High Chief (Dr.) Olu Benson Lulu-Briggs, OON, DCF, DSSRS, Iniikeiroari V of Kalabari Kingdom, Paramount Head of Oruwari Briggs House of Abonnema, renowned Nigerian elder statesman, politician, businessman and philanthropist, was born on May 22, 1930 in Abonnema, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State. He passed into glory in Accra, Ghana on December 27, 2018.
The death of High Chief (Dr.) Lulu-Briggs has been in the news, especially the delayed interment.
The Widow of the demised billionare, Dr. (Mrs.) Seinye Lulu-Briggs in this phone chat with GBENGA AKINFENWA offered explanation on the delay and related matters.
It is almost six months since your husband passed away in Accra. Why has he not been buried?
The fact that my beloved husband has not yet been buried is a source of great anguish and pain, particularly because he did not like delayed burials. He often said a dead person should be allowed to go and rest as quickly as possible. And in keeping with his generosity, he would even provide funds to families who were too distressed to give their dearly departed a dignified burial. But, be that as it may, the burial of my late husband has been delayed because of certain opposition within the family. I am however grateful to our father, the Amanayabo of Kalabari, King Theophilus J.T. Princewill, Amachree XI, who has set up a committee to help us resolve this matter without further delay.
Recently, some Abonnema chiefs placed an advertisement in some national dailies in which they claimed that your late husband was missing and that you were responsible for his disappearance?
Yes, I read that advertisement, which was signed by seven chiefs from our Oruwari Briggs compound in Abonnema. I also saw another one placed by another group of our Abonnema Chiefs in which they faulted the one placed by the seven chiefs. The advertisement claiming that my beloved husband is missing is part of a conspiracy against me. On the 27th of December 2018, my beloved husband, High Chief (Dr.) O.B. Lulu-Briggs passed on to glory shortly after our arrival at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana. We traveled on a chartered flight with family, friends and some members of our staff. As soon as we alighted from the flight and the captain and crew bade us farewell, my husband’s nurse asked for an ambulance when she noticed his pulse had dropped. The ambulance took him to the medical center at the airport where a doctor informed us that my husband had passed on. You cannot imagine how shocked we all were.
Somehow, I managed to notify my husband’s son and eldest daughter Dumo and Solate. They arrived with their siblings on the evening of 28th December and on 29th December, as a family we all visited the mortuary where my husband’s body was eventually on the morning of 28th of December. Thereafter, Senibo and Dumo, his two elder sons, started making arrangements for a casket that would be used to bring back his body to Nigeria.
While we were preparing for the burial, Senibo – my husband’s eldest son- informed us that he was not ready, and the initial burial date was canceled due to closeness of elections. After several family meetings we agreed another date, which was 6th of April 2019. But that too was canceled.
Some have alleged that you were responsible for the death of your husband?
I have always affirmed my innocence and, as we wait for the outcome of the just concluded autopsy in the coming days, I am confident that the Coroner’s Report will put to final rest the lies that have been spread regarding the manner of the death of my husband. My husband died at almost 89 years of age. He passed away peacefully- no struggle, no cough, no fever. Just like a saint should go. Until the moment he took his last breath, he worked to bring dignity, joy and happiness to the lives of members of his family, those whose paths crossed his, and those he didn’t even know but he believed needed material or financial support. It was part of an agreement he made to God when he prayed for success as a young child. He succeeded by the grace of God and lived a long life during which he used his resources and influence in the service of humanity.
I don’t know why the plot to destroy his legacy. The truth is that there were family members, friends (including his pastor) and our staff on that chartered flight to Ghana – not to talk of the captain and crew of the aircraft – and there was the doctor that attended to him when we arrived in Accra and two other doctors that joined him to confirm my husband’s passing. When and how did I murder him? I loved and cared for my husband through several health crises. Only a sick mind would even think I could harm him. The day before, he had joyously presided over our family’s annual Thanksgiving ceremony in Abonnema. He was very much looking forward to vacationing in Accra. We had sent our last son, some members of our family and staff, two days before, to prepare for our month-long vacation.
In any case, as you are aware, the police are already investigating the petition they received alleging that I killed my husband. I am cooperating with them, as I have nothing to hide. I have even passed on High Chief’s medical records and shared the contacts of the medics who attended to him in Accra, Ghana. I am confident that with the leadership and guidance of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, the police will do a thorough and professional job and find out that they have been misled.
Madam, what efforts are you making to resolve this matter before it spirals out of control?
Well, apart from the commendable intervention of the Amanayabo, there have been several others attempting to bring about a resolution. But frankly, the most important things on my mind are to ensure my husband is buried with the dignity that befits his lifelong achievements and the legacies he left behind. Unfortunately, at the same time I now have to fight to clear this grave charge of murder that is hanging over my head, as well as the humiliation. And it is not palatable.
On June 17, 2019 as I returned from a trip overseas, I was stopped, stripped of my passport and held against my will for over five hours by staff of the Nigerian Immigration in Abuja, for no tangible reason other than, ‘the DG of Immigration wants to see you.’ Fortunately, my lawyer located where I was held in Abuja and insisted that I be released. That detention almost ruined my effort to attend a critical meeting of the committee established by the Amayanabo to look into the issues stopping the burial of my husband. The Nigerian Immigration Service eventually returned my passport, but I still do not know why I was detained.
I am confident, however, that they will equally fail in this as they failed in previous efforts because the God I serve is a just God. I loved my husband and we cared for one another. I am calm and focused on the task of burying my husband as the saint that he was on earth and on clearing my name. Once that is taken care of, I know that God will take care of the rest. My husband’s legacies will live on as he wished by God’s grace and mercy.
So, when do you believe your husband will be buried?
As you can see, there are lots of moving pieces. However, as I have just stated, I am confident, that in the coming weeks we will be able to lay my husband’s body to rest at a befitting funeral. Please make sure you come and cover the event. Thanks and God bless you.