Immigration tragedy: ‘I found my wife in the mortuary, cold dead, after parting at test venue’

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By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY

If they had known, maybe they would have asked government to forget  its  job so they could   live together. This is part of the lamentation of Mr Austin Amu, the widower of    Mrs Sandra  Amun, who lost her life, Saturday, March 15, 2014, at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium Benin City, where the recruitment exercise of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) took place.

Incidentally, Amun, from Uzebba, Owan West Local Government Council of Edo State, participated in the recruitment exercise with the deceased but  survived the stampede. It was a pitiable sight when Sunday Vanguard visited the family’s  residence in Benin City watching the husband of the deceased  trying to administer medication on their last born, Favour, who was crying due to cough and catarrh.

Amun  recalled that  he and Sandra  had woken up on the ill-fated  day and had their bath together as they had always done in the past  10 years. They planned  to get to the recruitment venue on time. They actually did  but  met an uncontrollable crowd at the stadium as  thousands of applicants struggled  to  participate in the job test.

*Bereaved husband and kids... Govt insensitive

*Bereaved husband and kids… Govt insensitive

Sunday Vanguard found  that the stampede occurred because the organizers decided to lock the big  gates and  used the small ones  at the stadium. As a result, people  had  to pay N1000  each to  gain entry.. Those who could not afford the  money made frantic efforts to find their way into the stadium at all costs, a situation that created  chaos.

Amun  narrated his story  to Sunday Vanguard: “ I applied for the job as a  senior  secondary school holder while my wife applied as a graduate because she finished from  Auchi Polytechnic. On that day, while we were on queue, I  could have been  the victim because while  I was in the crowd, I almost couldn’t breath.  I told her we should go home.

But she said  I shouldn’t worry, that  I should  find  somewhere to relax while she will be at the stadium and monitor things and then get back to me.  About  20 minutes later, her younger brother who also came to write the examination saw me and asked after his sister.  I told him she was in the crowd. 30 minutes later, somebody shouted that a  woman had died.

I didn’t know it was my wife. It was then they now went to open the big gates  into the stadium. The first time, they were using the small gates;  it was after the incident that they went to open the big gates,  for  people to enter the stadium.. I thought I was going to see her inside the stadium.  I  went  round the place, I didn’t see her.  Around  4 pm when we were about to write the test, I still had  not seen her and I became more worried   but the  brother encouraged me to write the test saying maybe she was writing her own somewhere. After the test, I sat by the gates thinking while coming out I would  see her.  I waited till around 6.30 to 7 pm.

Later, thought  maybe she would be in my  viewing centre.  I went there but  didn’t see her, people came around to watch football, but because I had not seen my wife, I couldn’t open the shop. I locked the place and called her younger brother and my friend who has a vehicle. We went to the hospital where they rushed those injured during the test, to check if she was there;  but they said they had discharged  four people who sustained  injuries.

They checked their names, my wife’s name was not there. They now said there was one woman who Immigration officials brought without a name and they used no name to book the woman’s corpse. I now requested to  see the woman. Behold  I saw my wife in the mortuary  sleeping alone. I touched her, she could not  touch me, I called her, she could not answer.

I  tried to call her phone because I did not believe  she was dead; but she did not pick. But somebody picked her phone on the ground and the person told me he couldn’t reach the owner until after the test, because of the crowd. It was the next day that the Civil Defence people that collected it  brought it home.

“Since the incident nobody has called me from the Immigration Service. The only people that came to see me were from a human rights group based in  Abuja. They asked how I felt and what happened. I told them the story. I don’t know where to start from. We had been together  even before she went to Auchi Polytechnic, she went to the polytechnic from my house; she finished her studies  before we  started having kids.

She graduated in  HND banking and finance seven years ago. The most senior child, a girl, Favour,  is six years, Miracle, the second,  is five  and the last, Favour (male), is three years. I want assistance from  government, let them give the children  scholarship,  give me and my brother-in-law jobs. My wife’s mother and grandmother are still alive; she is the first daughter of her family and I am the first son of my family too. This load is too much for me and I don’t know where to start.”

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