How did High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs die?

Rivers Ijaw Voice, beginning with this article, brings to its readers a compendium of information about the crisis that has engulfed the Lulu-Briggs f

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Rivers Ijaw Voice, beginning with this article, brings to its readers a compendium of information about the crisis that has engulfed the Lulu-Briggs family of Abonnema, in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, Nigeria.

  • Did High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs die in Accra?
  • Did he die in Nigeria?
  • How did he get to Accra?

Introduction

Time, old age and illness are taking a toll on the crop of Rivers State elder statesmen: Captain Elechi Amadi, Gbene Cyrus Nunieh and now High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs. They are surrendering one after the other to the cold hands of death – that inescapable call of nature which ultimately beckons on all mortal beings.

The festive mood in the state was dimmed by news of the sudden death of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs. The multi billionaire oil mogul and philanthropist of exceptional class had died on 27th December, 2018 in the West African city of Accra, capital of the Republic of Ghana.

His death did not come as a surprise to many, considering that he was 88 years old and had suffered from Parkinson disease for so long. It was however sudden.

It was a shock to his folks and members of his immediate family who saw him the previous day in his native town of Abonnema and who never knew that he was to be taken on holiday to Ghana the following day.

Accra, Ghana was another home to the late Kalabari-Ijaw War Canoe High Chief who owns a house in Trassaco Valley Estate in the capital city. He was a very close friend to the Ashantehene, the absolute monarch of the Kingdom of Ashanti.

Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs had during his lifetime made several trips to Ghana but the visit on December 27, 2018 did not only announce his demise, it threw up series of controversies that have held up his mortal remains in the foreign land for more than eight months.

The disagreements are centered mainly on how and where the late Paramount Chief of Young Briggs House of Abonnema died. His widow Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs says her husband was discovered dead on arrival at Kotoka Airport in Accra but Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, who is the chief and head of the Lulu-Briggs family, following the demise of his father, says there are strong reasons to believe that his father died in Port Harcourt and was smuggled into Accra in a chattered aircraft.

Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs considers the insinuation that she smuggled her dead husband to Ghana as a wicked blackmail aimed at disinheriting her and her children. However, her blunt refusal to surrender the mortal remains of her husband, his medical death certificate and his mortuary papers to the head of the family and to the Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House continues to fuel the suspicion that Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs flew the already dead or dying Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs to Accra in order to take possession of these vital documents.

Indications are rife that Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs knew that it is a sacrilege in her Kalabari-Ijaw custom, for a widow to deposit her husband in the mortuary without the knowledge of his family, let alone holding on to his death certificate and mortuary receipts.

This would have been absolutely impossible if she had reported his death to his family (as required by Kalabari-Ijaw custom) while still in Port Harcourt, assuming he actually died in Nigeria. It is alleged that she smuggled her husband away from Port Harcourt to Ghana in order to take possession of the corpse, seize the death certificate, circumvent tradition and hold the family to ransom.

It is also alleged that whilst, the family was still asking to be given custody of the body and vital papers, Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs with her supporters organized a funeral church service for late High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs in Accra without the consent of the family.

Seinye at the funeral church service in Accra

A petition to the Inspector General of Nigeria Police by Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, acting in concert with his two other brothers, Elder Senibo Lulu-Briggs and Mr. Sofiri Lulu-Briggs has triggered an investigation that involves the Ghana Police, the Interpol and the Nigeria Police.

In July 2019, the Ghanaian and Nigerian media were awash with stories of a botched autopsy in Accra which was ordered by the Criminal Investigation Department of Ghana Police that has instituted an inquest into the death of the Head of Oruwari Briggs House of Abonnema, High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs.

Investigation reveals that amidst these accusations and counter accusations, Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs caused a Will to be read in the early morning of July 26, 2019. It was also revealed that Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs had also filed a Will at the Probate Registry which would be read, as custom demands, after the burial of the late War Canoe High Chief.

Seinye is deploying everything in her arsenal in the ongoing family feud, appealing to public sympathy, wiping feminist sentiments and acting the victim while holding firmly to her position.

There have been several interventions from prominent Nigerians including the Amayanabo of Kalabari, King Prof, T.J.T. Princewill, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Pastor David Ibiyeomie of Salvation Ministries, but none has yielded positive results.

As the controversies surrounding the death of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs rage, the pertinent questions are: How did High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs die? What is the mystery behind his death? Why has he not been buried? Did he die in Port Harcourt? Did he die mid-flight? Why was he taken out to Accra? Why is his body still in Accra? What actually happened to High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs?

To find answers to these questions and more, the Rivers Ijaw Voice brings to its readers a compendium of information about the crisis that has engulfed the Lulu-Briggs family of Abonnema, in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, Nigeria.

The Fatal trip to Accra: Delays, Secrecy and suspicion

The date was Tuesday the 27th day of December 2018. A Vista Charter Services aircraft was on ground at the Port Harcourt International Airport. It was hired to take High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs, his wife Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs and a few family members to Accra, Ghana. High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs was going on Christmas holiday to visit his very good friend the Asantehene, Otumfo Osei Tutu II.

High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs and Wife, Seinye

Aboard the aircraft were friends and aides of  the Kalabari Chief, including a popular Port Harcourt Pentecostal clergyman, Apostle Zilly Aggrey; a nurse to the chief and security guards.

The aircraft loaded between 11am and 12noon with a permit to land Accra at 1pm. But strangely, the fully loaded aircraft with doors firmly shut, stayed on ground at the tarmac for more than 5 hours and took off about 5pm arriving Accra about 6pm.

What was a fully loaded aircraft doing on the tarmac for more than five hours? What happened? Why the delay?

Family sources said that the first information the wife gave was that, her husband arrival Kotoka Airport, Accra alive, asked to know the time, shook hands with the pilots, bade them bye, slid into unconsciousness shortly after, rushed to the airport clinic and was confirmed dead. Then she allegedly changed her story to say that when they got to the airport, her husband was found ‘immobile’.

However, one of the bodyguards that carried High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs out of the aircraft, in his statement, said the chief’s weight had double, much heavier than when they boarded the flight and his hands dropped like a lifeless person.

He said that an ambulance arrived, carried the chief to the airport clinic, which was only two minutes-drive away, only for doctors to declare High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs dead.

The lyrics waxed stronger. Confused, Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs was said to have put a phone call through to a female banker friend, who called a member of the Ghanaian Parliament, who then called some doctors to rush to Kotoka Airport clinic to remove the body to the mortuary.

The doctors arrived at the airport clinic, moved the body of Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs to Korle- Bur Teaching Hospital, issued a death certificate to his wife and with her, the body of the Paramount Chief of Young-Briggs War Canoe House of Abonnema, was deposited in a mortuary.

The medical report on the corpse by the Medical Director of the Airport Clinic, Dr. Boampong-Konam stated that the “High Chief was rushed to the Airport Clinic in an unconscious state, having been picked minutes earlier by the clinic’s ambulance in same state from the tarmac at the Kotoka International Airport on 27th December, 2018 at about 6:42pm. His vitals were unrecordable (i.e. Purse, Blood Pressure and Respiration). His oxygen saturation was also unrecordable”.

Mr. Dateim Lulu-Briggs was also in the aircraft

This medical report which was dated June 11, 2019 (six months after death), said that “On further examination, he had a Tracheostomy Tube and Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG) tube in-situ and had some degree of stiffness. His accompanying relations revealed that he had suffered multiple ailments in the past (some of which had necessitated surgeries, hence the tubes) including Parkinson disease”.

The report also stated that “Cardiorespiratory Resuscitation (CPR) was initiated in an effort to revive him but this was unsuccessful. He was confirmed clinically dead at about 6:57pm. Pending possible autopsy, Death Certificate (F.No.77914) was issued to Dr. Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs of House Number 147 Trasacco Valley Estate, East Legon, Accra, who identified herself as the deceased’s wife. The provisional cause of death was stated as Cardiac Arrest and the antecedent cause of death was stated as Parkinson Disease”.

The Secrecy

It was however discovered that his death was neither reported to the airport police, the Ghana Immigration Service nor the Ghana Airports Authority.

Immediate family members in Nigeria said they were contacted around 9pm, three hours after their paramount chief had been confirmed dead in Ghana.

How did they move the mortal body of High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs out of the airport without a report of such death to the Ghanaian authorities?

The five hours delay at the Port Harcourt International Airport; the state of the body on arrival at Accra Airport which suggests that rigor mortis had set in; the movement out of the airport without police report. All these cast the fatal trip to Accra into deep suspicion and controversies.

Why is Apostle Zilly Aggrey who was said to be aboard the chattered aircraft strangely silent over the ongoing controversies? His silence does none of the parties any good.

It is absolutely unthinkable that a priest of Apostle Zilly Aggrey’s standing would be aboard a chartered aircraft with High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs without exchanging greetings? If he greeted the old man, did he answer? Was he told not to bother to greet the old man because he was sleeping or too tired?

As a respected and reputable man of God, Apostle Zilly Aggrey should, on his honour, tell the world what he observed during the trip to Ghana and what happened up until the body of the chief was deposited in the mortuary. Surely, he couldn’t have abandoned the Lulu-Briggs family at the airport.

Apostle Zilly Aggrey is not just a prophet of God, he is an Izon man and Izon means truth.

The Media War Begins: The Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House Vs Chief Abiola Ogundokun

It was the Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House that broke the silence with a publication in The Punch and Thisday newspapers of Thursday, May 23, 2019 captioned “We do not know if High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs is dead or alive”

In the publication the chiefs stated unequivocally that they “are at a loss as to the whereabouts of the Head of the ancient war-canoe House, High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs. OON, DFC, The Emine I of Kalabari, since he was announced dead by his wife, Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs on December 27, 2018 while traveling to the republic of Ghana”.

They said that “we are unable to decipher if our High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs is alive or dead because since Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs reportedly travelled with him to the Republic of Ghana five months ago, knowing that his health condition had deteriorated, we have neither sighted him, his corpse, the mortuary receipts of the morgue where he is said to be kept nor his medical death certificate”.

“The only unofficial information we have about the said demise of our High Chief is the one being circulated by his wife, Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs, who was with him on that fateful day and who has kept the medical death certificate (that is if he has died) and the location of the corpse to herself, thereby keeping the family in complete darkness and in disarray about the whereabouts of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs”.

The Chiefs contended that the actions of Seinye Lulu-Briggs are unheard of and completely strange to Kalabari laws and custom.

“Her action is strange to Kalabari tradition, which clearly stipulates that a woman informs her husband’s family, as fast as it is possible, of his demise and reclines to her mourning role until burial ceremonies as organized by the family begin”.

The Oruwari Briggs House Chiefs accused Seinye Lulu-Briggs of singlehandedly planning the obsequies of her husband whose death she has not formally announced to his family, describing her actions as a disservice to the towering image of High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs.

“The Chief of Oruwari Briggs House hereby states unequivocally that Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs has overreached herself by her actions in taking High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs, OON, DCF alive or dead to Ghana at a time his health shows that he is weak” they asserted. (Below is the full publication of the Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House).

This publication by the Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House of Abonnema did not go without a response but the reply did not come from Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs herself or members of Oruwari Briggs House, the reaction came from far away Yoruba land.

One Chief Abiola Ogundokun (the Obanla of Iwoland) in Osun State, Nigeria who described himself as a very close personal friend of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs as a result of being pioneer members and national officers of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, took a two-page advertorial in Vanguard and Sun newspapers of Monday, June 10, 2019 captioned “High Chief (Dr.) O. B. Lulu-Briggs’ Demise: The Fictions, The Facts”.

It was obvious from the content of this publication that it was sponsored by Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs and that the Yoruba Chief who took up the job did not understand the boundaries of traditions. He was disrespectful to the Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House.

Chief Abiola Ogundokun described the Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House that signed the publication in reference, as “factional” chiefs that were making “some spurious claims”. He accused the Kalabari chiefs of peddling “fake news”.

Ogundokun asked: “Is this not the same Oruwari Briggs House Chiefs that officially announced the transitions to glory of the late Statesman in a paid advertorial in The Punch of January 1, 2019 and later went to commiserate and console the widow, Dr. (Mrs.) Seinye O. B. Lulu-Briggs? Is this not the same Oruwari Briggs House Chiefs who sent representatives to Accra, Ghana for the meeting over the burial arrangement of the deceased?

“I am aware that Dumo and his elder brother, Senibo arranged and paid for a casket in Accra to be used to transport their father’s body back home for burial. Ever since, the burial date has been changed twice – March 31 and April 6, 2019 – with Dumo giving filmy excuses for each postponement”.

“Since his father’s died, Dumo has acted as if he has an axe to grind with his stepmom who has run the businesses alongside High Chief Dr. O. B. Lulu-Briggs the Founder/Chairman/Chief Executive of Moni Pulo Ltd and patriarch of his family.

“I am aware that Seinye has severally extended an olive branch to Dumo and his siblings by conceding to them their oppressive insults, threats and agitation” Chief Abiola Ogundokun averred in his publication. (Below is the full publication by Abiola Ogundokun).

 

The Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House of Abonnema were not to allow this unknown praise singer talk rudely to Kalabari Chiefs, they followed up with another rejoinder in The Sun and Vanguard newspapers of Wednesday June 12, 2019 titled; “Chief Abiola Ogundokun’s fiction and facts on Chief  (Dr.) O. B. Lulu-Briggs’ Demise: A case of blind men and the elephant”.

In their rejoinder they said that Chief Abiola Ogundokun’s publication “can at best be described as the incursion of a cultural tourist into an unfamiliar terrain who regurgitated the story told him by his extremely biased tour guides” and that he completely expressed his ignorance of Kalabari-Ijaw tradition, the custom of the Oruwari Briggs House and the inner workings of the O. B. Lulu-Briggs family.

They queried is audacity as an Iwo chief from Yorubaland to determine “factional” chiefs in Kalabari-Ijaw land?

They chided Chief Ogundokun, saying that a man that intends to make peace, as he claimed, would not on the pages of a national newspaper, describe as “spurious claims” the considered position of the Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House, of which he is not a member.

They insisted that Chief Ogundokun’s friendship with High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs does not accord him the rights to speak for the family and that it was out of place for him to arrogate to himself the know-it-all of Kalabari-Ijaw custom and sit in judgement to deliver a verdict in favour of Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs.

The Oruwari Briggs House Chiefs agreed that they actually announced the transition to glory of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs and also commiserated with Mrs. Seinye O. B. Lulu-Briggs but they did so based on information received from Seinye herself, adding that “our trepidation heightened when more than five months after, the body of our Chief has not been brought home to us”.

“This is June, 2019 and the corpse is still in Ghana? Are there no befitting mortuaries in Nigeria? Is Lulu-Briggs a Ghanaian? What are they hiding in Ghana?” they asked.

“As it stands and until Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs is ready to respect Kalabari-Ijaw core values as regards the issue at hand, the demise of our High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs is still a mere hearsay and unknown to the Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House of Abonnema” they concluded. (Below is the full reply of the Chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House).

But Chief Abiola Ogundokun, a veteran journalist, now in his 80s, is not a person to run away from war of words. He published yet another two-page advertorial in the Thisday Newspaper of Wednesday 26, June, 2019 captioned “The 7 Oruwari Briggs House Chiefs’ Tales: A Response to the Deceits, Falsehoods and Blackmail”. (Bellow is Chief Ogundokun’s second reply to the chiefs of Oruwari Briggs House).

 

Criminal Investigation Begins

The initial reaction of Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs when he was told of his father’s death about 9pm on December 27th 2019 was that of shock at the sudden news, but he raised no eyebrow, considering that his father was 88 years and ailing.

However, his anxiety arose when he heard that his father was locked up inside a static aircraft for over five hours. His concern was heightened when, as the Chief of the family, his stepmother bluntly refused to hand over to him the medical death certificate and the mortuary receipts of his father.

High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs

Furthermore, his stepmother, Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs flew their ailing father, to Ghana without their knowledge, even though they were together as a family the previous day and their father was visibly ill. The concern is that their stepmother surreptitiously travelled with their father to Accra, without a medical clearance to travel.

Also, after their stepmother realized that her husband had passed, upon arrival in Accra, she failed to report the matter to the Ghana Immigration Service, the Ghana Airports Authority or the Airport Police Station.

Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs

Rather, she procured a medical cause of death certificate to be quickly issued, deposited the body of the deceased at a mortuary before she informed members of the immediate family of his death.

Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, who is the Chief of the Lulu-Briggs family and current head of the family, with the consent of his other two brothers, petitioned the Inspector General of Police in Nigeria to investigate the circumstances surrounding their father’s death.

Police Investigation

The Nigeria Police had since commenced investigations into the circumstances around the death of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs. The Police have taken statements from all the parties and Seinye is said to be on bail.

To investigate what happened in Accra, the Nigeria Police wrote to the Ghana Police through the Interpol and sent a Police investigating team from Nigeria to Ghana. The Nigeria and the Ghana Police in conjunction with the Interpol are digging into how and where the Kalabari-Ijaw War Canoe Chief died.

The first puzzle for the Police in Accra was that there was no record of such death with the police anywhere in Ghana. The police was not aware that somebody died either in Nigeria and was transported to Ghana, died in transit in the plane or died on arrival in Accra.

The Ghanaian Criminal Investigation Department said that there ought to have been a record with the police, the matter should have been reported to the police at the airport. But there was no record of such death with the airport police, no records with the Ghanaian Immigration Department and no records with the airport authorities in Ghana.

This finding was a big shock to the Ghana Police. They asked how the body got into Accra and into a funeral Home (Mortuary) without any record of it to the police. They said that in Ghana, such death automatically calls for an inquest and autopsy.

The Ghana Police said that an inquest ought to have been ordered and autopsy done before the issuing of a Medical Death Certificate.

The Subject of investigation

Where did Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs die? Did he die in Nigeria before being put on the aircraft, did he die onboard the aircraft or did he die in Ghana?

Did the Chief die of “Cardiac Arrest” as issued by the Director of the Airport Clinic, Dr. Boampong-Konam that he died of natural causes?

Which security officer allowed the Airport Clinic ambulance onto the Kotoka International Airport tarmac to fetch the body to the clinic for inspection and certification as dead?

Suspicion over  Chief Benson Lulu-Briggs’ death, is reinforce by the fact that, officials at the Airport Clinic, including Dr. Boampong-Konam, did not report the case to the Airport Police before proceeding to issue a death certificate dated  December 28, 2018;  a day after pronouncing the chief dead.

Another matter for investigation is the allegation that one Dr. Bernard Okoe Boye, Member of Parliament (MP) who is a medical doctor, had influenced his colleague, the Medical Director of the airport Clinic to declare the 88-year old Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs, as having died of natural causes. It was this MP that Seinye’s banker friend allegedly called for assistance when they arrived Accra.

The suspicion is based on the fact that the death certificate was issued by Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital where the MP, Dr. Bernard Okoe Boye, is the Board Chairman, and there are allegations that he might have influenced the death certificate, using his connection to the hospital.

A matter for investigation is the fact that Dr. Boampong-Konam’s name in the death register entered on 28th December, 2018 at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, appeared as Killian Boampong-Konadu, different from what the Airport Clinic, has in their records.

Information available

It is alleged that there was indeed, a landing permit for the chattered aircraft issued with estimated time of arrival put at 1pm, Ghana time. The trip from Nigeria to Ghana is about 45 minutes, however, the Director of the Airport Clinic, Dr. Boampong-Konam in his medical report said that the 88-year Chief was brought to the Airport Clinic at 6:42pm and “was confirmed clinically dead at about 6:57pm” – some 15 minutes after arrival.

There are written medical statements to the effect that by the time the body was seen, all the vital information were not readable and recordable. The pulse, the blood pressure, the respiration and the oxygen level were all not recordable. The body had some degree of stiffness which meant that rigor mortis has set in, a process that starts within 3 to 4 hours in the hand and face and extends across the larger muscle groups within the first 12 hours after death.

On the day in question, an ambulance belonging to the Airport Clinic stormed the tarmac of Kotoka International Airport to carry what was later discovered to be the dead body of Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs.

Indeed, the personal security guard of Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs, Mr. Ilaye Philemon who was on board the aircraft has told the Ghana Police in his statement that, High Chief Lulu-Briggs’ body was heavier and unresponsive to his environment when the aircraft they travelled in touched down at the Kotoka International Airport on December 27, 2019#

 

 

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