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We want to see his corpse – Sen Wayas’ kinsmen task govt

It is almost three years since Nigeria’s former number three citizen, Dr Joseph Wayas, died in a London hospital after a lingering old age-related ailment.…

It is almost three years since Nigeria’s former number three citizen, Dr Joseph Wayas, died in a London hospital after a lingering old age-related ailment.

He served Nigeria as Senate President during President Shehu Shagari’s government from 1979-1983. Dr Wayas died at 80 on 30 November 2021.

The government of his home state, Cross River, had flown him to and managed his ailment at the said hospital until his death.

The administration of Prof Ben Ayade constituted a funeral committee with former Attorney General of the Federation Kanu Agabi as chairman, and former Executive Secretary of National Planning Commission Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo as secretary.

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Hands off pension funds

The administration reportedly released a princely sum of N200 million for the committee to do initial preparation for the burial, including flying the body back home.

Soon enough, controversy over management of the fund ensued. This reportedly led to the swift resignation of Agabi and other key individuals of the funeral committee.

Some members of the committee allegedly pointed accusing fingers at the first son of the deceased. But Joe Wayas jr vehemently denied and challenged all to account for the fund.

Not done, there were the internal family squabbles between children of late Wayas’ first wife who also died soon after Dr Wayas, and the second wife.

president of basang nation, sylvanus anyawho
president of basang nation, sylvanus anyawho

The first son had cautioned her against usurping his role, saying she was never recognized as his father’s wife, and frowned at her using his late father’s name to appeal to authorities for funds.

In all of these imbroglio, critical stakeholders including kinsmen, paramount ruler of Obanliku LGA of the State, the Who Is Who in Cross River North senatorial district where Wayas hailed from, became very embarrassed.

Governor Bassey Otu’s government, too, was equally embarrassed as they have had cold feet responding to many appeals from Wayas’ family for the government’s further commitments towards the burial.

President of Basang nation, the community where Wayas hailed from, Sylvanus Anyawho, complained of how they have waited for the governor’s response to no avail.

Perhaps, one of the many reasons why the government is yet reluctant may not be far from the doubts expressed by some kinsmen that the body of their late son, Dr Wayas, might have been secretly disposed of either by the hospital authorities or buried by some of the family members in London.

In a dedicated forum where dignitaries from the northern part of the state congregate to ventilate options on the vexed issue of the late Senate President, findings show that a lot of arguments do ensue. They strongly disagreed that the body was available in the London morgue.

This led one Dr Abu Undiandeye to ask them: “When will the remains of Dr Joe Wayas arrive Nigeria? Has it become impossible?”

That question is understood to have further generated uproar amongst them, so that another dignitary challenged him to channel such question privately to “certain people who wanted their approval before anything can be done.  They refused to do nothing and they want others to do nothing.”

It should be noted that there had been several attempts before now by Cross River north elders as well as Cross River Senators both serving and former to fly the body home but for the issue of availability of the body.

But one of them based in London with deep pocket, Afen Agaji, was said to have put all the doubts to rest when he facilitated a visit to managers of the morgue, cleared outstanding debts and was reported to have sighted the remains of Wayas alongside one of Wayas’ daughters also based in the United Kingdom.

Sources told Daily Trust that the man sunk in a staggering £6710 to be able to establish that the body was available.

Reacting to the speculation during their platform online meeting, Agaji was quoted to have said: “It was not an easy task to be able to establish that Dr Wayas has not been buried.

“Even after sighting it, the doubters insisted that there was no picture of the dead man to prove that the body viewed was actually that of Wayas. Really? UK is not Nigeria; you dare not take a picture of the dead here and for what? They respect the dead here in London. And that is why once anyone is confirmed dead, the first action is to cover him or her up and not to start taking pictures like people do in Nigeria.

“All were working on assumptions that Dr Wayas has been buried in the UK and those people were happy to work on that assumption.

“However, Dr DC resurrected the whole thing by starting the campaign to bring the old man home as his last wish and with that DC committed a cardinal Sin. They made him to tender an apology for no offence. DC is yet to give satisfactory explanation as to what his apologies are for. Apologies are for infractions and not for nothing.

“After his body was viewed, those who don’t want his body home, (I don’t know what the old man did to them that they won’t forgive him in death) now came up with the ridiculous and evil thought that there was no prove that the body that was viewed is that of Dr Wayas.

“How provocative can that be? Those involved who even committed their own money (£6710) to pay for the storage of the body up to December 2023, the amount which is still hanging have been made to look like liars.

“Work that amount out in Naira. It was provided from one person’s pocket and without conscience anyone could make such statement.”

He alleged that there are two camps as far as efforts to bring back the corpse is concerned.

He accused the doubters of profiteering from the non-burial of the former Senate President, adding that “those who want the body home are volunteers who were not even born when Dr Wayas was in power but they are the ones making positive efforts while those who benefited directly and rode on his back to prominence are the very people frustrating everyone.”

Responding to further arguments, he said, “You want to know when the body is going home? Ask the powers that be and they will tell you. Privately, they boast that Who is who is wasting their time, that they will achieve nothing from their effort but I dare say that they are not God.”

Meanwhile, nearly 100 prominent dignitaries in Cross River North senatorial district have so far raised over N35m to enable them bring back the body.

Former Attorney General of the Federation Kanu Agabi redeemed his N10m pledge while Senator Jarigbe Agom has also redeemed his N5m.

President of Basang Nation, Wayas’ immediate ancestral community, Sylvanus Anyawho, said the burial of late Wayas is their priority whether Nigeria’s Senate or the state government responds to them or not.

He was sad that both the federal and state governments have ignored their appeals.

Anyawho, who is also leader of 8th Executive Council of Basang Development Union, said in an interview, “We have raised money. We have collectively shown that the burial of the former Senate President is our priority.

“We have appealed to the Nigerian Senate. We have led delegation to our state government. We are patient.

“Why should the state ignore the collective wish of its people? why?”

He threatened that their next action might be to lead a protest, “Infact, the next option will be protest.”

A stalwart of the national ruling party, Chief Samuel Akaninyene, from Akwa Ibom State called on the leadership of the current Senate led by Dr Godswill Akpabio to rise and accord his predecessor the national funeral to save the country this lingering embarrassment.

We doubt the claim of secret burial – Govt

Speaking for the government, Chief Press Secretary to Cross River Governor Bassey Otu, Gill Nsa said the government doubts the claims that the body may have been secretly buried.

He said, “If that was true, the family would have hinted us. As far as we know, the family and the funeral committee are working towards the burial.

“About two weeks ago, the committee met with the governor to brief him.  I know that Governor Otu is in touch with the development.”

 

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