New Revelations On How Kogi State Civil Service Director Committed Suicide

About three weeks after a Grade Level 16 officer with the Kogi State Teaching Service Commission (TSC), Edward Kehinde Soje, allegedly committed suicide, his wife, Grace, who was delivered of a set of triplets in a private hospital in Abuja a few days before the incident, remains yet elusive. Our correspondent, JAMES AZANIA, who went on her trail and here writes on some of the controversies in their union, reports that she was yet to be informed about her husband’s death at the time of filing his report.

ABOUT three weeks after the suicide story of a director in the Kogi State Teaching Service Commission, Mr. Edward Kehinde Soje, broke, little has been heard of his wife, Grace, a federal civil servant, who was said to have been transferred from Lokoja to Abuja about two years ago. The sad incident, which arguably is the saddest moment in the lives of the Sojes, occurred on Monday, October 16, 2017, about 10 days after his wife was delivered of a set of male triplets.

Tragedy struck in the home of the 54-year-old civil servant 17 years after he and Grace got married, as he reportedly hung himself on a tree behind the mammy market at the Maigumeri military barracks in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital. Edward, who apparently had trudged on with the harsh vagries of daily existence, worsened by the fate that has befallen hundreds of civil servants in Kogi State, whose salaries are not forthcoming for long periods, did not die until he had set his eyes on the set of male triplets his wife was delivered of in a private hospital in Abuja. Some relatives of the deceased civil servant, who spoke with our correspondent were, however, convinced that that the fate that befell their brother could not be divorced from what they described as his stormy life. As part of the narrative, the late Soje, who hailed from Ogori town in Ogori/Magongo Local Government Area, was allegedly being owed 11-month salaries at the time he committed suicide, leaving for his wife a note that reads thus: “Psalm 121:3: God will not suffer your foot to be moved. He that keepeth you will not slumber. Amen.

You and the three boys, God Almighty keep you and make you prosperous. Amen. I love you.” Grace, who is left to cater to the babies, has however remained elusive. In a bid to get her own side of the story, our correspondent was on her trail in Lokoja and Abuja for two days beginning from Monday. Like her deceased husband, Grace was said to have worked in Lokoja before she was transferred to Abuja. Starting from the Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Secretariat complex, Phase 2, where she was said to have been transferred to from the Federal Pay Office, Lokoja, about two years back, the search later shifted to the Ministry of Aviation in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where one of the workers swore she is Assistant Director in-charge of Welfare, but in what looked like a conspiracy of silence, the civil servants at both places kept sealed lips when they were asked about Grace Soje.

Even the private hospital where she was said to have been delivered of her triplets could not be ascertained. Same for her residence, which Cornelius, younger brother to her late husband, said he had no idea of. A source who volunteered to speak on the condition that her name would not be mentioned, insisted that Mrs Soje works at the transport ministry. She said the authorities of the ministry were aware of her predicament and were working on how best to assist her.

The source further said that Mrs Soje’s mobile phone was taken for her in her own interest, because she was hypertensive. The source said: “(The Ministry of) Transport and Aviation have been merged. She is no longer with the Ministry of Education. She has already been given her claim of 28 days. We are working on how to give her her second allowance. Our permanent secretary has instructed that her case be looked into because of the circumstances. “The first baby is inside the incubator. They collected her phone because she has high blood pressure. They have not told her that her husband is dead”. More unease In addition to having to grapple with life without her better half, Mrs Soje will in all likelihood have to contend with relations of her deceased husband who cannot divorce the fate that befell him from their “stormy union”. Cornelius, Soje’s younger brother, would however blame his elder brother for the incident, saying regardless of what might have been, he needed not take his own life on account of matrimonial challenges. He revealed that the triplets were not the first fruits of their union as widely held, saying they had other children all of whom he said died at infancy. He alleged that the wife had his late brother “in her palm”, saying that her transfer to Abuja put a further strain on their marriage. His words: “I blame my brother.

He died like a coward, because whatever might have happened between the two of them, he did not have to kill himself. As I speak with you, I have no idea where she stays in Abuja, and it was from there that my brother came to Lokoja, where we were told he committed suicide.” Back in Lokoja, the Public Relations Officer of the Kogi State Police Command, William Ayah, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), said the dangling body of Edward Soje was found on a tree behind the military barracks, around 5.55 pm on October 16. Ayah said the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in-charge of Area D Division received information about the incident from the military intelligence office. He added that the deceased suffered partial stroke. He said: “Police moved to the scene and removed the corpse to the morgue of the Federal Medical Centre in Lokoja. Investigation is ongoing. Nothing was found on him to help trace his address and family.” A search party organised by relatives and friends was to lead them to the morgue at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Lokoja, where his corpse was discovered on October 20.

Some family members said that Soje had been going through financial difficulties owing to nonpayment of his salary for 11 months. He was said to have sold his car and the yet-to-be completed three-bedroom bungalow he was putting up at the Otokiti area of Lokoja. The property, said a source, was sold at a give-away price of N1.5 million in April, 2017 to cater to family needs. According to the source, Soje’s woes were compounded when the wife gave birth to a set of triplets through caesarian session on October 7 in a private hospital in Abuja. He was said to have remained at the hospital, looking after the wife and new born children till October 13, a day before their naming, when he returned to Lokoja. On returning to Lokoja, he was said to have headed straight to his bank, where he withdrew the balance of N30,000, formally closed the account and returned to the hospital in Abuja where he handed over the entire cash to his wife. They were reportedly joined by two clergymen and some relatives for a brief naming ceremony of the triplets in the hospital room.

He was said to have left afterwards under the pretext that he wanted to pick some items from the wife’s Abuja apartment, with a promise to return. But for hours, he did not return and did not pick any of the many calls to his telephone line, prompting the wife to send someone to the house to find out what was happening. On getting to the apartment, the person that was sent knocked on the door several times but got no response. He called Soje’s number and the phone rang out from the apartment, prompting the man to knock the door several times again without any response. At that point, he sought the help of neighbours to force the door open. On entering the apartment, they saw Soje’s mobile phone placed on a suicide note on the centre table, but he was nowhere to be found. Efforts made to locate him did not yield any result until relations got to the FMC Lokoja, where his corpse was found in the morgue on Friday, October 20. More worries after his death The Kogi State Police Command said days later that it would conduct an autopsy on Soje’s body.

Ayah said that the command decided on an autopsy to ascertain what actually led to his death. He explained that as at the time soldiers found his body hanging on a tree, there was no suicide note on him, stressing that the deceased was suffering from partial stroke before he committed suicide, and that investigation had commenced on the matter. Ayah also said the police were yet to be in possession of the suicide note allegedly written by Soje before committing suicide. A family source said that Soje indeed suffered partial stroke in 2008, but was completely healed. The source said the late director had been driving, cooking and carrying out many other activities a person down with stroke would not have been able to do after he was healed of the ailment, wondering how someone who had stroke could have hung himself.

The Kogi State Head of Service, Deborah Ogunmola, in a press statement, however, disputed reports that the late Soje was being owed 11 month’s salary arrears, saying that the deceased was last paid in December 2016. According to her, Soje continued to receive his salaries till December 2016 while the staff screening and verification exercise was ongoing. Ogunmola said: “His pay was stopped after proof emerged that he falsified his age records. Following engagements with labour, which spanned several months, the Kogi State governor magnanimously commuted the disciplinary action due against certain categories of offenders 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 Kogi State Teaching Service Commission where he worked has forwarded a template for payment to government and Mr. Soje was aware that he was listed to receive six months back pay, leaving only two months (August and September) outstanding,” she said.



Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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