The family of Seinye Lulu-Briggs, the widow of late Billionaire, O. B Lulu-Briggs has asked the family of her late husband to include her in his burial rites as stipulated by the Kalabari tradition.
The Families of Chief Dodo West Elebike of Buguma and Daibisrama Iniikeiroari Young-Briggs of Abonnema in a letter addressed to the Acting Paramount Head, Oruwari Group of Houses of Abonnema, explained that Seinye was properly married into the family, hence deserves to be included in the burial rites.
O. B Lulu-Briggs died en route to Ghana in December 2018. Dumo Lulu-Briggs, his second son accused his stepmother of murdering him.
The family has been engrossed in a bitter battle over the late patriarch’s will which mostly favoured Seinye. The estate is estimated to worth over $1 billion.
The family has been going back and forth over the cause of death of the billionaire, especially a lengthy court case in Ghana.
Seinye, an entrepreneur had accused Dumo of using his political connections to harass her, including a search of the Moni Pulo office, the family’s multi-billion oil firm by the Police and her subsequent arrest.
Dumo has also fixed March 13 2021 for the father’s burial, more than two years after he was pronounced dead.
The protest letter signed by Chief Alaiyi Tom-West and Chief Obrasua Ernest Francis Briggs said that the exclusion of the family from the burial and purported expulsion of Seinye from the Lulu-Briggs family is not in line with the culture of the Kalabari people.
Read the letter in full.
BURIAL OF CHIEF OLU BENSON LULU-BRIGGS, OUR IN-LAW
We the members of the families of Daibisarama, the first adopted son of Chief Inikeiroari Young Briggs and of Chief Dodo West Elebike hereby bring to your knowledge the happenings concerning our daughter, Mrs Seinye O. B. Lulu-Briggs.
In the year 2001, Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs formally sought for the hand of Seinye in marriage from us and we gladly gave our consent. Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs thereafter in September 2001 married her in the highest fom of marriage ‘iya’ under the Kalabari custom.
This ceremony Chief performed before the Oruwari Council of Chiefs, the Abonnema Council of Chiefs and the Kalabari Councils and three marriage certificates were then issued certifying the three ceremonies. The marriages were witnessed by a great number of Chiefs and people of Kalabari land and also by people from all over the country. The very elaborate marriage spanned over a course of four days.
By the special grace of God, the couple had a very happy and fulfilling marriage, got blessed with several children, for more than 17 years
until December 2018, when sadly, our son-in-law, Chief Olu Benson Lulu-
Briggs passed away in faraway Accra, Ghana.
All the children of Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs and his widow gathered together in Accra immediately and started the preliminary preparations for bringing him back home and burying him. This however has not happened up ill now, more than two years after he passed on.
During this period, however, our daughter, Seinye has been falsely accused of murdering him by his older sons, led by Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs.
An autopsy was performed which unequivocally proved that he died of natural causes. Thereafter, on February 25th 2020, the older sons again led by Chief Dumo, took possession of the body of Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs to a location unknown to our daughter, up till this moment. We have however been patiently waiting for over a year since that time for notification of his burial.
It is indeed sad that we the families of his widow have not received any formal message ‘Oku’ regarding funeral arrangements from the elder sons or any other members of his family. We recall that marriage messages (both Kala Oku and “Opu Oku”) were sent to us, when our permission was being sought for the lya’ marriage to take place and we expect the same to be done by his family as preparations get into top gear for the burial of our in-law. Instead, we are hearing rumours concerning his burial events swirling around, courtesy of his second son, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, who seemed to have set the date for burial in conjunction with some Chiefs of the compound.
We have also been apprised of other rumours to the effect that Chief Dumo has incited directly and indirectly several women in Abonnema to sing songs to boo her if she showed up at the funeral to perform her widowhood rights, by her late husband. We, her family, believe that her life is under threat, which will come to play at the funeral. In that vein, we need guarantees from
Chief Dumo and the Lulu-Briggs family that she will be safe and not come to any harm during the funeral ceremony.
This state of affair is in complete violation of Kalabari tradition and custom and code of conduct regarding the situation of an “lya erebo of a paramount chief. A manifestly wrong precedent must not be allowed to be set.
As an lya erebo’, who lived with her husband until his death, our daughter and us, are entitled to certain rights and responsibilities at his burial.
We are able and willing to fulfil and perform our traditional roles without any hindrance. As his lya Erebo’ and as per the Kalabari custom she has custody of the family wrappers and jewelry which would be used to make the ‘Ede’ on which Chief would be laid in state. So far, she has not been contacted by his family on any ‘Ede’ arrangements. She is ready and willing to produce and use the traditional cloth and jewelry as she has done in the burial of other members of the family over the last almost twenty years.
In the same vein, his first daughter, Solate, our grand-daughter, has been ready and waiting to perform her duties, such as providing the Shroud (burial cloth) for her father, just as his first son is to provide the casket. She has also been kept in the dark by his older sons about the activities surrounding her father’s burial. In particular, she does not even know and has not known for over a year in what mortuary his body is being kept
It is also a great surprise and bafflement to her that in the program she has seen publicly circulated, the chief will not be laid in state or even brought to his primary residence, which he built and lovingly christened Sombreiro House. In the original plan agreed to by all his children including Chief Dumo, and our daughter, Chief was supposed to be laid in state in Sombreiro House before being moved to Abonnema for further rites and internment. The house is prepared to receive his body. The change in plans has not been explained to nor discussed with our daughter.
As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago, representatives of Our two families led by Chief Alaiyi Tom-West, Head of Elebike Group of Houses, paid a visit to Chief Ndu Ajumogobia Bestman and voiced these same concerns about our participation as well as our daughter’s participation in the burial ceremonies of our well-esteemed in-law. The response we got from Chief Bestman was to ask us to tell our daughter to apologize to Chief Dumo and beg him for forgiveness. He did not tell us what she was to apologize for.
He also said to us that she has been excommunicated (removed) from the family of the High Chief and is therefore barred from his burial ceremony and will only be allowed to participate and be re-admitted into the family if she renders the apology as demanded to Chief Dumo. At that point, the meeting came to an end with him promising that he would reach her with the family decision of expulsion. As we write, our daughter has told us that Chief Bestman has not in any way contacted her.
We, therefore, pray that the Oruwari Council of Chiefs will, taking into cognizance both the Kalabari tradition and natural law, call on the family of High ChiefO.B. Lulu-Briggs to do the right and proper thing with regards to his widow and his in-laws. We humbly ask this of you as the custodians of our tradition, to uphold the mores of the society.