A 55-year-old dispatch rider, Herbert Omonkhegbele, whose wife, Vivian, was allegedly pushed to death by an employee of a microfinance bank in the Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State over a debt of N75,000, tells DAUD OLATUNJI how the mother of six died
What do you do for a living?
I used to be a machinist. I am now a dispatch rider with a company in Lagos. I live in Abule Ijoko in the Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State. I am 55 years old.
Why did you stop working as a machinist?
The company (that employed me) folded up. I was working with a group of companies but the company was closed down in 2010.
Did you become a dispatch rider after that?
I was into iron bending from 2010 to early last year. Sometimes, I rode Okada to support my family with the support of my wife’s hustle. I have only one wife.
What exactly did she do for a living?
She was a petty trader.
Where was she carrying out her trading activities?
She did her petty trading in my house.
Are you a landlord?
I am the owner of my house. I built it.
Do you have tenants in your house?
No. I only rented out one shop.
Can you narrate what led to your wife’s death?
That Wednesday, I went out with my wife and my last child. I was doing some jobs at Mosa (Mosafejo). I wanted to go and visit my daughter, who was preparing for an examination at the Lagos State Polytechnic. She was asked to pay about N30,000 to sit the examination. That was why I did not go for my dispatch work that day. So, I went out with my wife that morning and later someone called me to come and do some work for her at Mosa. I was there with my wife and my last child. After a while, my wife left me there and said she was going home. Less than 15 minutes later, my daughter called to tell me that some officials of a microfinance bank I owed were in my house.
I was surprised because the previous week, I went to them and promised that I would see them before the week ran out and they agreed. So, I wondered why they were in my house but to avoid trouble, I told my daughter to transfer N10,000 to them from the money she had as a PoS operator. My daughter transferred the money to them immediately and they received the alert instantly. Later, my wife walked in and met six of them in my parlour. As soon as they saw my wife, they demanded more money; so, my wife told my daughter to transfer another N10,000 to them to make it N20,000, but they rejected it.
How much did they ask you to pay?
They wanted more, so they removed my plasma TV in the sitting room because they knew it was new. My wife was begging them when, according to my daughter, a fat man pushed her away. The officials were filming their activities but they did not film when one of them pushed my wife away. They had not gone far when my wife started shouting that she was having a headache. My daughter and a woman in the compound started calling them (microfinance bank officials) to come back and see what they had caused, but they said it was none of their business. So, they put the TV in their vehicle and drove off.
What did you do when you received the information?
I had to rush back home to see my wife. As I was approaching my house on a motorcycle, I saw the microfinance bank officials’ vehicle at the junction.
Did you approach them?
They didn’t mind me. I rushed home to see the condition of my wife. I saw my wife lying on the ground. She was shouting about a headache and asking for water to be poured on her head. Some people also tried to help her get some air using a hand fan. When I saw that the shouting did not stop, I ran to my neighbour for help. He brought his car and we put her in the car and took her to a nearby hospital at Mosa. When we got there, we met a matron, the doctor was not around. We were told to pay N12,000 before she would be attended to. I paid N12,000 and a drip was administered to her. I asked them if that was all she needed, and they said I should not worry because the drip would calm her down. When the doctor arrived, I was told to go and get some clothes for my wife, so I went home to do that. However, after some minutes, the doctor said he would refer my wife to the general hospital in Ota.
Was she admitted to the general hospital?
As we were planning to take her to Ota, the doctor said there was no need for that and advised us to take her home. When I asked him why, he said nothing. When I told my wife’s brother (who was also there) to follow me to Ota on my motorcycle, he told me not to bother because the doctor would ride my bike for me. That was when I knew that something was wrong. He told me that my wife had died. That was how we took her corpse home. My wife died in the hospital.
Did you call the bank officials when you got to the hospital?
When we were taking my wife to hospital, I called the microfinance bank officials. My daughter also called them to come, but they said it was none of their business.
How much do you owe the microfinance bank?
I owe the bank N75,000.
When did you borrow the money?
I borrowed the money last year (2022). I borrowed N200,000. I have been paying. I was supposed to balance N75,000 to complete the payment with the interest.
How much did you pay before the tragedy?
I don’t know the calculation, or how they add their interest, but I know I had N75,000 left to pay and had been paying them. I would have completed the payment if the naira scarcity problem had not happened. The microfinance bank didn’t collect old notes from me, and that’s why I owe up to that amount. I went to their office twice and told them not to worry because I own a house and would not run away. They know my house.
How many times have you taken loans from the bank?
That was the first time.
What was the agreement you had with them regarding the repayment?
I told them I would sell cement. I did not pledge my house as collateral. The record is there. It was the money I made from cement sales that I was using to repay the loan.
How many children do you have?
I have six children.
Have you buried your wife?
My wife’s corpse is still in the mortuary.
What steps do you plan to take next?
I don’t know. I was supposed to go to Eleweran (Ogun State Police Command headquarters). I called and they said they wanted to do an autopsy. It was only when we were at the Ayinla Police Station that the Divisional Police Officer called for a meeting to know what to do about the burial and pointed at the owner of the bank. When we were discussing this, the DPO told us that the case had been transferred to Eleweran. So, there was no concrete agreement.
Was your wife ill before she was allegedly pushed by one of the microfinance bank officials?
My wife was not sick. They recorded how my wife was begging them, but when they pushed her, they did not record it. That’s what surprised me. My wife and I were not at home when they arrived. She was healthy. That morning, we woke up and went out together. She was okay.
How do you want this issue to be concluded?
I want to bury my wife on time. I don’t want her to remain in the mortuary any longer. I’m from Edo State and my wife is from Anambra State. So, if they (microfinance bank) can buy all the necessary things I need to carry out the burial rites, there will be no problem. I don’t want a court case. Let them buy the necessary things for the burial. Also, I have six children and my wife was supporting me in taking care of them. Let the bank do something for me so that life can continue.
Have you told them this?
No, I’ve not told them. I went to Eleweran. The police at Eleweran didn’t ask me what I wanted.
Where are your children now?
My first daughter, who attends LASPOTECH, will graduate next month.
What about the others?
My first son is not in Nigeria. My second son is managing a company in Agbara.
For how long have you been living in Ogun State?
I’ve been living in Ogun State since July 2009. My wife and I moved to Ogun State together. I married her in Ibadan (Oyo State).
How did you meet her?
We met in Ibadan and got married there. Her parents were living there.
How much will the burial cost?
If we calculate it, N8m will not cover the whole expenses. We will buy a casket and land, and hire a hearse to move her corpse from here (Ogun) to Edo for the burial. We have to settle the children.
Is that a tradition you must observe?
Yes, it is a tradition. I don’t want a court case.
Is that what your children want?
Everything is in my hands. I don’t want a court case. I have told them what I want. They will do what I want. I am their father.
Are they not threatening to go to court?
I want their mother to go and rest, and her family wants the same. They want me to act fast with everything. I don’t want problems; I don’t want her to stay long in the mortuary.
What kind of a person was your wife?
I love my wife. We did everything together. We had things in common. We struggled together here (in Ogun). I will miss her. I can never forget how she used to advise me, how she made me feel comfortable, and made me think about my future and the children.
I learnt a good skill, I am a machinist. I will appreciate it if the government can provide me with a machine to open my workshop to produce spare parts. It (the machine) should cost about N1.5m. There are other machines. If I can get about N10m, I will be able to buy all the machines.
Do you think your wife got the appropriate treatment at the hospital where she was rushed to
The police at Eleweran went to the hospital and they saw how everything was and they invited the doctor. I don’t know what they told him. That hospital was like a kitchen. In fact, it should not be called a hospital because it’s like a clinic. It doesn’t have any medical facilities. When I took my wife there, they administered only a drip. They collected N12,000 from me; they did not even use one quarter of the drip before my wife passed away.
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