Those that were found dead after the unfortunate meal were Mrs Caroline Umunna, Madam Lucy Obodoeke, Miss Modesta Umunna, Miss Uchenna Umunna, Master Chisom Okorie and Ozioma, their house maid.
For Mr Charles Umunna, the head of the family, who is still in shock, penultimate Thursday night will remain green in his memory as a bitter reminder of the cruelty fate brought him.
Charles was a staff of PHCN Awka, whose wife, Caroline Umunna; two daughters, Uchenna, a first year student of Public Administration, Anambra State University and her sister who just finished School Certificate Examination and UTME; his in-law, Mrs. Lucy Obodoeke, who came for medical treatment; cousin, Chisom Okorie; and maid, Miss Ozioma Marcel; who joined the family three weeks earlier, were found mysteriously dead on Friday, it is a pathetic situation he is trying hard to comprehend.
Possibly because of their trauma and excruciating grief, Umunna and his remaining three children two boys and one girl, have relocated to the house of the Catholic Priest of St. Gregory’s Catho-lic Church, Eziama Uli, Rev. Fr. Joel Ibebuike.
When the Nigerian Tribune encountered him in the sleepy village, Umunna, who was still enveloped in grief, was shedding tears, especially when he saw the pictures of his wife and children.
According to Umunna, who responded to questions in an emotion-soaked voice, it was on Friday evening that his wife’s cousin called him that she got to their house and there was no sign of any soul in the house. Then he asked the girl to check their shop, the girl said she had checked the shop but didn’t find anybody there. Umunna said the girl told him that her inquiry revealed that the neighbours had not seen any member of the family throughout that day.
He said he became agitated and called his wife. However, though the wife’s hand-set was ringing, no one picked it. He became furious and was querying why his wife would always fail to pick her call.
It was at that juncture, that he called his landlord to check his family members, and the landlord called back to tell him that the door of his house seemed to be locked from inside. The landlord’s son called again to inform him that it appeared that there was no one inside his house.
This, he said, was about 9p.m and it was raining heavily in Awka, so there was no way he could return that night. The following morning, being Saturday, he went to the village with his two other children, who were on holiday with him in Awka. He had already called his first son, Desmond, who is a Computer Science student at the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, to join him at home.
Before he could reach home, the police had forced the door open and packed the six corpses into an ambulance for the purpose of depositing them in a mortuary.
A demoralised Umunna disclosed that for the past 25 years, his family had lived in Eziama Uli, as he moved from one state to another on transfer in the course of his work, although he packed to the present place three months earlier.
He also said that despite having lived long in that community, they had never had any misunderstanding with any member of the community. In fact the late wife was a teacher in Eziama Uli Community Primary School, and that accounted for his decision for the family to stay in that community.
He said his wife had finished her Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) programme and was about to finish her Bachelor’s degree in Education before the unfortunate incident. Three of Umunna’s children are already in the higher institution, two at Anambra State University, Uli and one at the Federal Polytechnic, Oko.
Umunna, who is a native of Eziama-Ubulu in Oru West Local Government Area of Imo State, could not say what could be responsible for this tragedy, whether it was food poisoning or the handiwork of enemies.
The Anambra State Police Command and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) have commenced investigations into the matter. The police had taken the leftover of the garri meal, believed to have been eaten by the family the previous night.
The CPC, through its Zonal Director, South-East, Enugu, Mr. Sam Tamuno, had visited the family and taken sample of the food they ate on the fateful night to analyze its content. Tamuno, who signed the condolence register, was said to have promised to conduct investigation into the substances they ate, while the police are conducting autopsy on the corpses.
Umunna said that he had handed over everything to God, but his greatest consolation would be to get to the root of the cause of the death of his family members who he vowed would not die un-avenged.
Desmond, the first son of Mrs Caroline Umunna, who was battling to control his emotions as he was the only one consoling the father and siblings, lamented that he never knew he was going to lose his beloved ones in one instance and in that circumstance. He added that he had ominous signs that things were not well in the family but did not know the extent when his father called him in the early hours of Saturday to come home immediately.
When he came home that Saturday, he could not believe what greeted his sight as his mother with whom he had a hearty telephone chat two days before, his aunt, two siblings and their house help were all stuffed in a waiting ambulance to be taken to the morgue.
According to him, the police had to force the door open to take the corpses and the food they ate the previous night. He cried that currently the family was shattered and in need of urgent help, “we are in deep pain and the current situation is so financially tasking, we cannot cope alone. It is my passionate appeal that the state government comes to our aid at this time of our grief.”
Some villagers, who spoke with the Nigerian Tribune on condition of anonymity, described the Umunna family as a humble and peace-loving family and wondered what could have been responsible for their unusual demise.
They chorused, “The entire village is still in shock as you can see. This kind of thing had never happened here, all we have been doing is asking endless questions without answer, but our refuge is that they lived a good life and their reward will be waiting for them.”
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Anambra State Police Command, Mr. Emeka Chukwuemeka, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), said that the homicide section of the command was investigating the matter.
He said that the command was widening its investigation to find out the circumstances that led to the death of six members of Umunna family. Chukwuemeka said the police were interrogating some people to find out possible clues while advising everybody to remain calm and the family to take heart.
Already, Desmond had made a statement on behalf of the family at Awka, while the landlord and his son, who were in the compound during the incident, had equally made their statements, and were still being detained at the time of this report.
Culled from Nigerian Tribune