By Ise- Oluwa Ige, Gabriel Enogholase & Simon Ebegbulem
ABUJA â€” THE Chief Judge of Edo State, Justice Michael Edokpayi is dead. He gasped to death Monday night in the room of his hotel located in Area 11, Abuja, after he reportedly slumped.
The late Chief Judge was in Abuja for the ongoing 2009 Biennial All-Judges Conference holding at Andrew Otutu Obaseki Auditorium of the National Judicial Institute in Jabi, Abuja.
He led a number of serving judges of the Edo State High Court to Abuja for the conference on Sunday.
The conference was declared open Monday by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua.
According to one of the judges in the state and participant at the conference who preferred anonymity, the Chief Judge was full of life all through Monday before he left the conference centre in the evening.
She said that it was the Administrator of the Institute that broke the news to them through phone on Tuesday morning.
â€œWhen I heard about it, I did not believe it because he was full of life as at yesterday evening (Monday) when he left the conference venue for his hotel room.
â€œAll I know is that he travelled all alone to Abuja without any of his aides around him.
â€œIÂ alongside other judges in the state went to the National Hospital where they said his body was.Â We were shocked to see his corpse.
â€œThe Chief Judge is dead, so the hospital confirmed to us,â€ the judge added.
She however said the judges in the state held a meeting afterwards to return to Benin because of the incident.
She said they would return to Edo state this morning.
The judge however said she had no details of how the chief judge died.
Vanguard however gathered that the incident took place around 11:32pm.
According to a version of the story, a visitor to whom the Chief Judge had given an appointment had asked after the judicial officer from the reception but was not allowed to go into his hotel room.
According to the story, the receptionists were said to have put a call through to the judgeâ€™s room but could not get a reply.
The visitor who was waiting at the reception also reportedly called the mobile line of the late chief judge without response.
The receptionists who allegedly confirmed that the judge had earlier collected the key to his room from them had to go to the room only to discover the lifeless body of the judicial officer on the floor.
The discovery made them to raise an alarm.
But the version said that before they could rush him to the hospital, he had given up the ghost.
Another version said that somebody was with him when he slumped and that it was his visitor that raised an alarm before he was rushed to the hospital.
As hazy as the details of his death were, so also was the cause of his death at press time yesterday.
But Vanguard spoke with the Chief Medical Director of the National Hospital, Dr Olusegun Ajuwon, on what could have caused the judgeâ€™s death to which he said it might not be unconnected with heart attack.
But he quickly added that all he said was nothing but a mere guess and that no one would be able to say with certainty what caused his death until an autopsy was conducted.
He said there was no way they could conduct a coroner inquest on his corpse because his case did not fall under that category.
Hear him: â€œthe record shows that he was dead before he was taken to a private hospital, Ferobrod, at midnight.â€
Ferobrod is a private hospital located in Garki 11 in Abuja.
The CMD added: â€œHis corpse was later brought to the National Hospital at exactly 3:52a.m this morning (Tuesday).
â€œPresently, we canâ€™t confirm what caused his death until when an autopsy is conducted if the family will allow it.
â€œAnd except they carry out an autopsy, we canâ€™t issue any death certificate on him.
â€˜But I think it is high time we began to take myocadia disease seriously.
â€œI am not saying that he died of X Y and Z but that the cause of his death could be stroke or heart attack,â€ he added.
When Vanguard visited his house in the Edo state capital yesterday, his younger brother and Permanent Secretary in the State Ministry of Lands and Survey, Mr. Anthony Edokpayi was seen being consoled by visitors.
The younger Edokpayi who was visibly shocked by the death of his elder brother, described his death as â€œa big blow to the family and the judiciaryâ€.
Justice Edokpayi was appointed the state Chief Judge by former Governor Lucky Igbinedion in 2006.
Sad day for Edo â€” Gov Oshiomhole
Meanwhile, Governor Adams Oshiomhole has described as sad and shocking, the sudden death of the state Chief Judge.
Oshiomhole who mourned the Chief Judge at Government House yesterday, while launching the new security outfit in the state â€œOperation Thunderstormâ€, narrated that â€œthis morning, we heard about the sudden death of the Chief Judge of the state and we could not believe it.
â€œHe was with us last Sunday, during the Thanksgiving Service of the 1st anniversary of this administration and he was very strong. There was nothing to suggest that he will die. We are sad by what happened but we recognised that God gives life and death and there is nothing any of could do now. But it is a very sad day for us in this stateâ€, he said.
Oshiomhole further prayed God to accept the soul of the deceased, and give the family the strength to bear the loss.