indigene of Akwa Ibom State who lives in Idanre in Ondo State, there is
no better definition for multiple tragedies than what has befallen him
in the past few weeks.
2016 when he lost his wife, 28-year-old Joshua Justina, in a pitiable
but avoidable manner in a farm, where she and her six-year-old nephew
were knocked down by a tree being felled by someone in the farm. Since
then, the father of three has been making efforts to deal with his
numerous issues one at a time.
before Justina’s death, live in a farm settlement, Ako School Camp, in
Idanre with their three children, Abel, 8; Rose, 5; and John, 3. They
both hail from Ukwok in Ini Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
three children were not enough, the corpse of his wife has been on the
floor of the mortuary at the general hospital, Idanre, due to what seems
like a brewing clash of tradition between the Akwa Ibom people and the
Justina Joshua’s death, the Idanre community insists that the woman has
to be buried in the forest, beside the tree, while her relatives and the
Akwa Ibom community insist that the corpse has to be taken to her
village for proper burial, in line with their own tradition.
tradition, the corpse of Justina is lying on the floor of the mortuary,
covered with a black nylon, while the foetus in her womb had yet to be
removed. It’s a revolting sight, and seeing it would make anyone cry.
the normal marriage rites, thus, he is likely faced with the obligation
of marrying the corpse, but that is just one of his worries. His major
concern at the moment, in his words to Saturday PUNCH, is how to secure
Justina’s corpse and take it home to her parents, as her family had put
him under enormous pressure.
on the phone on Thursday, he was barely audible, as he had been
thoroughly overwhelmed by the tragedy. But shortly after the incident,
he had explained how it all happened to the Ondo State Director, Legal
Aid Council of Nigeria, Kubiat Ikpidungise, who gave the details to
June 8, Sunday had just come back from the farm when his pregnant wife
and her six-year-old nephew went back to the farm to pluck corn. But
while they were still at it, a tree being felled somewhere close by
someone fell on them, and got them trapped.
cutter, on seeing what had happened, allegedly took to his heels,
leaving the woman and the boy stuck under the tree. About one to two
hours later, the owner of the farm, known as Aye, who sent the person to
cut the tree, arrived the farm to see the progress of work done on his
out the small boy. He asked the boy to take him to their camp, which is
occupied by cocoa farm workers in the area. The man took the boy to the
camp for identification while the woman remained under the tree. The
people in the camp identified the boy as he told them what had happened.
who is the mother of the six-year-old boy, was there, so, the three of
them and some other persons in the camp went to the forest to rescue the
woman, who had, understandably, lost strength. All this while, the man
who was cutting the tree was on the run.”
still able to rescue Justina alive, they rushed her to a nearby clinic
and she was still able to answer some questions posed to her about what
happened. But on getting there, seeing that her situation had become
critical, the medical director of the clinic referred them to the Idanre
at the Olofin police station in Idanre and the owner of the farm, Aye,
was arrested. He was able to produce the tree cutter, who was also
arrested but was later released by the police for reasons not clear to
the family of deceased.
treatment she had got was to be laid on a slate on the floor of the
mortuary due to the inability of the family to pay, while the foetus in
her womb is still there, given that she died pregnant. The neglect,
according to information, is due to the inability of the leaders of the
community and the deceased’s family to reach a compromise on Justina’s
corpse, which was already decaying.
is still at the veranda of the mortuary at the General Hospital, Idanre,
covered with a tarpaulin or something that looks like a thick nylon.
The king is insisting that they won’t take the corpse out of that
community because it will go against their tradition, while the husband
and the Akwa Ibom community are also insisting that the corpse should be
released to them so she can be buried in her parents’ village, more so
that she didn’t die in the forest.
rushed to the scene to rescue her or at least call for help. But he ran
away, leaving her and the six-year-old boy trapped under the tree. The
police arrested him and set him free. They need to produce the man who
cut that tree, because he’s the only one who can explain what happened.
Why are they shielding him?
custom of the Idanre people, but somebody has died, she did not die by
the tree and she did not die in the forest, let her be taken out for
burial. The first concern is how the corpse should leave the veranda. In
one of their threats, the community said if the family of the deceased
insist on going away with the corpse, they would send the Akwa Ibom
people in the town away and seven people would die, whether on their way
to bury her or while coming back.
that it should be left unburied? Are we so concerned with custom and
tradition that we treat human beings, even though dead, with disdain, by
putting her on the floor, with the foetus still in her womb? If only
they can take the corpse to the general hospital in Akure, she will be
better treated. Where is Aye and the man who caused Justina’s untimely
death; is Aye not guilty of vicarious liability?”
Sunday, Ikpidungise, the Akwa Ibom community and some other persons.
Bothered by the plight of Sunday and the deceased’s family, the Legal
Aid director contacted the founder of Jeshabel Touch-A-Heart Foundation,
a human rights advocacy group in Lagos, which told Saturday PUNCH about
the brewing dissension as regards the treatment being meted to the
deceased and her family.
foundation, Mrs. Favour Benson, described the development as
unfortunate, saying the foundation also had reports of some other
corpses of people from Akwa Ibom State that had been abandoned in
different mortuaries in the community.
community, Ondo State chapter, Mr. Young Akpan, in a telephone interview
with our correspondent, said the conflict at the moment arose from the
conflicting traditions of the two communities. He queried the release of
the man who felled the tree by the police.
if a tree falls on somebody and the person dies, they have to bury the
person at the bottom of the tree. We told them that in our own tradition
too, if a person dies in a strange land, our own tradition demands that
we take the corpse of that person home for burial.”
“At the end of the day, we resolved that they should sponsor some people
to her village to go and tell her family and the head of that clan, if
they insist on taking that line of action. I even told them to let
somebody from the royal council lead them there but they said no. They,
however, agreed to sponsor a delegation home. The delegation came back
on Friday with a letter to the Oba of Idanre.”
Ukwok clan head, His Royal Highness John Ukpong, appealed to the
traditional ruler of Idanre release the corpse for burial.
reaction of the traditional ruler of the community, the Owa of Idanre,
Oba Frederick Aroloye, about the issue. He said according to the
tradition of the community, the woman would have to be buried by the
tradition in Idanre, if somebody dies as a result of a fallen tree or he
falls from a palm tree, the person must be buried there. In the same
vein, if a person dies in the river, he or she would be buried beside
the river. That is our tradition. They must abide with it.”
and forth on the issue, the body of Justina still lies at the veranda
of the general hospital in Idanre – where she has been since June 8,
corpse, while the Idanre community is also insisting that she can’t be
taken out of the town. The head of her community has written a letter to
the Owa of Idanre. That is where we are now,” he said.
released and not prosecuted, the Police Public Relations Officer in Ondo
State, Mr. Femi Joseph, promised to get back to our correspondent, but
he had yet to do so as of press time.