…Airlines decline to carry missing pieces
Fresh facts emerging on the death of Godwin Ezebri, the amnesty trainee that dead in a mysterious circumstance aboard a Panama Vessel last July revealed that the corpse of the late cadet trainee was actually returned without his brain and heart.
The revelation emerged from another autopsy carried out at the instance of the family members who had earlier raised strong suspicion about the official position regarding the death of the 27 year old lad.
Ten months after his death of Deck Cadet in Panama, South America, his remains are still lying at the morgue of the Military Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos yet to be buried.
The burial was delayed by the suspicion that he may have been murdered. There is also the delay in returning some vital organs removed from his body during an autopsy carried out in the South American country last year.
The family, led by Pax Ezebri, had demanded a fresh autopsy to ascertain the actual cause of death. Family sources said alleged shoddy handling of the death of Ezebri by the Office of the Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta, expressing strong displeasure over this in a petition to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Specifically, the family in their petition raised posers about the conflicting time of death contained in the reports of Sapelevics and the coroners calling for fresh inquest.
They also slammed the amnesty office, saying it never at any time officially informed them about the death but instead “only requested by phone call to come to Lagos to receive the remains of their brother and the sum of N500,000.00 for burial assistance.”
“When they opened his skull, they found that his brain was removed and replaced with a towel, which we think was a ploy to fool us. His entire heart was also missing, while other organs were sliced and shredded,” a relative of the deceased told our reporter.
Ezebri, 27-year-old left Nigeria in 2011 to study at Gdynia Maritime University in Poland as part of the Federal Government’s amnesty programme. He was one of the first set of beneficiaries of the federal government’s amnesty programme organized to assuage youth restiveness in the Nigeria oil-rich Niger Delta region.
Ezebri was aboard the maritime vessel MV Green Guatemala as part of his training in maritime technology when he died abruptly. Medical records obtained by our reporter indicated that he “slumped and died”, ostensibly from heart failure, on June 6 (or 7) 2013.
Family sources told Newsinvestigators that they suspected foul play about the official position on his death, adding that the family was not convinced by the story of his death.
“We are curious because just hours before his death, as claimed by the crew, he had chatted with his brother on Facebook. He wanted his younger brother’s bank details so that he could send some money to Nigeria. Only for us to be told that he had died from heart attack. It is suspicious,” the source said.
More intriguing for the grieving family was that the incident occurred when Godwin was the only Nigerian aboard the vessel. Two other Nigerian cadets who were also attached to MV Green Guatemala had left the boat just days earlier.
His remains were ferried back to Nigeria in July – barely a month later. They came without the heart, brain and other organs, much to the chagrin of his family members.
Family efforts to retrieve the missing organs have yielded no fruit as it dragged on for several months even as family insisted burial cannot take place without the full body. “It has led to tension between them and the agents to the shipper,” a source told our reporter.
The accompanying autopsy and, later, a coroner’s report signed by Dr. Omar A. Zapata Coroner Coordinator of the Legal Medicine and Forensic Science Institute, Province of Colon, have failed to assuage the angst and suspicion of the Ezebris. The late Godwin the source added reportedly indicated his will to disembark at the nearest seaport before his sudden death that day.
The crew master of the vessel, Capt L. Sapelevics, in his report said he wished to “sign off/disembark at the next port”.
What happened between the time he expressed that indication and his death are contentious, at least for the family.
The report stated that “two hours before his death the master of the crew ordered a check of his blood pressure, pulse and temperature which were all normal. Two hours later, though, he “slumped and died.”
A family source said as soon as the body arrived Lagos, agents working for Green Reefer, owners of the vessel, made an offer of “N500,000 financial assistance” to assist his family with his burial.
The family said they rejected the offer because they felt “there was more to the death than the company was revealing”.
The family’s protestation delayed his burial – first by days, then by several weeks and now by nearly a year.
NIMASA’s intervention into the issue however, led to a fresh autopsy by a team of experts from a reputable hospital in Lagos.
Series of meeting were held at NIMASA office in Lagos, where OSAPND, the vessel owners represented by a renowned legal firm, and Global Oil Service, which handled the placement of the deceased on the vessel.
At one of such meetings at NIMASA office on Burma Street, Apapa Lagos on Friday, November 8, all the parties attended the meeting with a team of medical experts.
Rather than make headway, it was reliably gathered that the meeting was rowdy and almost degenerated into a physical conflict between some of the parties.
A source at the meeting said one of the brothers, identified as Ebiakpo Ezebri, who is a former councillor in Burutu Local Government Area, wondered why the committee was still bothering about report of the autopsy when it was clear that his brother was killed.
Speaking further, Ebiakpo reportedly stated: “What happened was clearly a murder in Panama. What we want to know is why was our brother murdered?”
Our source, who attended the meeting, said the family, also demanded the return of all the missing body parts. “The lawyer told the chairman of the committee that other organs returned along with the body were slashed and cut to pieces.”
Also expressing displeasure with the situation, Pax Ezebri, the deceased’s older brother reportedly slammed the Amnesty Office for its initially handling of the messy situation, noting: “If we had taken the corpse and gone to bury as the Amnesty Office wanted, we wouldn’t have known about missing brain and other body parts.”
It was further learnt that the family warned that they have options on how to avenge the death, adding that they were only waiting and hoping the government got to the bottom of the matter.
“At the end of the stormy deliberation, it was resolved that other amnesty trainees aboard the vessels be brought to the next session slated for November 22, to tell the committee what really transpired,” our source stated.
However, four months after that meeting, it was learnt that the missing parts have neither been returned nor any headway made in the investigation to unravel the incident that led to Ezebri’s death.
Findings showed that the Green Reefer told the family that they could not secure agents or airlines willing to repatriate the organs to Nigeria.
In one of the communications between the company and NIMASA, the shippers said: “Regarding repatriation of the organs, most airlines simply refuse to carry same considering it as human waste, even though same would be sent dry packed which means they would be basically dehydrated.
“The travel agent is still working with courier companies however this is proving very difficult,” the email, which was obtained by our reporter, added.
Contacted, Pax Ezebri confirmed the development in a telephone interview with our reporter on Saturday morning but added that he had received assurances through an email from the legal representative of the shipping firm that the organs would reach Nigeria by Wednesday (two days ago).
“They sent me an email yesterday (last Friday) that they have secured an airline willing to bring the organs. So we are expecting them. Our doctors and the professors who will conduct the autopsy are prepared. We want to know what happened so that we can get it over with once and for all,” Pax Ezebri added.