Families of MOPOL 13 Benue state thrown into mourning

Tragedy struck the families of MOPOL 13 unit of the Benue State Police Command on Sunday, July 5, 2020 when 26 of their children, wards/dependents drowned in River Benue after the boat they were travelling in capsized midstream, near Kwatan Sule in Makurdi Local Government Area.

 It was one misfortune too many for the policemen, most of whom at the time of the incident were away from home on special duties in different states of the federation.

It is reported that all 26 victims were members of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) located near the MOPOL barracks in Adeke suburb of Makurdi metropolis and were being ferried across the River Benue to attend a church convention in Sabon Gari Island of Makurdi when their boat capsized at about 2pm on the fateful day.

Sadly, all the 26 persons who were mainly youths and children perished in the accident. The two survivours were the driver and his conductor, bringing the number of all those aboard the ill-fated boat to 28. For Inspector Vincent Idi, a native of Gombe State on Special Assignment to Maiduguri in Borno State, his 16-year-old triplets – Peter, Paul and Paulina all died in the mishap.

Similarly, Inspector Bulus Etsu, who was deployed to Zamfara State on special assignment lost five members of his household. The deceased in Etsu’s home include two of his children, a grandchild and two relations.

When our correspondent visited some of the bereaved families at their homes in Adeke MOPOL barrack, grieving parents, relations and friends wept uncontrollably for their loved ones as some managed to recount the last memories shared with the deceased.

Eldest son of Inspector Etsu, who is a pastor trainee in ECWA, John Bulus, said five members of his family were involved in the boat mishap and that none of the bodies were yet recovered at the time of this report and that he will remain with the search team at the bank of the river until all the victims are found. “My immediate younger brother, Dogara Bulus, 18; the youngest of my siblings, Mary Bulus, 13; my niece who is grandchild of my parent, Precious Kabani, 11 and the remaining two who are relations living with us; Mary Ibrahim, 11 and Sadetu Kabani, 10.

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“I had just finished praying at a certain place at 7pm on that Sunday when my mum called to break the sad news to me. My dad has been on special duties to Zamfara State. We are all together a family of four siblings and two by this incident have left us.

This is so devastating. “My siblings are very zealous for God. They served God with all their hearts. They were very active in church. Since the incident, I have been asking God why he didn’t reveal this to me because it took me unawares.

There were no signs except that about two months ago, I had seen massive deaths in a revelation and that was aside COVID-19 calamity. I didn’t however trace it to this incident,” Pastor John narrated. Similarly, Sani Lamido, whose elder brother, Shadrach, 29, led the youth team on their way to the ‘New Life for All’ convention, said he left the river side at about 10pm on Sunday after efforts to recover the victims’ bodies failed.

Lamido said only one corpse whose name he gave as Rejoice was recovered on the spot out of the 26. According to him, “My brother Shadrack completed his NYSC recently and took to teaching in a mission school around here. My father, Supol Sani Mamman, an indigene of Taraba State, is currently serving in Kaduna State Police Command.”

Lamido, described his late brother who was a teacher at Glory of His Majesty School as a good man and a friend even as he stressed that, “after service that day, Shadrack and I had lunch together, then he led the children for the program which was to hold across the river. He loved to work for God.” Meanwhile, at Flat 3, Block H of Mopol Barracks, where the family of the triplets reside, mourners clustered around the building as they moved in between the flats to console grieving parents because the family next door – Flat 4, lost two of their children while Flat 6 lost one of the family’s two children.

Elder sister of the deceased triplets, Ronance Vincent, lamented that if she had known she wouldn’t have provided one of the triplet, Paulina with the N200 to pay her transport for the trip. “We are five children and I’m the eldest. Paulina was in SS2 while Peter and Paul were in SS1 at Destiny Child Academy but owing to the COVID-19 lockdown the boys took to learning tailoring at different centers before this incident. “Yes. I had premonition; my mind had been unsettled since Saturday when Paulina approached me for permission to go for the convention.

If I knew, I wouldn’t have granted her request because my mother left them (triplet) and my one other sibling in my care before she travelled to our home state of Gombe two months ago, and our father is on special duties in Maiduguri. “Incidentally, that same Sunday, my mother was on her way back to Makurdi when the incident happened. At about 4pm, a church member called to ask if the triplet were back and I replied in the negative, not knowing that something bad had happened.

“Immediately after that call, my mother who was returning to Makurdi also called and instructed me to go to the waterside to ascertain the wellbeing of my siblings because there’d been a boat accident,” she said amidst sobs. Ronance said her greatest fears were confirmed by the time she got to the river bank. “I almost stop them from attending the convention, but it wasn’t the first time they were going for such trips.

Since Paulina was three years old, I’ve been taking her for the trip, but I haven’t been attending the convention lately.” Leading the church leaders to commiserate with the bereaved families, Rev. Benjamin Dooga – ECWA District Church Council Secretary, told our correspondent that immediately they heard of the incident, they rushed to the scene and the remains of one of the victims – Rejoice Bulus, was instantly recovered from the water while arrangement was made for a search party to rescue others.

“We gathered that when they arrived at the river bank, the boat for the conference had left. They put a phone call to other members at the venue and were told that the conference was almost over, but they arranged for another boat which unfortunately sank in the middle of the river.

Those coming from the conference were the ones who got to that point and raised alarm, and the fishermen rescued one body. “God is supreme, and we can’t question Him. We accept everything in good faith.

The lesson here is that this world is nothing. People should come back to God. We should live as if it is our last moment,” the cleric said. However, at the time of sending this report, Police Spokesperson in Benue Command, DSP Catherine Anene, who earlier confirmed the incident, said a total of 18 bodies had been found at different spots along the coastal vicinities up to Nasarawa State, even as further efforts were being made to recover the rest of the victims.

Anene said that the Marine Police shortly after the incident rescued two persons alive who might likely be the boat driver and his conductor, but our correspondent was yet to trace the survivors at the time of this report.

Some observers at the water side opined that the boat driver lacked experience to handle turbulent waters and that was why the incident occurred as the tragedy could have been averted in the hands of a more competent driver. In the meantime, Governor Samuel Ortom has sympathized with families of the victims, describing the incident as painful and unfortunate as he particularly consoled the ECWA Church Adeke, whose members were involved in the boat mishap.

Ortom also urged members of Kwatan Sule community where the incident took place to cooperate with the police rescue team to enable it find the missing persons. The governor further reminded Benue people about this year’s weather predictions on torrential rains and advised that those who travel by water should employ all safety measures to avoid unforeseen incidents.

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