The controversy surrounding the burial of a prominent Kalabari son, High Chief Olu Lulu-Briggs, seems to have neared its end as widow of the deceased, Seinye has agreed to the new date announced by his step-son, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs for the interment of the Rivers State elder statesman.
Dumo Lulu-Briggs, second eldest son of the deceased had earlier in the demanded the release of the paramount ruler’s corpse and begin preparations to give him a befitting burial on January 25, 2020.
Reacting to the news of the new date picked by her step-son, Seinye who released a statement to newsmen through her spokesperson, Oraye St. Franklyn, said she was very pleased about the latest development while stressing that all hands must be on deck to ensure there is no further shift in date.
Her statement reads, “I was very pleased to read in the media that my son Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs has announced January 25, 2020, for the interment of our beloved patriarch, High Chief Dr O.B. Lulu-Briggs, OON, DCF, DSSRS. This marks the third time that a date has been chosen for my husband’s burial and it has taken nine months since the last date was cancelled for us to reach this position. Nevertheless, it is a very welcome development and all hands must be on deck to ensure there is no further shift in date.
Dumo credits me for being the one who has delayed my own husband’s funeral, but nothing could be further from the truth. Since my husband’s demise, I have consistently called for his burial while taking all the necessary steps required to facilitate our patriarch’s burial. But I have been limited in my ability to act because of the roles assigned to each family member by tradition in cases such as this.
Immediately after my husband’s translation to glory, myself and all our children, Senibo, Dumo, Sofiri, Solate, Rachael, Dateim, and Iyowuna, convened at our home in Accra. After paying respects to his mortal remains, we elaborated plans for his funeral in conjunction with the Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs War Canoe House. Dumo was the go-between. Indeed, he and his brother Senibo commissioned and paid for a casket to transport their father’s body home.
It was the Oruwari Briggs Council of Chiefs, in their wisdom, that came up with the idea that my husband’s body did not need to be brought to Nigeria until plans had been concluded for his interment. The funeral was initially set for January 26, 2019; then moved to April 6, 2019 and eventually cancelled by Dumo unilaterally. Since then, my husband’s body has been in the mortuary awaiting a burial date and this is not against Kalabari culture.
The earthly remains of the renowned jurist of blessed memory Chief Nabo Graham-Douglas arrived Kalabari land from London on the day of his funeral. Just a few weeks ago, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, himself, superintended over the funeral of Chief Ibim Young Briggs who died in faraway America.
Chief Ibim’s earthly remains were flown into Nigeria from Houston, Texas for his interment after all arrangement in Abonnema had been concluded. Since it was not a Kalabari cultural taboo to fly their remains from abroad on the day of their funeral, we shall therefore stick to our initial plan of bringing my husband’s body home on the date of burial as the chiefs had directed.
It should also be noted that it is not in line with age long Kalabari customs for Dumo and the Oruwari Briggs Council of Chiefs to go to Accra, Ghana to receive our patriarch’s body. It is my husband’s immediate family, comprising his siblings in his mother’s house, his cousins and his children who are expected to go to the mortuary and retrieve his body for the homeward journey.
On their return home, the Kalabari Council of Chiefs would receive the body and lead the procession – with other paramount rulers and chiefs of Kalabari Kingdom – to Oruwari Briggs compound in Abonnema. My husband’s body would then be received by the acting Head of the Oruwari Briggs compound, signifying the beginning of his obsequies.
The Oruwari Briggs Compound Chiefs cannot be going to Accra, Ghana in the name of the same Kalabari tradition to receive the High Chief’s body. Is it not a taboo in Kalabari land for chiefs to retrieve corpses from mortuaries?
Curiously, this and other news announced by my son are said to be the position taken by Chiefs and members of the family. To the best of my knowledge, Dumo did not contact any of his siblings nor was I extended the common courtesy of being informed of these developments. I read about them just like the general public. But be that as it may, I am grateful that we now have a date to work with.
One cannot but wonder why Chief Dumo wants his father’s earthly remains brought to Nigeria weeks before his interment.
I don’t have the answer, but I await the outcome of the intervention brokered by His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State in his appeal to the Amayanabo of Abonnema. In my view such a call would not have been necessary had the Oruwari Briggs Council of Chiefs risen to the occasion and showed leadership and forthrightness in the first place. Their recent television appearance calling for the release of the earthly remains of their paramount head was unnecessary. And their stated position and the call to well-meaning persons to prevail on me in Dumo’s press release is ridiculous. I have continually appealed to Dumo and the Chiefs to conclude the burial plans and to lay my husband to rest, but they had declined. Please refer to the attached letters.
Dumo needs to be reminded that last year, when the entire family of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs including him, Dumo, met and planned his funeral – the meetings of which are all supported by minutes and/or electronic recordings – the issue of possession of body was never on the table. So much has changed since then however, and I cannot trust him or the chiefs to act in our best interests. There is now a fake accusation of murder hanging over my head. And of course, his father’s Last Will and Testament has now been read.
Sadly, I note that Dumo is silent about my husband’s funeral wishes. I can only conclude that it was obviously not factored into their plans. If it had been, Dumo would no longer be calling himself the ‘Chief Mourner’ as this runs contrary to his father’s wishes. I cannot join Dumo or anyone else setting out to disregard my husband’s burial wishes, which are as follows:
“I wish to be buried and for my wife Seinye Peterba Lulu-Briggs, if she survives me, to take an active part in my funeral services. I direct that my funeral services be simple and done in Kalabari tradition as allowed by my Christian beliefs in recognition of the dignity of my position as head of Young Briggs House. I request that there be no mourning or weeping. Any members of my family and a beneficiary under this Will who refuses to participate in my funeral shall be completely excluded from benefit under this Will as if such person had predeceased me.”
The problem, therefore, is not my refusal to release my husband’s body for burial. The truth is that I am not in a position to entertain Dumo’s ultimatum that he must have full control over his father’s estate. Dumo knows that his father had taken care of everything in his Will. Yet, he was always going to carry out his threat to force me to bend to his wishes, including the fabrication of false evidence to corroborate a petition his lawyers made to the Nigeria Police against me for the alleged murder of his father.
Since then, under Dumo’s direction, over the past twelve months, I have been abused, insulted, vilified, defamed, persecuted and – under false pretexts – detained, investigated and harassed by law enforcement agencies. My family, friends and colleagues have not been spared either. Indeed, under criminal law in Nigeria, a person charged for murder if found guilty could be sentenced to death by hanging. I give glory, thanks and praise to God Almighty for his awesome grace through all this.
As I have stated, none of these have stood in the way of burying my husband. Neither the courts nor the various law enforcement agencies’ work is an excuse for not burying High Chief Dr. O. B. Lulu-Briggs. No matter the level of malicious disparagement, including the on-going public vilification and ridicule, my husband’s wishes will stand.
Given the peculiar nature of this matter, it is important to focus on the burial of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs and not on who has custody of his earthly remains. Neither Dumo nor any other person needs to have the earthly remains of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs weeks earlier than the date of his funeral. We should, therefore, get to work planning to bury our patriarch on the date decided. We have wasted enough time already.