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National Assembly death: Who ordered embalming of Customs controller body without family’s permission?

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A controversy has arisen over who hurriedly ordered the embalming of the body of Deputy Controller of Customs, Etop Andrew Essien. He died last Tuesday while facing a committee of the House of Representatives.

Worse, no member of the family, especially the wife, Mrs. Toyin Essien, was consulted, before the embalming process began, just three hours after his death. His wife was being expected in Abuja on Saturday evening to see the body of her husband and meet with the Customs hierarchy on Monday.

At the time of Essien’s passing, his wife was in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. Badly hit by the news of her husband’s death, she was grounded by friends and family due to her reaction to his death. She is coming into Abuja following her insistence that she is well enough to make the trip.

There are already wild speculations in the air on the cause of his death following the hurried manner of his embalming.

Everyday.ng gathered that as soon as the body of Essien arrived the National Hospital, the process of embalming began, even before his daughter and his brother-in-law, who lived with him in Abuja, were called in to see his body.

Both were said to have been shocked and surprised that the chief, who was meant to retire in five months time from the service, was already being embalmed when they got to the hospital.

Medical experts said the embalming process compromises autopsy into the exact cause of death. One expert decried the hastened embalming because the body could have been preserved for another 24 hours.

There were speculations that The Nigeria Customs Service had powers to take the decision to embalm since he was a senior officer of theirs, but other sources faulted the position, insisting that the permission of his immediate family was needed.

“Even in the military where they all pretend to learn this issue of the ownership of the body from, you don’t toy with the body without the permission of the immediate family, especially the wife and the children, because he did not die in war or in a manner that mangled his body. So, what are they talking about? Could they have done this to persons of other faiths? It is total nonsense. What are they hiding? There are definitely questions to answer, since they are not known to hurriedly do this in the past,” a source said.

But the spokesperson of Customs Service, Aliyu Maiwada, would not want to be drawn into the controversy.

He said on Saturday morning: “I am not aware. I don’t have any update about that. The only update is the press statement I have issued. I can not update you on anything until I have further information, I do not have any information relating to what you are saying, so I will confirm, which would be working day on Monday. If there is any development, I will inform you. I don’t have any information about that.”

A source close to the family told Everyday.ng that while it is true the Deputy Controller of Customs had heart issues before the morbid drama that played out on Monday in one of the committee rooms of the National Assembly, the family is not ruling out anything because of the speed to prevent a proper autopsy.

“He was full of life on Sunday and I could not but admire the way he danced in church on Sunday because he sat close to me…. I heard that on Sunday night, he had a night fellowship with his daughter and brother-in-law, and when one of them told him to retire early because of his National Assembly assignment the next day, he told them his presence before God was more important than anything else. It is sad such a man left us,” a friend of his who didn’t his name his print, said.

Last Monday, a statement by the House of Representatives spokesman, Akin Rotimi Jnr, gave the circumstances surounding late Essien’s passing. It read, “It is with deep sadness and regret that we confirm the passing of an esteemed official of the Nigeria Customs Service who was at the National Assembly for an engagement with a House Committee.

“During the engagement, which occurred around 1.00pm on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, the official developed sudden health complications. Despite the immediate and diligent efforts of first responders and medical personnel at the National Assembly Clinic, he unfortunately passed away.

“Out of respect for the family, the official’s name will not be disclosed at this time.

“The House of Representatives extends its heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of the deceased during this difficult time. We recognize the significant contributions he made to the Nigeria Customs Service and to our nation.

“The House of Representatives stands ready to support efforts to understand the circumstances surrounding the incident and is cooperating fully with all relevant authorities to ensure all necessary protocols are followed.

“The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, PhD., expressed his condolences, stating, “We are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of a dedicated public servant. Our hearts go out to his family during this difficult time.”

“Further information will be provided as it becomes available. We ask for patience and respect for the privacy of the family during this period of mourning.

“Our sympathies are with his loved ones.”

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