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WOMAN BATTLES FAMILY OVER HUSBAND'S CORPSE

By NBF News
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Josephine Agbonifo

For six years, Josephine Agbonifo, an Ijaw lady, had a blissful marriage with Davidson Agbonifo, an Urhobo. But, suddenly, everything turned sour. First, a mysterious skin disease struck her husband, which defied cure. The couple battled fruitlessly to find a solution to the skin problem. To make matters worse, one fateful day, Josephine's in-laws came to the house to forcefully lock her husband in a room before whisking her away in a waiting car. The in-laws claimed the house was polluted and that they needed to cleanse it. Josephine was warned not to come near the house again.

As if her travail was not enough, six days later her world virtually came crashing when she received news that her husband was dead. Initially, she did not believe it as she had been communicating with the father of her two children on the telephone after she was forced out of the house.

Efforts to unravel the circumstances that led to her husband's alleged death have pit her in fierce confrontation with her in-laws. She now claims her life is in danger due to several threats from her father-in-law, Chief Godpower Agbonifo, a prominent hotelier in Warri, Delta State.

A distraught Mrs Agbonifo narrated her story to Sunday Sun , claiming her ordeal started on Thursday, February 11, 2010.

'My father-in-law, Chief Godpower Agbonifo, sent my husband's younger brothers, Edwin and Lucky Agbonifo, to the house where my husband and I were happily living and asked me to leave because, according to them, the house was polluted and they wanted to cleanse it. My husband and I decided that I would not leave. But one of the brothers dragged him to his room pretending that he was going to discuss something with him, locked the door behind him while the two brothers dragged me outside.

'There was a car waiting outside with two men seated inside. The two men took me away and dropped me off at Ugborikoko road in Warri, Delta State, and warned me never to come back to the house if I want to be alive,' she alleged. |

Mrs Agbonifo said she became confused and headed straight to one of her pastors' house to report what had happened. The pastor, she added, later called her husband, who said he didn't have any problem with his wife.

She also alleged that two days later, on February 12, her father-in-law locked up her shop situated in his hotel premises and chased away the workers. At this time, she had moved to her uncle's home in Warri, where she said her husband visited her after they spoke on the telephone. She said her husband told her that he quarreled with his dad and that the latter slapped him.

'During the quarrel, my husband said his dad slapped him and it affected his sight. His eyes were red and his nose was bleeding and he was having severe headache. I asked him to go to hospital but he said he couldn't even drive and that his dad's driver was taking him home. The next day, February 15, 2010, was my birthday and when I didn't hear from him in the morning, I called people around his house. They told me that his father had sent one quack doctor to treat him and the doctor said his blood pressure was high,' she further recounted.

According to the woman, when she didn't see her husband the next day as he promised, she became worried and made effort to get him on the phone but that his three phones were switched off.

'I later learnt his father had seized all his phones because I had spoken with him the previous day and they saw a few text messages I sent to him,' she said.

Then on February 17, 2010, she was informed that her husband was dead. 'Suddenly I started getting calls from different quarters asking me what was happening and I was confused because nobody was telling me anything. My uncle, my father, my in-laws, none could tell me anything; I was left in the dark.

'Later, information got to me that my husband had passed on that same February 17. It was hard for me to believe because before I was chased out of the house on February 11, my husband was very healthy and for the six years of our marriage, he had not even gone to the hospital up to five times for admission.'

She alleged that after the news of her husband's death, another call came from her children's school to inform her that three persons – a female and two males – had come to collect her children.

'Though they know the faces, they refused to disclose their names to me,' she lamented.

For Madam Josephine, her husband was not dead and so she went to his family house to see things herself.

'On getting to my in-laws' place, I could feel that the air was so quiet, people were sad and I immediately started losing my energy. When my father-in-law came down and saw me, he asked with fury, 'Who brought this woman here?' 'Is she here to kill me too?'

'I was in so much tears but that statement showed that a killing took place. So I told myself that it wasn't time for tears; it was now time to find out what happened to my husband,' she stated.

She alleged that her disbelief in the phantom story of her husband's death was strengthened by a threat from one of her husband's younger brothers, who on the telephone allegedly threatened her not to attend the burial ceremony of her husband if she wanted to be alive.

She said the purported burial took place on March 5, 2010 and that curiously, nobody who attended the burial ceremony saw her husband's corpse. Her husband's coffin, according to her, was not opened for any body to see both at the burial site and in the church.

'I was called and threatened on the phone by my husband's younger brother, Fred Agbonifo, not to come to the burial. I couldn't imagine anyone who has lost more than me. I'm not so sure he is dead. All I have heard is what people have said. I have not seen his corpse and even at the burial I have not found anybody who could say he saw the corpse, including those who were at the church service. The coffin was never opened for anybody to see. So how can I believe my husband is dead?' she queried.

The embattled mother of two also alleged that since the day she got a call that three persons had taken her children away from their school around 1pm, she had not seen them. She said she doesn't know their whereabouts. 'My children are yet to be found. I haven't seen them since the day they were taken away from their school and that was the day their father died,' she stated.

When Sunday Sun asked her what went wrong and why her father-in-law was bent on destroying her marriage, she said: 'He didn't oppose the marriage. To the best of my knowledge, nothing happened that could have led to such action. I believe every family has its own thing but between my husband and I, there was no quarrel; we had no problem at all.'

She alleged that her father-in-law and his family have spread information that she was responsible for her husband's death. According to her, they said she was frolicking around town and never took care of her husband when he was sick. The rumour, according to her, is so strong that it was contained in a church bulletin.

'There is a lot of rumours around town about me and my family. The rumour was published in the church bulletin of St Anthony's Catholic Church, Ugborikoko. I was asked to leave the house when I had no problem with my husband. So, I was not sure what time I was frolicking. Was it when they asked me to leave the house or while I was still married?' she wondered.

She said she was never unfaithful to her husband throughout the six years of their marriage and her husband never said so. She equally said she never neglected her husband in time of sickness. Instead his family sent her away and never allowed her to see her husband until they purportedly announced that he was dead.

Mrs Agbonifo also narrated how she and her husband managed the strange rashes that occasionally appeared on her husband's body and how her father-in-law never cared about the skin problem.

'While I was dating my husband, he had strange rashes on his body, which I noticed. We tried to treat it but it would disappear and later re-appear. I noticed that after I had my first baby, the same rashes on his buttocks appeared again on his hand. We went to several places; hospitals and prayer houses but the rashes would not go permanently. And with all the money my father-in-law has, he didn't do anything.

'I want to state here that having a disease is not the same thing as being sick. My husband wasn't sick but he had the strange rashes and while I was looking for the cure, I couldn't just sit down not doing anything because our children had to eat. My husband was working for his dad, who didn't pay him much. At a point, his father asked him to just sit down in the house and do nothing. He was paying him a salary of about N100,000, which I know could not have taken care of our bills,' she stated.

Threat to life
Mrs Agbonifo said she had to let the world hear her story by going to the media because of an alleged threat by her father-in-law that he would kill her and nothing would happen. She said she became afraid some military men attached his house allegedly assaulted a team of police officers she led there to serve him a warrant of arrest following a petition her lawyer wrote to the Police Area Commander in Warri, and that nothing happened after the assault.

'There is a threat to my life. My father-in-law has said that he would kill me and nothing would happen. After the petition I wrote against him to the Police Area Command in Warri, the Area Commander approved that he be served a warrant of arrest. When we got there, he appeared with different force men from different places and they assaulted all the police officers with me, beat them, took their phones and mine, and asked them to bring me out and kill me, as nothing would happen. One of them bit my hand,' she alleged.

She said that after the police officers reported back to the Area Commander, he invited her father-in-law. But in the end, the Area Commander said it was a family matter.

'So, if he could assault police officers on duty and nothing happened, then he could actually kill me and nothing would happen,' she claimed.

Chief Agbonifo's response
When Sunday Sun contacted Chief Agbonifo to hear his own side of the story, he said he was not ready to speak on the phone. He said our correspondent should come down to Warri in Delta State before he could say anything.

'Do you want me to talk to you on phone? No, I can't talk to you because I don't even know the identity of the person I am speaking to. You come down to Warri if you want me to respond to some of her allegations.

'That woman has been going from one television station to another spoiling my name. If she thinks that going from one media house to the other will solve her problem, let her continue,' he said.

Our reporter also got similar response when he spoke to Mr Fred Agbonifo on the telephone.

'I am a Permanent Secretary in Delta State and very busy. So, if you want me to talk to you, you have to come to Asaba. I cannot talk to you because I don't know whom I am speaking with. I need to see you face to face before I can say anything,' he said.