ON SATURDAY, 18TH JANUARY, 2020
ANCHORED BY MR SEGUN OWOLABI IN PORT HARCOURT
Segun Owolabi: Good morning to you Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs.
Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs: Segun, thank you very much; good morning.
First, I want to thank you for coming to talk to us on View Point. Our sincere condolences to you over the death of your father. We know this is a very trying period for you and of course we can even see that by your dressing, you’re still in a mourning mood because you adorned in black attire. But again, there are some issues that need to be cleared, particularly as these have been in the media. It’s been in the social media, commentaries are being made on radio concerning Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs. And so we deem it fit to want to talk to you about that. This morning, we’ll be speaking to Chief Dumo O.B. Lulu-Briggs who will be speaking to us on issues relating to his father’s death and why the burial is being delayed. Once again thank you so much for joining us.
Now, let’s go straight to the matter. The news we have is that your father died at the ripe age of 88 years on the 27th of December, 2018. Ordinarily, anyone will be excited to have a father die at that age, 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. What is it exactly that you’re finding difficult to believe about your father’s death? How, in your thinking, did your father die?
Thank you Segun and thank you Rivers people for listening and I thank God for this very wonderful opportunity. I had prayed and hoped that I would never be constrained and feel compelled to come and speak publicly on this issue. It’s quite emotional. The person we’re talking about here is my father and I have to thank you for the very complimentary words, very kind words you have used to describe my father this morning. I thank you so very much. Yes, we know he was a great man; he was a great philanthropist. He lived his life for others; so, at his passing, we should be very happy. He died at 88 years and we all should have looked forward to give him a very befitting rest. Unfortunately, that is not the situation. Segun, you have asked a very pertinent question. If a man dies at 88, and of course we also know that he’s been through some procedures; he wasn’t completely very well but God took him up to the ripe age of 88 years.
However, in law, you will presume that, all things being equal, the death around that age should be a natural death but we also know that if there are intervening events, then of course those can be brought to bear on the issues. 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 – who were supposed to be on that flight on 27th December, 2018, when they claimed they were going on holiday in Ghana – but by other sources…that they were inside an aircraft at the Port Harcourt international airport, Omagwa, 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 spinning yet the flight was on the ground, it wasn’t taking off to anywhere and of course I saw my father on the 26th of December in Abonnema when 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 holiday taking him by flight to go to Ghana on the 27th but that happened and then they were in that plane for more than five point something 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. And Segun, this was a chartered plane and the whole purpose, from what we are told, was to take passengers to Accra on holiday. Now, the aircraft was a chartered flight, Vista Jet Services, one of the most reputable chartered flight services, leaves its destination, comes to Port Harcourt for the sole purpose of picking passengers to Accra but failed to obtain a landing permit to land in Accra. Therefore, for more than five point something hours, we’re 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 to be able clear his lungs so that could ease his breathing. So, in an 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 five hours. So that’s one situation. The second one is that somebody, one of the passengers in that flight, gave a statement to the police that they took my father into the plane. At 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. All his vitals were not recordable: no pulse, no respiration, no blood pressure…and there was some degree of stiffening. You know that stiffness will occur more than three point something hours after death and the flying time from Port Harcourt to Accra is about one hour.
Therefore, it was very very concerning that, adding all of these intervening events, that one wants to ask some questions. We tried to ask the questions at the very family level, which were: ‘Okay, can we see the medical death certificate?’ ‘Can we see mortuary papers?’ ‘Can we be told what happened?’ And of course some persons felt that as sons of my father, we have no right to ask any questions. And of course at that point, we had no choice, after some other persons had intervened. Chiefs had intervened; the clergy had also intervened. And at some point in time down the line, the governor of the state had also intervened. We had no choice than to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of our father. We have not accused anybody of any wrong doing but only invited the police to investigate the circumstances.
There were a lot of people on that particular aircraft; there were a lot of people on board of the aircraft. We gathered that there was Apostle Zilly Aggrey on that aircraft. I don’t know how correct that is but that’s the story that 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 happened and why the flight delayed, according to you, in Port Harcourt?
Some of them have not been allowed to speak to us, but I have spoken with Apostle Zilly Aggrey and he has tried to explain the issues to me. However, I can understand his position as a clergy that his needed interest was to see that the family got reconciled. But what he said to me was that he noticed, at the point they arrived Accra, that my father’s head was completely bent over to one side.
That’s what Apostle Zilly Aggrey said?
Yes, that’s what he said to me and that was very concerning. And the earlier stories that were told were that as they arrived Accra, my father asked them for the time and they told him the time and then, of course, at that point they got him out of the aircraft, the captain of the aircraft came down, shook hands with everybody, including my father, bade everybody good bye and then got into the plane and took off. All of that story is now changed. The story now is that as they arrived Accra, they realized that my father was completely motionless. Even this lends credence that a few things had happened and I expect Nigerians to speak out.
There is also a statement by one Elaye Solomon who was also supposed to be on that flight?
What was actually Elaye’s comment?
We should know that Elaye was the personal staff of my step mother – my father’s wife. He was her security aide, very heavily built. You would probably say that perhaps he was her body guard or something. He was also on that flight. He gave statement to the police that while they were in the plane for more than five hours, the engine was running, that my father had not got a doctor on the flight; there was a nurse but the nurse was far away from him and never attended to him. He also gave further statement; that as they arrived Accra, it was his responsibility to carry my father out of the aircraft. He was heavily built and will, at least, be able to, but my father was twice his weight and he couldn’t carry him out, that in the process of trying to carry him out, his jacket tore, his trousers tore because my father was so very heavy; he couldn’t carry him because he was more than twice his weight, and this was the same person that took him on board the aircraft. This was very concerning statement. This was somebody on that flight, who was the personal body guard of my step mum, and that was his position.
Let us look at it from the medical point of view. What is in public domain is that autopsy has been conducted and result showed your father died of natural causes. Why are you not accepting the result of the autopsy?
I wish it was as simple as that, that an autopsy has been conducted. But first of all, we should note that autopsies, in this type of criminal investigation, are conducted by the police. The police will make 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 aspects of the death that occurred in Ghana. On arriving Accra, the Nigerian Police was shocked and all of us were shocked to be informed by the Ghanaian Police that they have no record of our father entering Ghana, whether dead or alive. So, this is even more concerning because it also means that the security infrastructure of Ghana has been breached. And how they were able to take my father into the mortuary in Accra without any record of his death at the airport which they claimed with the Nigerian Police or the Ghanaian airport authorities or the Ghanaian immigration. There was no staff anywhere to indicate that such a person arrived Accra on that day and got into Accra. But however, my father is in the mortuary. Now, an autopsy was conducted on the orders of a coroner in Accra and then we have issues with how the autopsy was conducted, regardless of the fact that we were prepared to accept the autopsy report. The coroner was shocked that since July up to September when he gave a further order that the autopsy report be brought to him by the police, he has not received any report of that autopsy and was concerned and with that additional information that was now before him, the coroner ruled that he now has 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 application before the High Court in Ghana, which is a superior court to the coroner’s court, asking the court to quash the order of the coroner in calling for the inquest and also calling for the release of the autopsy report. So, it is curious and I will read it here to you, the order of the coroner:
‘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 post-mortem 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 formed the basis for 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 Ghana Police Service CID is ordered to make available to the court all processes and documents in their custody, including the autopsy report.’
To be continued in our next edition.