The Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, CFR, has endorsed the judgement of an Edo State High court which ordered Madam Enoghayin and Miss Otasowie Ogiemwonyi to take legal and physical possession of late Mr Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi’s property known as 7A, Upper Sokponba Road in Benin City, after granting approval for his burial rites in accordance with Benin customs and tradition.
Following the demise of Mr Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi, disagreement broke out between his immediate and extended family members over the contended property and his burial, even as his corpse was left in the morgue for 23 months arising from the dispute.
Consequently, the Claimants, Thomas Ogbomo Ogiemwonyi and Mrs Odion Ogbomo approached a Benin High Court to challenge the rights of Madam Enoghayin Osunde and Miss Otasowie Ogiemwonyi, wife and daughter of the deceased to the disputed property and his burial.
Delivering judgment in suit No. B/421/2021 on July 29, 2022, Justice H. A. Courage-Ogbebor declared that the late Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi as the eldest son of his late father, Ogiemwonyi Agbonkpolor and having performed the final burial of his father, inherited exclusively the house known as No, 7A Upper Sokponba Road, Benin City to the exclusion of the claimants and siblings being the Igiogbe (family house) of the late Ogiemwonyi Agbonkpolor.
The Court ordered that the defendants immediately bury their husband/father in conjunction with Ogiemwonyi’s family as they desired.
The court thereafter restrained the claimants by themselves, their agents, servants, or thugs and privies from interfering with the planning, preparing and burial of the late Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi at No. 7A, Upper Sokponba Road, Benin City, by the Defendants.
Unsatisfied with the decision of the court, which is not status barred, some aggrieved family members of the Ogiemwonyi family dragged Washington Ogiemwonyi’s widow (Madam Enoghayin Osunde) and his eldest daughter, Miss Otasowie Ogiemwonyi before the Palace of the Oba of Benin, seeking to upturn the judgement of the High Court.
After listening to the testimonies of the parties to the dispute over inheritance and burial rites of the Patriarch of the family, the Chairman of the Committee set up by the Palace, Chief Stanley Esere, the Obamwonyi of Benin, who was joined by other Palace Chiefs, including Chief Oghafua Oyeoba, the Oyeoba of Benin, Chief Osemwegie Ero, the Edobayeokhae, held that it is an uncontroverted fact that the property, No. 7A, Upper Sokponba Road, was shared and distributed to the eldest son of the family, late Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi and exclusively his eldest child after his demise and final burial rites had been concluded.
Accordingly, Chief Obamwonyi ordered the defendants to take possession of the property without any hindrance or challenge by the claimants and berated the claimants for making life unbearable for Madam Enoghayin Osunde (Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi’s widow) and Miss Otasowie Ogiemwonyi and her siblings after the death of Washington on December 24, 2020.
The palace Committee further berated members of Ogiemwonyi’s extended family for staying away from the burial of the Patriarch after all entreaties by his children and Madam Enoghayin Osunde to get the approval of the then Okaigbe (Ogiemwonyi’s family head), Pa. Edionhon Igbinomwanhia, fell into deaf ears.
Besides, the Committee held that the evidence of Mr Andrew Omoigui, who deposes to the Palace committee that no family member of Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi whose body was kept in a morgue for 23 months, was neither informed nor aware of Washington’s burial, was untenable after the court had paved the way for the children to bury their father.
The committee noted that an announcement was made on the Mass Media, pertaining to Ogiemwonyi’s burial and that his children also coughed out N380,000 mortuary bills for their late father, adding that the Claimants collected rent from the property for three years in advance after Washington Ogiemwonyi’s death, without recourse to the welfare of his children and widow, describing the action as “the height of cruelty and sacrilegious in Benin Customs and tradition.”