I hope this letter meets you in good health.
It is with deep sense of respect that I have chosen to write to you via this medium to say some of my thoughts regarding the raging issues which has been in the news for the past forth night through your spokesperson Mr Oraye St.Franklyn Esq regarding the delay in the burial of your late husband who has been a benefactor to many of us from and outside the Niger- Delta region.
It is indeed humiliating to the memory of High Chief Olu-Benson Lulu-Briggs that since his demise in December of 2018, he is yet to be buried and there is all these talks back and forth mostly from your end over his burial plans.
Ma, I will like to point out that I read from your spokesperson and it was indeed shocking that he took to name calling and utter disregard and disrespect both to the family name of this great man and further extended it to his children and by extension the entire Oruwari Briggs Chieftaincy House and Africa in general.
It is a known fact that according to the African customary laws, no single individual can claim ownership of the mortal remains of a deceased’s family member. No individual can claim the sole right to determine the time, place and manner of burial of a deceased family member. Burial is a family affair. The duty of burial belongs to the family as a whole.
The head of a family has the responsibility of coordinating and managing the funeral arrangements for the burial of a deceased member. In some respects, the head of a family is like a trustee; he exercises the right of burial for the benefit of every family member.
Since a woman cannot become the head of a family in many African countries, she is logically excluded from controlling the disposition of her husband’s remains. There are a few exceptions though. But in this case also as you know, there is no exception because the Kalabari land customs are clear and have been stated by the Amanyanabo of Kalabari Kingdom.
Accordingly, where a woman’s husband dies, the right of burial does not belong to her, but to the family of her deceased husband.
In that case, the head of family may be a father, brother or uncle of the deceased. The surviving wife is obliged to acquiesce in the family’s decision regarding burial. Her position is even more tenuous in some customary law systems where the surviving wife could be inherited by one of her husband’s relatives.
Ma, you are learned and you know these things but the reason for your barring the family of Late High Chief O B Lulu-Briggs to access his remains and be enabled to prepare for a befitting burial is somewhat worrisome.
Why would you want to desecrate the memory of such a great man with all this drama surrounding his death and burial? A man you have on many occasions and in recent publications by your spokesperson said to have loved him and cared for him till his day of death?
Does it make any logical sense to you ma, to file an application in a court in faraway Ghana barring the family from accessing his remains for burial? Is the incessant name calling by your spokesman and very many publications on the pages of newspapers necessary for a man you have made claims many times to have loved and cherished till his dying day?
Do you believe that the late High chief is resting peacefully as his body continues to lie in a morgue and not with his ancestors on his ancestral land? Do you assume that wherever he is today, that he is happy with what is happening to his family name? A name he toiled and built from scratch to what it is you enjoy the privileges today?
Have you no conscience that a man is dead and yet to be buried but in your many publications by your spokesperson you seem to have been more concerned about his estates and wealth?
What happened to the Christian mind and conscience which you have for years been believed to have? Would you prefer to be kept in morgue for almost a year while your children fight over your earthly gains?
December 2019 ought to be the late High Chief O B Lulu-Briggs post humous birthday but instead on his birthday, we will be discussing why his wife is yet to release his mortal remains to his family for a befitting burial.
I have taken time to read from your spokesperson whom I believe you empowered to do so and also from the family of the late High Chief and I must say that I see no reason why you needed to commission a young man to do all that mud slinging and name calling on pages of newspapers and social media.
The family has maintained on one singular request, “Give us the body of our brother, son, father and grandfather so we can plan for his burial”. Nothing more. But you have refused and have continued to hold on to the remains safely tucked away in Ghana and away from the reach of his family members.
I daresay that it is an abominable act that you have committed against the family and the memory of the late High Chief. But that will be a discussion for another day. For now, let us stick to the more pressing matter of release of his remains for burial.
Mind you, that in one of your very many letters, you opined that you have been accused of murder by the family which I am yet to read anywhere from the family , however, your actions by withholding the remains of the late High Chief is enough to give rise to suspicions of foul play.
If indeed there is nothing to hide, why then the withholding of the body for appropriate burial according to the laws and customs of the land? You claim you already have an autopsy report which the family have asked that you present to them and that is yet to be presented till date causing the family to approach a coroners court to seek for an order for autopsy which was granted and you have challenged that also.
Why? Is there something that you do not want the family to know?
Agreeable that we are not a people who are inclined to autopsy reports or procedures but you know also that it is largely because of the poverty status of most Nigerians. The Lulu-Briggs family are not like every other family who cannot afford such procedures.
I therefore do not understand the worry you have expressed in the call for an autopsy. As they say , “a clear conscience fears no accusation” so why are you worried and resisting the call for autopsy?
But like I said earlier, that is not the crux of the matter for today, for today I will like to focus on one thing and one thing only, PLEASE RELEASE THE REMAINS OF HIGH CHIEF OLU BENSON LULU-BRIGGS TO HIS FAMILY FOR BURIAL.
I believe that when this is done, you will begin to see that what worries you is a non-issue at all to any of the family members nor his children.
What they are all concerned with now is how to give their father, brother, uncle, grandfather and head of family a befitting burial.
I hope that you will listen to these few words and do the needful to preserve the great name of the Oruwari Briggs Chieftaincy House and also the overall name and prestige of the Kalabari Kingdom.
Thank you in anticipation of your inclination to acquiesce to this simple request and remain blessed
Sotonye Ijuaye Douglas writes from Abonnema , Rivers state, Nigeria