Home News 3 years after death in London, ex-Senate President’s body arrives Nigeria

3 years after death in London, ex-Senate President’s body arrives Nigeria

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The remains of former Senate President, Dr. Joseph Wayas arrived at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja at 4:40 am on Wednesday.

Wayas, who lead the Senate in the Second Republic between 1979 and 1983 when the military overthrew the civilian administration, died in a London hospital on 30 November 2021. He was 80 years and six months old. Shortly after, Wayas’ widow, Abiola, died also in a London hospital and was buried shortly after.

A lingering family feud between the children of Nigeria’s former No. 3 citizen and one of his wives is said to be one of the many issues attributed to the delay in laying the politician to rest.

The feud included court case, as family members battled over the control of Wayas’ estate, the right to champion the funeral arrangement, lead the family.

On Wednesday, the former Senate President’s body was received by his family, friends and some prominent indigenes of Cross River North Senatorial District, among who were Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, Hon. Peter Akpanke, Johnny Agom, and Dr Dom Cklaimz Enamhe.

The body was later deposited at the morgue of the National Hospital, Abuja.

Jarigbe, who hails from Ogoja Local Government Area like Wayas and represents Cross River North district in the upper legislative chamber; and Hon Peter Akpanke, representing Obudu, Bekwara Obanlikwu Federal Constituency, expressed happiness that the body had finally been brought home.

Also, his late wife’s family, though grieving, expressed relief at the development and appreciated all those who had facilitated the return of his remains.

When the politician and one of his wives, Abiola died, the then governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ben Ayade immediately set up a committee headed by former Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi, to oversee the burial activities.

To facilitate the committee’s work, Ayade was said to have approved and immediately released N200 million to the committee with a promise to release another tranche of N50 million.

The committee reportedly released N100 million to a sub-committee vested with the task of repatriating the remains of Wayas and his wife, tasking it to liaise with the family to achieve the purpose.

However, the efforts were fruitless, which compelled some sons and daughters of Cross River North Senatorial district to set up a volunteer group under the aegis of ‘Who is Who in Northern Cross River’? to take up the task of ensuring not only the return of his remains but also according it a befitting burial.

Wednesday’s arrival of the body was said to have been inspired by a volunteer group, which had coordinated donations from concerned indigenes of the zone.

One of the widows of the former Senate President, Catherine Ishiaka Ayim, is said to have approached the court, seeking legal cover to have a right to control the affairs of the family following the demise of the first wife, Abiola.

Catherine lamented that there were attempts to sideline her and her children in the matters of the family estate. She claimed she had the right to the estate, having lived with him as a wife for many years.

She, however, denied the allegation that she had gone around soliciting money from people towards the burial of the late politician.

The first son of former Senate President, Joseph  Wayas Jr., who has been in the eye of the storm, accused his stepmother of illegally occupying his late father’s property in Abuja and also going from one office to another, one big man to another, allegedly collecting huge sums of money in the name of planning a funeral.

Through his lawyers, he wrote to the registrar of  Grade A Customary Court, Nyanya Judicial Division, to bar Catherine from parading herself, either as a widow to the late Wayas or as representative of his father’s estate.

His lawyers, Shittu Saheed Danshitta and  Awal Nasir of Lawseed and Partners signed the letter on behalf of Joe Wayas (junior).

He called on Catherine to account for all the money she has collected in his father’s name.

In the letter, he noted that only his mother was legally married to him, according to native laws and customs, adding that his mother gave his dad five children.

He prayed that as the first son, he should be recognised to handle arrangements for his late father’s burial according to the custom of the Bayabo community.

In a petition to the court, he insisted that the burial ought to be according to the laws and customs of the land.

“My father was legally married to my mother under the marriage act. A certificate of marriage is available. My mother gave my late father five children. She passed away 15 days after the demise of my father.

“One Catherine Ayim has illegally occupied my late father’s property in Abuja and not allowing me, the first son and heir, to access confidential documents”, he stated.

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