The legal tussle within the family of the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu shows no sign of abating with Debe Odumegwu-Ojukwu suing the family for N100 million for refusing to allow him perform the funeral rites of the Biafran war lord.
Debe, a former police officer, is urging the Federal High Court, Lagos, to stop the family’s “serial and sustained threats to maim or kill him.”
The Igbo leader died in November 2011.
Mr. Debe said that the refusal to allow him perform the dust-to-dust funeral rites of the late Odumegwu-Ojukwu is ‘illegal and unlawful” and amounts to a violation of his rights.
“The discrimination against the applicant in performing the dust-to-dust funeral rites in honour of his deceased father during his burial obsequies…. being his first and eldest son, and the consequent loss of self esteem and good standing before his immediate family, peers and the whole world,” Mr. Debe said in his court papers.
He added that the family’s exclusion exposed him to “public derision, great distress, mental torture, psychological disorientation, public odium, ridicule, and obloquy.”
Joined in the suit are Ojukwu Transport Limited; Joseph Ojukwu; Emmanuel Ojukwu; Lotanna Ojukwu; and Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
Others are Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (Junior); Patricia Ojukwu; Margaret Mogbo (nee Ojukwu); Inspector General of Police; Ibrahim Muktar, former Anambra State Commissioner of Police; and Mike Okoli, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Anambra State.
Mr. Debe, who is also a lawyer, is representing himself in the suit.
In his response, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (Junior) insisted that Mr. Debe is not the son of his late father.
“The applicant, to the best of my knowledge, as well as to the Ojukwu family, is not and has never been a grand-child of the late Sir L.P.O Ojukwu.
“The applicant is not the son or the first son of my father, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
“The last Will and Testament of my late father, dated the 9th day of July 2005, duly certified by the Probate Registry Enugu, did not include the name of the claimant in the list of his eight children.
“I was listed as No. 2 and the eldest male child. He (late Ikemba Nnewi) specifically named me as his ‘first son’,” Mr. Emeka said.
Mr. Emeka referred to a paragraph in the will of the late leader where he listed his eight children with a preceding statement which read: “the following and no others….”
“The issue of the applicant (Mr. Debe) being a son of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and therefore entitled to perform any of the traditional rites he alleges as being denied, is the subject of Suit No. LD/1528/2012 between him and some respondents,” Mr. Emeka stated in his response.
“The applicant was not prevented from performing the traditional funeral rites for a man he claims to be his father.
“Nnewi community has its customs and these are respected by all indigenes of Nnewi community. A son cannot be prevented from doing what the custom permits him to do,” he added.
Justice Okon Abang has fixed October 7 for the hearing of the case.