7 Years After; Navy Is Yet To Tell Me Where My Husband Is – Wife of Missing Officer Cries - Leystradamus.Com.Ng


Sunday, February 7, 2016

7 Years After; Navy Is Yet To Tell Me Where My Husband Is – Wife of Missing Officer Cries

In April, 2008, Lovelyn Udeogu was just 24 years and she was over the moon, especially as she just got married to a young seaman, Okechukwu.

To her, he was every young lady’s dream of an ideal man. At the traditional marriage ceremony held in her home town in Enugu, Lovelyn would remember she was in a gay mood- dancing and partying. The event was well attended by friends and well wishers. Drinks flowed and food was in abundance.

Lovelyn could not wait to start her family. She and her husband, a seaman in the Nigerian Navy, came back to Lagos after the marriage celebrations, all set to start a blissful marriage.
To top her joy, Lovelyn got pregnant...
and she and her husband were eager to see the arrival of their tiny patter of feet. But the marital bliss was short lived. Two months later, precisely in June 2008, Okechukwu went to work and never came back, even seven years after.

If only she would know if her husband is dead, Lovelyn would be better off. However, she doesn’t know his whereabouts, she hasn’t seen his corpse, and he hasn’t been declared missing or kidnapped. It was as if he just walked away- away from her life and the baby she was carrying then.

She doesn’t even know the marital status she would categorise herself now. She wouldn’t know if she would answer a widow or a single mother since she cannot fathom what has actually happened to her husband. She is just there, living each day in confusion while hoping a miracle would happen and her husband would just walk back home, into her arms.

She could still recollect as if it happened yesterday, the last day she saw her husband.

“His work schedule was one day off and one day on. That particular day, I had parked his bag with a singlet and boxers, soap and a Bible. We bade each other goodbye and he left. I knew I was going to see him the next day, so I couldn’t have imagined that would be the last time I would see him.”

But for now, that scene happened to be the last and Lovelyn said she had yet to believe her husband of just two months would walk away without a trace since 2008.

Narrating what happened thereafter, Lovelyn said his colleagues, numbering seven, came to their house at Navy Quarters in Gowon Estate, Lagos in a patrol van the next day to see if Okechukwu was at home.

“I was surprised. They asked me if he had come home. I had to run upstairs to check, feeling I might have missed him when he came back home. But then, he wasn’t home. I told them he wasn’t back. They asked if he usually went somewhere else from work and I told them he would inform me if he had any reason for that.

“They asked me if my husband smoked and drank and I said no. I didn’t understand where all the questions were leading to. I tried to reach my husband on the phone but the number wasn’t available.
“They asked me to come to the base and I followed them. We met the Officer in Charge who told me that he actually met Okechukwu at his duty post with his rifle around 4 pm of that fateful day. But eventually, they started looking for him when it was time to leave around 6pm. He said they still saw his rifle, his boots and his uniform where he was sitting at his duty post. The OIC asked me if my husband used to take extra clothes to work and I said no. I was the one that packed his bag the day he left for work. I only included a singlet, boxers, soap and a Bible in the stuff I packed for him,” she said.

Lovelyn said because of her condition then, the OIC said she shouldn’t worry and that they would do everything to get to the root of the issue.

“They said I shouldn’t worry and that they would send the divers into the water to check if my husband had drowned. They said they would give me feedback. I was later informed the divers didn’t see his body. He was newly posted to that place then. He hadn’t spent up to two weeks there before the incident. He had complained to me he didn’t like the place he was working,” Lovelyn recalled.

According to her, she didn’t relent going to the base frequently to see if there was any news concerning her husband’s whereabouts. She said she was always welcomed at the base but with the news of no fresh information about him.

“They would always give me money and gifts. Even before I put to bed, they gave me money to buy baby stuff. They still told me that they hadn’t heard anything but that I should still keep my fingers crossed,” she said.

Indeed, her life has yet to move on even as she had had some suitors come her way. But how would she agree to marry anybody else? What if her husband eventually comes home? How would she explain to him she couldn’t have the faith to wait for him?

Lovelyn feels her husband’s family would have concluded their son was gone but then, she is not wavered. She still lives in hope, great hope and will not lose this hope until she gets the answer she is looking for.

Fast forward to 2010, Lovelyn said her husband’s kinsmen called her for a meeting in the village to throw a bombshell at her.

“In 2010, my husband’s people invited me to the village. I went with my uncle. They brought palm wine and other drinks. They told me I had two options, one was to marry my husband’s twin brother and the other was to leave with my child. I said I wasn’t going to marry his twin. I and my uncle left them,” she said.

I couldn’t think of marrying my brother’s twin. I wouldn’t know if they had concluded their son was dead. I didn’t want to believe that. It was his elder brother that said an unfortunate incident had befallen us and as such, I should make my choice. I bluntly refused,” she said.

And so, Lovelyn didn’t relent. She kept on going to the naval base until few months ago when she had a ray of hope.

“I went back to the office late last year and I met new faces. I brought my ID card and I gave it to them. They logged it into their system. They told me my husband is alive! The person I met said he was on a course. He asked me if we had quarrelled for him not to have told me he was on a course. He told me nothing happened to the man. They brought out a file and I wanted to peep to check the picture that was in my husband’s file. They hid it from me. They said it was their property.

“A guy came in and they spoke in Hausa. I didn’t understand what they said. They just told me they were on the issue and that they would get back to me. They gave me money and said I should go back home . They have not declared him dead. I am still in their quarters in Lagos. If they had declared him dead, they would have told me to leave the apartment,” she said.

Talking about the case, Mrs. Favour Benson of Touch a Heart Foundation, who is helping Lovelyn pursue her case, said it is amazing the Navy has yet to confirm to the young lady if her husband was dead or alive.

“The last place Okechukwu was seen was at his duty post. They found his rifle and his boot but the young man was not there. This is seven years after and nobody has told this woman about anything. Now there are conflicting reports. The last set of people she met said her husband is alive. We need to understand what is happening. Why would the family suggest she marries her husband’s twin brother? Have they given up hope? There are so many questions, yet no answer to them. Is he dead and somebody is still collecting his salary with his name? He might even be held somewhere against his will. We have informed the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person, Office of the Public Defender and the Public Advice Centre.

We have written a letter to the office of the Chief of the Naval Staff and we hope we get a response on this matter,” she said.

Meanwhile, when Saturday Punch contacted the Nigerian Navy to react to the story, the Public Relations Officer, Commodore Kabir Aliyu, requested for the details of the missing Seaman and he was furnished with all the details.

Eventually, Aliyu said Udeogu is not a member of staff of the Navy from his findings.

“All available records show that such a name does not exist as a navy personnel. I strongly believe that there was a deception in the relationship between the woman and the so called naval personnel,” Aluko said in a text message he sent to Punch.

- This is a very controversial case but I believe the chief of defence staff can order his men to say the truth.

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