By Steve Uzoechi and Ifeanyi Emmanuel
…as hospital sues family in effort to settle impasse
Before his death, the late Chief Felix Odinukaeze’s wish was to be buried in the foundation ground of his uncompleted building project. Married to three wives, with scores of children living comfortable lives, nothing would have suggested to the late patriarch that his children would deny him the wish he made in his twilight days.
The storm of controversy which broke out following his death forced his children to regrettably abandon him in a mortuary for 15 years. With no befitting burial and no ‘rest in peace’ epitaph, for 15 years, late Chief Odinukaeze may have restlessly roamed the realm of men waiting for final passage to the great beyond. He hailed from Umumbaneto Village in Isi-Mgbidi Autonomous Community, Oru West LGA, Imo State; a former staff of the Nigerian Postal Service, a polygamist and successful business man. Before his demise, late Odinukaeze had a lot of properties both in his Mgbidi community and beyond. Majority of the business premises around the popular Orlu junction were said to belong to him.
But his death in March 2004 plunged the family into some form of problem as his first son, Barrister Emeka Odinukaeze was said not to be very comfortable with the way things were in the family before the death of his father and his disposition stalled efforts to bury the deceased.
Odinukaeze, as seen on his obituary poster, died at the age of 83, but was later buried when he was 97 because his body remained in the morgue for 15 years. While some sources said that the eldest son of the deceased, Emeka, was away overseas which was why the family was able to finally bury their father, others maintained that it took the legal action filed by the proprietor of the hospital where their late father’s remains were kept, to get the family to carry and bury their long deceased father. Dr. Felix Iwudibia, proprietor of St. Felix Hospital in whose facility the deceased was kept, confirmed the incident and told our correspondent that he incurred a lot of losses with the corpse literally abandoned in his mortuary for about 15 years.
He said: “After several entreaties to the family to come and take away the corpse of their father failed, about two years ago, I was compelled to institute a legal action against the family and particularly those who deposited the corpse and the case is still in court.
“However, while we were still waiting for the pronouncement of court on the matter, the family on the 29th of April came to the hospital, settled their bills and carried away the corpse of their father and I understand the corpse has been duly buried by the family.” One of the sons of the deceased, Leonard Odinukaeze also confirmed to our correspondent that their late father had been in the mortuary for 15 years. He explained that their late father married three wives and it was due to the rigmarole of the first son, Emeka that delayed their father’s burial.
According to him, it pained him that their father who took very good care of his family, made sacrifices and left legacies and substantial amount of properties for his family, should be subjected to such shabby treatment in death. He lamented that all efforts by the family, kinsmen and community leaders to ensure that their father was given a befitting burial in good time was thwarted by their eldest brother who claimed he was trying to complete the building for the repose of the soul of his late father. “Our father was erecting a storey building and had completed the decking before his death.
His dying wish was to be buried in the ground of that building but due to the controversy thrown up by our eldest brother, we were not able to grant him that wish, but instead we buried him at the old house and most ironically, our eldest brother did not participate in the burial.
“Our bill at the hospital was N1.8million but the proprietor of St Felix Hospital, Dr. Felix Iwudibia, following our pleas, slashed the bill and we paid a total of N1.4million before we eventually took our late father’s corpse for burial on the 30th of April, 2019. It was a regrettable episode but we are happy we have finally put the matter to rest,” he told Sunday Telegraph. Efforts to reach the eldest son proved abortive as Leonard said he did not have his mobile number, while other sources were insinuating that Emeka was abroad at the time of