obtaining her husband's death certificate and depositing him in the mortuary.
“I petitioned, with the consent of my brothers, the IGP in Nigeria to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of our father.
“Contrary to Seinye's initial statements that when they arrived Accra, my father asked them what the time was and they told him, after which they all came out of the chartered aircraft, the captain even came down, shook hands with everyone including my father and bade them goodbye, but now in an action which she instituted in the High Court in Ghana, asking the court to give her custody of the mortal remains of our late father and not anybody else, she stated that when they arrived Accra on board the chartered aircraft they realised that the deceased, our father, High (Chief) Dr. O. B. Lulu-Briggs was still and completely motionless.
“She claims the aircraft didn't have a landing permit to land in Accra that was why they were in the plane for more than five hours on ground in Port Harcourt. So, what was Vista Charter Services doing, boarding passengers into the aircraft and keeping them locked in for more than five hours, if they didn't have landing permit?
“We had since found out that there was indeed a landing permit issued with estimated time of arrival put at 1 pm. But the plane remained on ground at the Port Harcourt International Airport until about 5 pm full loaded. What were they doing? What was the matter?".
*“How do I bury my father when I don't have the body?” - Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs*
Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs dismisses his stepmother's story that he (Dumo) is responsible for delaying their father's burial. He says it is a case of somebody telling her own stories, knowing that they are lies, yet chooses to believe those lies.
“How can I be responsible for the delay? How do I bury my father when I don't have the body? If I decide now to bury my father and Seinye still has an action in court in Ghana, how do I do it?
“The point right now is that she is holding the corpse hostage. Why does Seinye want to take the corpse?
“Even if we allow her to take the corpse, she can't bury because our tradition won't allow her. That is why she is saying that she has taking two previous dates for burial but Dumo refused. It means that she can't bury him without the chiefs, so why is she holding the corpse? By Kalabari tradition, she is not to see the corpse until the day of burial”.
However, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs says that there was no time the family decided a date for burial, saying that Seinye decided on her own took a date for burial and sent out invitation to everybody and people asked how can she as the wife, by herself alone, take dates for burial and send invitations out.
“The Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House intervened and told her that she didn't have the right to do that because there are people in the family who ought to come together in a meeting to decide on the date for burial.
“As a matter of fact, by our Kalabari-Ijaw native law and custom, at the passing of her husband, she takes a back seat and allows the family to plan funeral who would engage her in everything because she was not supposed to be seen in public until the burial day.
“But our stepmother, Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs, has even organized a funeral service for our late dad in Accra and organized a posthumous birthday for him in Port Harcourt. She is seen everywhere, even to the extent of going to the mortuary to identify his corpse for autopsy, all of which, by our tradition, she ought not to do. Our father was the paramount chief of his people.
“At the time she unilaterally fixed the burial date, we were still asking questions about the cause of death, his medical death certificate and mortuary receipts. Nobody had seen any papers apart from her”.
Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs who is the chief of the Lulu-Briggs family says that his stepmother has not only refused to give him the medical death certificate and mortuary receipts of their late father, she has instituted two cases in court in Accra, asking that the mortal remains of our father should not be released to anybody but herself.
“If the body is not released to his chiefs and family, can Seinye bury her husband by herself? So, why is she in court asking that the corpse should not be released to anybody but herself?” he asked.
“Even outside tradition, is there anywhere in the Christian doctrine that says that when a man or woman dies, the body should not be given to the family but to the spouse?
“Seinye is holding on to the corpse saying that she is the next of kin and she deposited the body in the mortuary and so the body should be given to her.
“Where does the next of kin come in here? Where in the world do they give the mortal remains of a man to his widow? Even if he didn't have children, the body would be given to the family.
“In this case our father has grown children, one of them is 69 years old, even older than Seinye; one of them is Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs. It's my father we are talking about here.
“As it stands, the family can't even convene a meeting to plan my father's burial when they do not have custody of the body.
“Seinye says that Dumo does not want to bury his father and people listen without asking that Dumo does not have the body and he is asking to know how his father died.
“I do not think it is wrong to want to know how our father died before we bury, especially as we now know that he was aboard an aircraft on ground for more than five hours. Even for a young person to be put in a plane on ground with the aircraft doors shut for more than five hours, calls for concern, let alone an 88 years old man. Knowing exactly the health condition of our father, it was a thing of serious concern for us and we needed to know what actually happened. If there were genuine reasons, it shouldn't take a minute to explain".
*Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs' response to Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs' claim that for two decades she toiled with her husband to build his business empire and now at his death, his sons want to take over what they never contributed to.*
"I don't know if we have gone to the point of taking over anything. You can understand where some people have been fixated. The issue here is how to bury our father and we have not made claims to anything. Seinye is the person who has gone to read a Will when our father has not been buried. Nobody has made any claims to anything. Nobody is arguing over any property. We have not said that we want to take A or B. The issue of property is not in our thoughts for now. All we are asking is to know how our father died. Not about his businesses because that is beside the point.
“However to address the issue that she has raised on her building the business empire with our father, there is need to let Seinye understand that the business empire was already built by our father and I, Dumo. No mention can be made of our father's business empire without me.
“All the records of Moni Pulo Limited show that Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs and his son, Dumo started the company. I have been Company Secretary, Legal Adviser, General Manager, Executive Director and Managing Director of Moni Pulo.
“By the time Seinye came to the family, Moni Pulo was already established. Even the loans that we owed our foreign technical partners, over 200 million dollars, were all repaid under my management.
“Seinye was a total stranger that was running a business center called La Sien with a few computer units on Aggrey Road, Port Harcourt at the time Moni Pulo was established.
“Incidentally, I Dumo Lulu-Briggs brought her to my father from the police station where I bailed her over a matter that she was alleged to have committed in her former place of work and brought her to my father's house. She was my friend and I had known her before then. This was how she became my father's wife. I was instrumental to her becoming my father's wife when he was 72 years old and already established in business.
“Moni Pulo license was given to us in 1992, we got our foreign technical partners in 1996 and Seinye became my father's wife in 2002. It is obvious that the company had been built. I have even asked Seinye to mention the name of the bank that gave us the loan with which we completed Rachel's Hotels which was our father's first signature project. She can't because she was not around and didn't know. She only came when the food was ready and is now deciding to run away with the soup pot.
“However, all these are a matter for another day. The issue here is, how did our father die?”