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Weekly Trust - - News - Ojoma Akor, Olayemi JohnMen­sah (Abuja) & Itodo Daniel Sule (Lokoja)

Ed­ward Soje ap­peared very ex­cited dur­ing the nam­ing cer­e­mony of his triplets, ex­actly two weeks ago at a pri­vate hospi­tal, in Abuja, ac­cord­ing to those present. The chil­dren, all male, were born a week ear­lier, Oc­to­ber 7th, af­ter 20 years of a child­less mar­riage. They were named Eli­jah, Elisha and Enoch.

Soje and his wife Grace wore match­ing clothes as their well­wish­ers joined them on Oc­to­ber 14th for the nam­ing cer­e­mony, their fam­ily friends told Daily Trust. How­ever, two days later, the po­lice found Ed­ward Soje’s body dan­gling on a tree be­hind the Mammy Mar­ket at Maigumeri Bar­racks, in Lokoja.

Soje, 54, hailed from Ogori town in Ogori-Magongo Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of Kogi State, and was a Grade Level 16 Of­fi­cer with the Kogi State Teach­ing Ser­vice Com­mis­sion. Rev­e­la­tions that he was owed 11 months salary by the Kogi State gov­ern­ment and so may have taken his own life be­cause he couldn’t cope with the grow­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, gen­er­ated pub­lic furore and de­nial by the state gov­ern­ment. But find­ings showed he was hav­ing fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties be­fore his death.

Pas­tor Femi Adeoye, the cou­ple’s pas­tor , told Daily Trust that Soje had ap­proached him at the church in Abuja for coun­sel­ing from time to time to lament that he doesn’t want to be a bur­den to his wife, as she had been help­ing him fi­nan­cially. “I re­mem­ber he kept telling me that ‘I love my wife and I don’t want to be both­er­ing her’ but I kept ad­vis­ing him that his wife is not com­plain­ing, that she wants him to be okay,” he said.

Asked if he was privy to what drove Soje to sui­cide, the priest said it came to him as a shock. He added that Soje never dis­cussed the as­pect of the state gov­ern­ment ow­ing him salary with him. “If he’d dis­cussed that with me, I would have coun­seled him to be pa­tient.”

Mr. Abarshi Yaro, who was also present dur­ing the nam­ing cer­e­mony, said “He was cheer­ful, so no-one imag­ined any­thing like this would hap­pen.”

At the time of go­ing to press, Mrs Grace Soje had not been told about her hus­band’s death. When Daily Trust vis­ited the hospi­tal where the woman and chil­dren are on ad­mis­sion , rel­a­tives and friends whis­pered and went very far­away to talk or dis­cuss any­thing about the is­sue to en­sure that she was not in the know.

The pas­tor said Mrs Soje had not been told about her hus­band’s death and her phone had been switched off be­cause doc­tors had ad­vised them not to, and that re­veal­ing the in­for­ma­tion could worsen the sit­u­a­tion. “The hospi­tal is co­op­er­at­ing with us to keep this news away from her for now,” he said, ex­plain­ing that Mrs Soje who is in her late 50’s was hy­per­ten­sive. Also, one of the chil­dren has a mal­func­tion­ing or­gan which may likely be op­er­ated on.

“We told her he’s been run­ning around for money to take care of the chil­dren,” he added.

Also When Daily Trust vis­ited the hospi­tal, only Eli­jah and Elisha were around, as Enoch was taken to the Na­tional Hospi­tal, Abuja. It was learnt that the bill in­curred by the fam­ily is N750, 000 and is still grow­ing.

Mr. Yaro said the woman and her chil­dren are in dire need of sup­port, and en­joined or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­u­als to come to the aid of Mrs. Soje. “The fam­ily’s rent has ex­pired, and it’s a tight apart­ment.”

“The province has contributed some money to as­sist her, and the pro­vin­cial pas­tor and her wife have vis­ited. The church has also given out her ac­count de­tail openly for peo­ple who want to as­sist,” Pas­tor Adeoye said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Kogi State Po­lice Com­mand Pub­lic Re­la­tion Of­fi­cer, ASP Wil­liam Aya, the Di­vi­sional Po­lice Of­fi­cer in charge of Area D re­ceived in­for­ma­tion about the in­ci­dent from the mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence of­fice in the bar­racks. “Po­lice moved to the scene and re­moved the corpse to the morgue of the Fed­eral Med­i­cal Cen­tre in Lokoja. There’s a ru­mour that the de­ceased left a sui­cide note but the po­lice has not re­cov­ered that yet.”

Aya said when the in­ci­dent hap­pened, there was no one to iden­tify the corpse un­til last Fri­day (20th Oc­to­ber) when some fam­ily mem­bers came. He added that the po­lice com­mand is on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and will en­sure that the de­tails of the au­topsy are made pub­lic.

Late Soje’s elder brother Cor­nelius added: “He was the one who usu­ally pre­pared meals for his wife af­ter the de­liv­ery. Then the nam­ing cer­e­mony was sched­uled for a Satur­day af­ter the de­liv­ery. On the very day of the nam­ing cer­e­mony af­ter they had con­cluded the cer­e­mony, he left the wife in the hospi­tal to their res­i­dence in Abuja.” He said Ed­ward Soje’s wife called him on Tues­day ( Oc­to­ber 17th) at 6.30pm. “Ac­cord­ing to his wife, she said when it was time for him (late Ed­ward Soje) to bring the af­ter­noon meal for her, they could not find him. It was her (the wife’s) sis­ter who went to the cafe­te­ria to get food for her. Then the sis­ter later went home and the land­lady of their res­i­dence in Abuja gave her the house key, telling her that daddy (late Ed­ward Soje) said he was go­ing out.

“That he said that in case if some­body comes in his ab­sence, she should give the per­son the key to have ac­cess to the house. This sis­ter got home and saw a note and ac­cord­ing to his wife, she told me in a phone mes­sage that the sis­ter came back to re­port to her that my brother bought a card­board and wrote Psalm 121 and prayed for her and her chil­dren and closed it with the word, “good­bye”.”

Cor­nelius said he left Okene where he is res­i­dent for Lokoja the fol­low­ing day, Wed­nes­day and started call­ing re­la­tions, search­ing for him. “I never knew at that point that my brother was al­ready ly­ing in the mor­tu­ary.” He said he re­turned to Okene af­ter a fruit­less search only to be called by his nephew, a Civil De­fence of­fi­cer on Thurs­day of that same week, that one of his col­leagues told him that he heard that some­body hung him­self be­hind the new Mammy Mar­ket. He then rushed down to Army Bar­racks, and was shown the pic­ture and he con­firmed it.

The elder Soje said he doesn’t not be­lieve his brother died be­cause he was not paid salary for long. “Even if he is not paid for two years, he will not kill him­self,” he said.

The Kogi State Gov­ern­ment in re­sponse to Soje’s sui­cide de­nied ow­ing him 11 months salaries. A press state­ment is­sued by the State’s Head of Ser­vice, Dea­coness Deborah Ogun­mola, said: “He con­tin­ued to re­ceive his salaries till De­cem­ber, 2016 even while the Staff Screen­ing and Ver­i­fi­ca­tion Ex­er­cise was on­go­ing. His pay was stopped af­ter proof emerged that he fal­si­fied his age records. His con­fes­sion to the of­fence is on video. Fol­low­ing en­gage­ments with Labour which spanned sev­eral months, the Kogi State Gover­nor mag­nan­i­mously com­muted the dis­ci­plinary ac­tion, by grant of par­don. Mr. Soje fell into one of the cat­e­gories. Par­doned staff were pro­cessed for re­in­state­ment and pay­ment in batches. Mr. Soje was in the Septem­ber 2017 batch and he was aware of this fact.”

The late Mr. Ed­ward and his wife Grace dur­ing the nam­ing cer­e­mony of their triplets.

Mrs. Soje and some friends with the triplets.

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