Saturday, September 05, 2015

My Husband And I Were Preparing For Our 16th wedding Anniversary –Wife Of Lagos Container Accident Victim

Zainab surrounded by three of her children

Surrounded by a swarm of women, her eyes flicked
from side to side, dejection, confusion and extreme
soberness written all over her face. The presence
of the dozens of visitors trooping in and out of the
modest apartment did only little to heal Zainab's
bleeding wound. It is one of the most difficult
periods in the life of the young mother – one that
has pushed her resolve to the limits and broken
her spirits into shreds. There is no word to
describe her pains.

Waking up to a beautiful and promising day on the morning of September 2, 2015, there was no reason to think that danger was looking around the corner. Early morning prayers concluded, her husband and best friend of 16 years, Abubakar Sulaiman, had prepared to head out for his bureau de change business at the local wing of the Murtala

Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
Hugging and playing around with their five children
– Sulaiman, 15, Idris, 14, Abdulrahman, 10, Nana, 7
and two-year-old Hauwa – that morning in his usual
characteristic, the breadwinner of the family soon
bid everyone goodbye, promising to bring home
something special later in the evening. But sadly,
the 48-year-old never made it back as promised. A
fully loaded 40ft container that had fallen off the
Ojuelegba bridge in the heart of the city that
afternoon and landed on his black Toyota Sports
Utility Vehicle, ended his life and that of two other
occupants – Umaru Sulaiman, 45, and Kamilu
Umar, 38, in the cruelest manner. His death leaves
the entire family in shock and in agony.

"I started having a strange feeling from afternoon
of that day after calling his mobile phone several
times without a response from him," Abubakar's
wife, Zainab, told our correspondent in their Agege
Lagos home on Friday. "I became restless; my
thoughts were on him all the time," she continued.
"So, I called one of his friends later that evening to
find out if they were together. The friend told me
that they were not together and that he had gone
out with another of his friends. By the time I called
that one too he was not picking so I called one of
my brother-in-laws to know if he had heard from
my husband.

"Not satisfied, I started calling the number of his
driver, Kamilu. Later a policeman picked the call
and asked who I was, I told him and he said I
should tell my husband to call the number and
speak with them. I told him that my husband was
with the driver I wanted to speak with and
immediately they cut the call. When I called back
they told me to tell an adult male in the family to
call the number so they could speak. By the time
the news was eventually broken to me, I fainted. I
don't know how I survived those moments," she
said amid sobs as the scores of young and middle-
aged women around her made spirited attempts to
console her.

Three days without Abubakar has left the once
happy home in a shadow of its old self. Even
though a portrait of him smiling brightly hangs in
the family's living room, the manner of his
unexpected and painful death appears to have
brought constant darkness into the home. Zainab
told Saturday PUNCH that their lives would never
remain the same without their breadwinner.

"He promised to have us celebrate our 16-year
wedding anniversary on October 24," she cuts in
solemnly. "We were both looking forward to that
special day. But death has ended that dream. The
children cry every night, asking after their father.
Words cannot tell the vacuum we feel in our hearts.
Life can never be the same without him," she said
before burying her face in a small towel. The sight
would certainly melt even the hardest of hearts.
Back at the family house of the Sulaimans in
another part of Agege, the influx of sympathisers –
men, women and even children – was almost
endless on Friday when our correspondent visited
the place. Even dogs and goats around the area
seem to understand the calamity that had just
befallen the family – they all took strategic
positions in the road leading to the compound,
glancing at each visitor with a mournful look. At the
veranda of the compound converged several young
and middle-aged men on mats. They were
discussing the latest event and brainstorming on
the way forward. Among them was Usman, the
immediate younger sibling of the late Abubakar. He
gave a chilling insight into what manner of pain the
family was passing through and how the tragic
incident had crushed dreams and left a host of
challenges on their doorpost. The situation, he
says, leaves them deeply confused.

"I was out of the house for most part of the day and
didn't return home until night that Wednesday," he
began. "While I was in bathroom, calls kept coming
on my phones; I thought they were business calls
which I could pick later because I was very tired at
that point. But after praying, I decided to check my
phone and later called one of my relatives who
immediately asked if I had heard what happened.
The person said my brother was involved in an
accident. By the time we rushed down to
Ojuelegba, another person called us that we
shouldn't go to the Surulere police station where
the matter was being handled but that we should to
the Mainland Hospital in Yaba. On getting there,
they took us straight to their mortuary, that was
when we actually knew that they were dead," he

Dumbfounded at that point, Usman needed to dig
deep within his arsenal for the strength and
courage to relay the news to their aged and
hypertensive mother – Hajia Fatima. It was one
year after the family suffered a similar loss. The
last child of the home, Mukthar, had died in a
terrible road accident last year in Katsina State
immediately after securing a job with a
telecommunications firm. It was barely two weeks
to his wedding. It was a big blow to the entire
household. The wound had yet to fully heal before
tragedy knocked on the family's door again – this
time taking Abubakar, their eldest child.

"There was no way I could relay such message to
our mother," Usman explains, emotions almost
betraying him. "We had to keep the news away
from his wife and our mother because the two of
them are hypertensive; such news would break
them down. The news was broken to them the next
morning. We had to call our elderly Hausa women
to break the news to them and stay with them. Our
mother cried uncontrollably at the news because
Mukthar's death, our last born, is still fresh in our

"The three of them in the vehicle at the time of the
accident, were heading back home from Apapa
where they had gone to transact a business. One of
them, Kamilu, used to live here at the family house
before getting an apartment of his own recently. He
had four children while Umar, the third person in
the car with them, has eight children. We are all
related," he said.

Sadly, Kamilu's newly born child was christened on
Friday – two days after death claimed his life in the
most tragic manner, ending his dreams and
throwing his family into a season of endless
mourning. His wife and children have since been
moved to their native Kano following their burial at
the Agege cemetery on Thursday evening. They
would continue their journey without their 38-year-
old father and breadwinner.

Curiously several days after the tragic incident that
shook the entire nation, there has been no word
from the police, owners of the ill-fated truck or the
Lagos State Government on whether there would
be compensation for children and wives of the
victims. Usman says the situation leaves them
confused by the day.

"Though, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr.
Akinwunmi Ambode, sent some representatives to
our house on Thursday, we haven't heard anything
from any quarters since then. The victims have
families and young children. How will they survive
without their fathers and breadwinners? We are
talking about 17 children without fathers, how will
they cope in the years to come? The problem is too
much for the family alone to handle.

"The police also haven't said much. Though, we saw
the tanker driver at the station but we don't even
know if there is a company involved, nobody has
told us anything yet. Before we even got the
corpses of our brothers was tough. In fact it was a
big battle at the Mainland Hospital mortuary where
staff were asking us to pay N250, 000 before the
bodies would be released to us despite instructions
from the Governor that they should be released. It
took hours of protest from us before the bodies
were eventually released," he said.

The casualty from the latest container tragedy
could have been worse had the heavy metal also
pinned a white car inches away from Abubakar's
SUV. By a whisker, the vehicle and its occupant –
Lasisi Akeem – were not touched, reminding us of
how much could have gone down under the
massive weight of the 40ft 'monster'.
Painful as the Ojuelegba incident is, it is not the
first time containers carried by trucks would crush
lives and end dreams – the latest is among an ever
swelling list of deaths that continue to occur across
the country on daily basis.

On January 23, 2015 for example, a middle-aged
woman, Anthonia and her thrid son, Chibuzor,
were crushed to death after an unlatched container
fell on them at the Ketu bus-stop where they were
waiting to board a vehicle to Mile 12. On July 25,
2012, a young lady had been killed at the Berger
end of the Lagos/Ibadan expressway when a
container tipped off the back of a truck and fell on
her. Four months later on November 21, 2012,
three persons riding in a Mazda car lost their lives
in similar fashion. The incident happened along the
Badagary/Seme expressway. On June 7, 2013, an
unidentified man died along the Agege Motor Road
after a container fell on an Eko meat van. The
victim, said to be a manager with a top mobile
phone dealer in the Ikeja area of the city, was
walking to the office when the incident happened.

Two occupants of the meat van later died in the
hospital, according to reports. The driver of the
truck was said to have lost control of the wheel
after one of his tyres burst. The list is endless.
Calls for the outlawing of articulated vehicles
carrying containers within Lagos and other major
cities across the country during the day, have often
ended with every major tragedy. Authorities
continue to look away while trucks and their heavy
baggage continue to spill blood and kill dreams.


AbleMoJah® Nigeria.

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