6 January 2001

Nigeria: I'll Face Sarumi After My Daughter's Burial - Wigwe

Lagos — When Victor Umoren decided to take his wife Naomi Umoren (nee Wigwe) for a three-day retreat at the Eko Beach Resort along Lagos-Epe Expressway, on December 23 last year, it was for many reasons. First, it was to have a short honeymoon, a pleasure the pressure of work could not allow when they wedded three months earlier, precisely on September 7, 2000.

But beyond that, it was also a time to steal away and plan for the future. They needed to plan, if only for the baby that the Umorens were expecting in six months time.

They certainly never bargained for death at the hands of a murderous convoy of Chief Dapo Sarumi, the Minister for Co-operation and Integration for Africa. And the way death came was so painful and tragic that every heart that hears the story will bleed.

The annoying part of it all according to Naomi's father, is the fact that had rescue come to Naomi Umoren on time, she would have made it. Weekend Vanguard spoke to Dr and Mrs Shyngle Wigwe, parents of Naomi on the accident at their Anthony Village home. It is a pathetic story.

A visit to No. 39 Ajao Crescent in Anthony Village, Lagos was greeted with grief, anguish and sorrow mixed with anger, as sympathisers thronged in and out of the residence of one of the deceased to register their condolence.

Mr. and Mrs. Victor Umoren were reportedly crushed to death in a ghastly motor accident involving Chief Dapo Sarumi's convoy and their Honda Prelude car in which the newly married couple were driving back home from a retreat December26, 2000.

Father of the deceased Naomi, Pastor Shyngle Wigwe, a former Director-General of Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) narrated to Weekend Vanguard, though in a rather sorrow mixed with anger-voice, minute by minute account on how his daughter fought death till she finally succumbed.

"My daughter didn't just die, she was deliberately murdered. And so, I have decided to fight this cause to the end. I will face Sarumi after my daughter's burial because I believe after this, people will begin to drive like human beings.

"You don't just kill somebody and come around and tell the public lies.

"Listen, if Dapo Sarumi had made the least attempt at helping my daughter and her husband just the way he did to himself and his victims on his convoy there is no way she would have died.

"Eye witness account amongst the villagers told me that even though she was lying critically injured on the ground, she was still shouting: "help, help, I am still alive,but no help came and they were left there till about 5.30 pm before they were taken to the hospital; and of course by this time she had died".

Curiously, Pastor Wigwe sees Chief Dapo Sarumi as one who was supposed to be a bundle of joy to many families as well as good ambassador of the country, but turned to be the opposite.

"That man, by virtue of his position in Nigeria is supposed to bring joy to families and be a good ambassador and not a killer. He is supposed to demonstrate a high sense of sensibility and humanity and not the one that should throw families in mourning mood.

"I will take the matter to the Presidency, I can't just allow my daughter and her husband to die like that when they were just planning the best for themselves after the wedding three months after.

" I am happy Sarumi could even tell the world that after the accident what happened, he walked away.

'He even lied so much that it was my daughter and her husband's car that rammed into his convoy thereby causing the accident. That was a Big Lie!

"Look at it from this angle; my daughter and her husband were returning from a retreat in Epe while Sarumi and his convoy were heading towards Epe, his home town, how could they (my daughter and her husband) have rammed into his convoy."

"This was a couple who even after their wedding in September hadn't' time for their honey-moon they went straight to work, planning good things for each other.

"If you go to the scene of the accident right now, you could still see the skid mark on the road. It was all about over speeding on the part of Sarumi and his convoy.

"Even the Federal Road Safety Commission's report revealed that it was a reckless driving from Sarumi's convoy that caused the accident. It said a Peugeot 505 back-up car in the convoy of Sarumi violently on a top speed had a left side front tyre blown out, causing it to skid off the Epe-bound side of the Lagos/Epe Expressway, then immediately careened off the road and slammed into the 1990 model Honda car which contained my dead daughter and her husband.

"The most annoying aspect of the incident is that the villagers told me that shortly after the accident, Sarumi came out of his own car brought out his cellular phone and called a place and less than five minutes, a car came and picked him up from the scene immediately.

"Later, the same people came and cleared the victims of his convoy leaving my daughter and his husband who was already dead because he of course had the greatest impact of the collision behind.

"What I want to do now is bury them first and decide on what to do. But you can be well assured that I am taking it to the Presidency. You don't just kill people like that and be allowed to go free."

Mother of the deceased Lady, Mrs. Eucharia Wigwe who also managed to speak with Weekend Vanguard amid tears and curse for killers of her daughter who she referred to as "my sister and daughter" said, "that man killed my daughter (tears rolled). He killed my daughter and walked away.

"I am an orphan and Naomi is the first of my six children. After I lost my parents at an early stage, I was devastated until she came and ever since my life changed because I see her as my mother, sister and daughter altogether.

"Even when she wanted to wed in September three months ago, I still was telling my friends that my sister was about to wed; I didn't refer to her as my daughter. But now, all that whole lot of joy have been taken away from me in a most brisk and agonising manner.

"I heard after the accident, that man came cleared everything and left my daughter and her husband there to die," (cries profusely).

"At 5.30 p.m I heard the doctor who confirmed her dead said she would not have died if she had been brought to him an hour earlier, that is to say they were just dumped in the first hospital where they were taken to (cries more profusely).

"Can you believe that my daughter was three months pregnant eh, eh, can you believe that? So, you can see that man killed my daughter, killed my grand child and her husband.

"And since the incident, he never came, did not send a representative or even make a telephone call. Now, how else do you describe such person, but a killer. And in a short while, they would want people to vote for them. I wonder who will want to vote for a killer."

Mrs Naomi Umoren (nee Wigwe) according to Pastor Shyngle Wigwe, one of the national elders in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and father of the deceased, was born 28 years ago (1972-2000) and studied Agric Economics in the University of Ibadan.

Her husband, he said is a year older (1971-2000), and read Food Technology in Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife. Both wife and husband work with All States Trust Bank and Linkserve Ltd respectively.

Pastor Shyngle said because the deceased couple lived in their separate apartment from the family house, he could not know what they had in stock for each other before death came calling, but stated that he was optimistic that since they hadn't time for honeymoon after their marriage, they were planning for one abroad.

The aged Pastor but looking vibrant told Weekend Vanguard that both families were born-again Christians and therefore have decided to bury husband and wife on Friday at Ikoyi Cemetery inspite of the fact that the husband was from Akwa Ibom State while the wife was from Isiokpo LGA (Ikwerre Town) in Rivers State.

"There is no point taking them home. They will be buried on Friday at Ikoyi Cemetery after a

service of songs at their residence on Thursday . We Christians do not believe in all those traditions and fetish practices.God knows best," concluded Pastor Wigwe.

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