Missing corpse @ I am Benue 2018

The Tale Of Lost Corpses

Culture, Stories 9/04/2018 by Sidney Dooyum Ahura

A friend of mine told me a story recently that sounded rather like a Nollywood movie or a ‘tales by moonlight story’ but sadly it is an experience that he personally and painfully had.

The story involved the corpse of his elder brother’s wife who had died as a result of pregnancy complications. Her death was quite painful as she had been married but for less than two years and her death could have been easily avoided if not for the poor medical services that are obtainable in most of our hospitals. Well, her burial was scheduled on the morning of January 27th. On getting to the mortuary that morning, the husband to the late lady was asked in to identity his wife’s corpse and behold the corpse wasn’t insight. When he informed members of the family who had accompanied him, they concluded that he was overburdened by the grief of his wife’s death and that is why he couldn’t identify his wife’s corpse. My friend who is his younger brother was then asked to go in and take a shot at identifying the corpse and behold he came out with the same answer.

It was at this point that the attention of the hospital management was drawn. Of course the family of the late lady who had travelled down from outside Benue for the burial also got to hear of the matter. There is no telling the pandemonium that broke out at the hospital considering the great grief that the death had already brought. It was at this point that it was discovered that the said corpse had been delivered to another man for burial on the 20th of January. Another man who had deposited the corpse of his wife at the same mortuary had come to get the corpse but unwilling to inspect the corpse before retrieving it for reasons best known to him, had been given the corpse of my friend’s brother’s wife.

  • Now you may ask, didn’t the man realize he had taken the wrong corpse when he finally got to the village for burial?
  • Even if he didn’t recognize it, what about his family members?
  • Couldn’t they have noted that the corpse they brought for burial didn’t look like the woman they knew?

Well, that’s story for another day.

The next challenge was that proper documentation wasn’t done and so the man’s address had not been written down and the phone number he gave was not connecting. Meanwhile, my friend’s family were all set for burial but no corpse. I can only imagine the emotional turmoil they were going through at the time.

Finally, they were able to locate some hospital documents that detailed the treatment of the woman (whose corpse had been left behind) before her death from where they were able to get her husband’s house address. But on getting there they learnt he hadn’t returned from the village since he travelled for his wife’s burial. All the same, on getting the man’s identity, a staff of the hospital where the corpse had been deposited spoke up that he knew the man in question because they were from the same kindred in Ushongo local government area of Benue State. It was now about past 3pm when the decision was reached that the corpse of the woman that was left in the mortuary would be carried in the hospital ambulance to the said village for a ‘swap deal’. Well, my friend was nominated by his family to proceed on the corpse retrieval mission. Knowing what lied ahead, he preemptively bought a bag of cement knowing that after exhuming the corpse, the grave would need to be resealed.

They arrived at the said village at Ushongo by past 5pm and was led to the family of the man who had carried their dead by the kindred head of the area. On tabling the matter before the family of the man who was said to have left for Makurdi some hours before they arrived, the family on hearing the story were caught in a limbo. The problem was that no family member had known the late woman in her life time because their son did not involve them in the process when he was getting married to her neither had she ever been brought to the village by her husband until her death so no one could really tell if it was truly the wrong corpse they had buried. By this time, the said husband was at Wannune headed towards Makurdi when he was called and was himself shocked to hear that he had brought home the wrong corpse (His reaction was not too surprising though because he was said to be an ardent alcoholic) Well, after much deliberations; with my friend giving reasons why he was without doubt it was his brother’s wife’s corpse that was buried they decided to take the shot by opening up the grave. Thank God for dry embalming or else the stench would have been unbearable by then.

On opening the casket, it was discovered that the corpse matched the picture on the poster my friend had brought and the descriptions he had given succinctly. It was at this time that the family began to tender apologies as they bowed in shame for what their son had done. In the sight of all, the morticians who had accompanied my friend on the trip had to undress the corpse of his elder brother’s wife and then dress the corpse of the woman they had brought from Makurdi for an unceremonious burial. His brother’s wife’s corpse was then conveyed back to Makurdi as they arrived at about 10pm. She was finally laid to rest the next day.

Needless to say my friend lived in the trauma of this experience for a while. I cannot even speak of the trauma that his elder brother had to go through in addition to the pain of the unfortunate circumstances that led to the death of his wife to whom he was only married but for a short while.

While on the matter my friend was told of a similar incidence that had taken place at the same mortuary where someone was given the corpse of another person’s mother for burial and later on had to be exhumed for reburial. It is very sad that this degree of incompetence can still be found in the 21st century in our country. I believe cases like this should be taken to court and great damages claimed. If people continue to get away with things like this, they will never take care to get it right and serve society better. I remember about 7 years ago, I was told of similar incidences that happened at the mortuary of one of the government owned hospitals in the state where about two corpses were given to the wrong persons for burial; one of which was buried before the rightful owner could get to it and had to be exhumed for reburial.

If I was a lawyer like my brother Ocholi Ojonimi Okutepa, I would have surely mounted pressure on my friend’s family to initiate legal proceedings against this hospital and would have freely offered my legal services in prosecuting the case but since I am not a lawyer, I hereby rest my case.

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