A top retired federal civil servant, Chief Joseph Chuks Elobuike has dragged his in-law, Mr. Ambrose Maduabuchi to court over the latter’s refusal to bring home the remains of his departed daughter-in-law and three grandchildren all whom have been in the custody of the in-law for many years now.

According to Chief Elobuike, the defendant, Mr Maduabuchi, popularly referred to Oba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, locked him and his family out on relevant information concerning the upkeep and whereabouts of his deceased daughter in-law, Nnenna Elobuike(nee Maduabuchi) and his three grandchildren whom were products of the holy matrimony that existed between his now deceased son, Robert Elobuike and Nnenna Maduabuchi after their marriage in December 2008.

Background
Our correspondent gathered that trouble began when in an ensuing marital crisis between Nnenna and Robert, the former ran away from her matrimonial home with the kids, leaving behind her husband who was overwhelmed by the crisis.

As the matter lingered without any possible solution or compromise, Nnenna’s mother, Mrs Obiageli Maduabuchi, stormed Robert’s matrimonial home located in Enugu on Sunday, October 7, 2012, in company of two women said to be Oba’s sister and niece, two men and Nnenna’s two brothers. The gang made away with Robert’s properties which was loaded in a truck parked outside the premises of his apartment.

Since Oba’s wife, Mrs Maduabuchi and her gang left that Sunday, October 7, 2012, with her daughter and Robert’s property, the latter never set his eyes on either his wife or children neither was he allowed access to them until his unfortunate demise on December 6, 2016, after a brief illness.

It was learnt that throughout the period Robert, who worked as a banker, was hospitalized at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH, Enugu, neither his estranged wife Nnenna, his Children nor any member of his in-law’s family visited him at the hospital, despite several calls and messages, informing her about her husband’s medical condition. Nnenna also refused to make herself available to receive the death certificate of her husband when she was told about his demise.

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Robert, popularly known as Bob was eventually buried on December 15, 2016, without the presence of his wife, children nor any representative of Ambrose Maduabuchi’s family as they all refused to attend or participate in the funeral.

As days goes into weeks and weeks into months, and then years, Mr Maduabuchi, SAN, on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, called Chief Elobuike on the phone to inform him that his daughter-in-law, Nnenna, had also died, saying she had tumour in the head. Mr Maduabuchi promised to visit his in-law to discuss in details what caused the death of his daughter but till today, the SAN has not fulfilled any of such promise. When contacted, he blamed the COVID-19 lockdown as reasons for his inability to visit Chief Elobuike as promised.

In spite of all these, Mr Maduabuchi, left Chief Elobuike in the lurch and began making her daughter’s burial arrangement with one Osita Okechukwu and Calistus Mgboh. When Chief Elobuike learnt of this, he was angered and cautioned Maduabuchi against any discussion or arrangement for burial at his place with anyone other than himself being the father to the son marrying the deceased (Nnenna). Elobuike, thereafter, insisted that for the burial to take place at his native home, as demanded by custom, his in-law, Maduabuchi, must produce the corpse of the deceased and the three children must come home and receive their mother’s remains and not attending her funeral like visitors.

Matters Arising
Consequently, Chief Elobuike has instituted a lawsuit with several arguments, alluding to the fact that Oba (Maduabuchi) had refused to comply with the dictates of custom and voice of reason.

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As tradition demands, Nnenna, the deceased daughter-in-law who was a native of Ehuhe-Achi in Oji River local government council, must be buried at her place of marriage, late Robert Elobuike’s compound whose family are from Udi local government council, both families being natives of Enugu state. Although, strong indication has emerged that Maduabuchi may have buried Nnenna in his place at Oji River instead of her husband’s hometown.

According to Barr. Ray Nnaji, Counsel to the plaintiff, “the defendant sent a message that he is going to bury his daughter’s corpse where her husband came from, unfortunately, he carried the corpse and buried it at Ehuhe-Achi, his own hometown on the 4th of September, 2020.

Nnaji, told our reporter that his client, had even engaged Maduabuchi’s traditional ruler, Igwe Egwuatu and the traditional ruler of Eke HRH Igwe H.C Onuoha, both from Oji River LGA and Udi LGA, respectively, to mediate and broker a lasting peace to the lingering crisis. But Maduabuchi, according to him, refused to heed to the counsels of the monarchs.

The crux of the matter is that the plaintiff is now before the court for it to determine which customs should regulate the relationship of the two parties in a situation whereby the custody of the children is concerned as they are still in the custody of the defendant. The plaintiff is also praying the court to determine where the corpse of his son’s wife and daughter-in-law, Nnenna Elobuike should be buried.

The suit was initially filed at Eziagu High Court but due to an arising issue of jurisdiction, the plaintiff had to withdraw the case and file it at the Enugu State High Court. On 21st September, 2020 when the matter came up at Enugu High Court,
Journalist101 learnt that Mr. Maduabuchi was secretly represented by one Barrister Dom Ezeani who submitted that the matter can be settled out of court. But lawyers to the plaintiff objected, citing various acts of Oba disregarding agreements reached. They mentioned the burial which they argued, has destroyed any chance of peaceful settlement.

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Eventually, Justice Nwobodo transfered the case to Oji High Court, citing customary content.

However, when the matter came up on Monday, 16th November, 2020 for mention at the Oji River State High Court, the presiding judge, Justice CVC Ezeugwu denied the jurisdiction of the court to treat such matter as the matter was not properly rooted to him by the Chief Judge of the state.

According to the him, what was involved is the custom of the parties of which, the custom of the plaintiff’s son, Robert Elobuike takes precedent.

In this case, according to the judge, the Udi High Court which is domiciled in Enugu State High Court should handle the matter.

He added that the matter would be transferred to the Chief Judge for reassignment, saying he would only handle the matter if eventually reassigned back to him.

Justice Ezeugwu also noted that the defendant, Mr. Maduabuchi has never appeared in the cases previously and that the method of service was by substitution.

The lawyer to the plaintiff informed the Judge that “Mr. Maduabuchi, SAN, was duly served and there is also an affidavit to that effect and when the time comes we will establish the fact that he was served accordingly.”

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