Pandemonium broke out at an event centre at Mayfair Gardens Estate, Lekki, Lagos, venue at the funeral for the late Assistant Manager, Corporate Affairs, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, Patrick Imongiere, after his relatives from Edo State allegedly disrupted the ceremony and chase away mourners.
A video of the incident, obtained by our correspondent, showed the moment some of the church members of the deceased’s widow formed a chain as they fired prayers in the deserted auditorium.
The founder of a religious group, Daughters of Destiny, Pastor Busola Jegede, in another clip taken during the rowdy session, called on Nigerians to rally round the widow and her children.
She said, “One of the members of our ministry lost her husband a few days ago. And the man left an instruction that he should not be taken to the village because of their diabolical ways. Now, the widow and the children want to bury their father, but the people from the village burst into the service of songs. …help, so that this woman will not be cheated.”
PUNCH Metro learnt that officials of the Lagos State Office of the Public Defender, led by the Director, Mrs Olayinka Adeyemi, visited the widow at her house in the Victoria Garden City, Lekki, on Friday.
The widow, Magdalene, told PUNCH Metro that her husband’s relatives wanted to force her and her three children to the village, where she would be married to one of the deceased’s brothers.
She said, “My husband and I were married for 25 years. During the time, we had three boys. We are both from Edo State. He had a brief illness and died on June 12. He was 52 years old.
“After his death, I called his relatives to break the news to them. They said I should bring his dead body to the village and come with all the children.
“My son told them that his father before his death instructed us to bury him in Lagos and he specifically warned that he should not be taken to the village. But they insisted that we must bring the corpse to the village.
“Yesterday (Thursday) was his service of song. They came and disrupted the programme, saying they want to take us to the village by force. They drove everybody away from the service of songs before the police came. They said it was their tradition.
“They are doing all these because of his property. They said they are aware that their brother had four houses and cars and it was not only his children that would take those things.”
The 48-year-old explained that her husband was not in good terms with the relatives before he died, adding that he last visited the village about 15 years ago.
The deceased’s second son, Newton, a member of the National Youth Service Corps, said one Monday, a relative of his father, had been positioned to marry his mother.
“One of my uncles, Monday, is trying to take my mum to the village so that the elders will tell her to marry him.
“The last time I visited the village was about 12 to 15 years ago. Our father did not take us to the village. About three days to his death, he called us and said in the event that he died, we should not take him to the village.
“When he died, they did not come. It was one of them that we had not seen for over 20 years that came to the house. Some of them went home, while others went to where we were having the service of songs to disrupt it,” he added.
The OPD Director, Adeyemi, said the state government would defend the widow and her children, adding that the agency would implement late Patrick’s last wish.
“This is Lagos and anything that is contrary to justice and fair play will not be allowed. This is a widow that just lost her husband; why will they be harassing her? We have contacted the police. The wish of the dead should be paramount. The man had said that he should be buried in Lagos and we have to give them all the protection.
“We are particular about the widow. She should not be harassed. The idea that they want to marry her off in order to get the property cannot stand. The woman was legally married to the man in Lagos. So, I do not believe that any tradition will govern the estate of the man.”
Adeyemi said the deceased was later buried under tight security.
The deceased’ cousin, Friday Eghene, who allegedly led those who disrupted the funeral, said the family was not interested in the late Patrick’s property.
He explained that the relatives were disappointed that the widow did not inform them of his death.
He said, “It was somebody else that told me that my brother was dead. I called my younger brother, Monday, to go to Patrick’s house to know if it was true and he confirmed it.
“I asked to speak with his widow. She said she did not have the strength to call me. I then said she should come home so that we could arrange how we would bury him. I called her five days later and she said she would tell me when they were coming.
“Suddenly, I got a call that my brother was going to be buried on Friday and the service of songs was ongoing. I was shocked. I went to the venue and saw the pastor. We all went to police station, including the first son, Jeffrey, who apologised to me.
“The son said his father had told them before his death that anything they wanted to do, they should tell me. I told him no problem and they should come home, and that whatever they wanted to do, they should come and tell the elders. If necessary, the elders will send a delegate to accompany them and see how he is buried.”
Eghene dismissed the allegation that the deceased was not in good terms with the relatives, saying if that was true, he would not have instructed the son to speak to him before his death.
“I cannot touch my younger brother’s property. If I do, I will die prematurely. The son, Jeffrey, owns everything. I cannot marry my younger brother’s wife; God forbids. We have not sat to discuss anything.
“We just asked them to come home so that the elders will see her. And surely they will ask questions like, ‘How long was Patrick sick?’ ‘How did the death come about?’
“It is after all the explanation that they will ask if he wrote any will. And if they say he wanted to be buried in Lagos, they will just send representatives,” he added.