The look on his face said it all, and it was a look with many emotions rolled up in one.
Each of his words was laced with a deep sense of grief, despair, and confusion; he had lost his woman and his first son in one day.
Buchi Eze, 30, stood awkwardly on the edge of the pit, where his woman, Blessing, had fallen to her death. She was 23 years old and was eight months pregnant.
Perhaps, Eze’s confusion overrode other emotions as he told his story because only a day before, Blessing had just returned home from a hospital, where she was on admission for four days after falling inside a pit beside the one in which she had taken her last fall.
“I am confused; I don’t understand how my woman fell inside the pits twice in one week,” he said with a look that seemed to be seeking for answers in the air.
“Her death was painful and I don’t think it was natural. The pits have been there for a long time and she met them here when she moved in with me in January, so how did she fall inside the pits twice in six days? She was not mentally unstable and did not show any suicidal tendencies.
“All the children in the compound pass there always and none of them has fallen inside before, so I am still confused. After she fell inside one of the pits the first time, I dismissed it as a mistake, but after the second one, I concluded that it was not natural.”
The couple shared a rented room in an uncompleted building on Akinola Street in Lusada community, Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State, until the incident.
Both pits were meant to serve as septic tank and soak away for the adjoining house but because there was no fence separating the buildings, Eze and other occupants of the house only had to walk about two metres from their backyard door to reach the edge of the pits.
Both pits had been overgrown by weeds after being abandoned since 2012.
Eze had not slept in the house since the incident occurred because he was afraid of what memories of Blessing and all they shared would come with. He feared the worst; he was frightened that they would bring nightmares and more tears.
Since Blessing’s death, Eze has been having goose pimples every now and then, so he concluded that her spirit still hovered nearby.
Eze’s curiosity was also piqued by Blessing’s last words to him after he had jumped in the pit to save her.
“I was on my way home when I heard that my woman was in pit the second time,” he said.
“When I got there, I saw my woman lying face down in the pit again. She was sleeping gently when I left home. She lay on the ground face down. People were holding me but I jumped inside the pit.
“As I raised her head up, she seemed to regain consciousness. I said ‘why again? Do you want to kill me? She said she did not know how she got there, and that she just realised where she was as we were talking.”
The first incident occurred at around 6pm on Monday, July 25, 2016, while Eze was away at a mill in Agbara, an industrial estate, where he used to hustle for casual labour for N850 a day.
“Around the time the first incident occurred, I was at the flour mill and I started having a strange feeling that something bad was happening,” he said.
“I was getting angry for no reason at all and about 30 minutes later, my neighbour called me on the phone to say that I should return home immediately.
“When I got home, I saw my woman lying down beside one of the pits. She had been brought out. I was told that she fell inside the pit. I asked one of my neighbours to take her to the hospital while I tried to withdraw money from the Automated Teller Machine. The woman helped me take her to the hospital. The doctor rejected her and said he could not handle the case. Then she was taken to another hospital, where she was accepted and treated well. Some pastors also prayed for her and she was okay. We were in the hospital for four days and then the doctor said she needed blood and that it would cost me N20, 000.
“I did not have the money, and I told the doctor I was expecting some money- N30,000, so he said I should take her home and bring her back anytime I had the money. I planned to buy her blood tonic and fruits pending when I would be able to take her back to the hospital.
“We returned home on Friday, July 29, and ate and played together. She bathed and said she felt okay. We prayed and slept. We did a scan and the baby was said to be fine- a bouncing baby boy.
“On Saturday morning, I boiled some water for her and after she bathed, she said she wanted to eat and I gave her food. It was Lusada market day. So I left to buy her some fruits so that she could use that to replenish till when the money I was expecting would come.
“Then, I had an ominous feeling again. I said what kind of sign is this? So I started going home. By the time I approached the house, I heard people shouting. When I got home, I saw my woman lying down in the pit again.”
Blessing was taken to the hospital again but before midnight, she and her baby were confirmed dead.
“The doctor said he would remove the baby to try to save her and I said no problem, let my woman just be okay,” Eze continued.
“After the doctor removed the baby, we saw that he was dead. I think the problem was serious because she hit her tummy on ground when she fell. Then my woman went into a coma and started vomiting blood from her mouth and nose. Everyone was shouting, even the doctor said he had never seen anything like it.
“He tried and tried to save her but couldn’t. We called her name, she didn’t answer but her eyes remained open. She was not talking but blood was coming out of her mouth. I was calling her people to tell them what was happening. By 11.30, the generator went out and by the time they put it back on, she took her last breath. I touched her, but she did not move again, she did not talk to me. I was just confused. I looked at the baby; I looked at her. Both of them were dead.”
When Blessing was alive, Eze said the two of them had had a playful argument over which sex they wanted their baby to be and he was glad when a scan confirmed his wish to have a boy.
So he named the baby Austin while Blessing said she would keep her child’s name to herself till she was delivered of the baby.
Eze’s parents in Imo State had also been expectant that finally one of their sons would give them a grandson, even though one of their daughters already had a son.
Sadly, Eze used his own hands to bury his first son, an experience he described as one of his most painful.
“People had to contribute money for me to take my woman to the mortuary as I had no money again,” he said.
“The doctor gave me N7, 000 and got me a vehicle to take her to a mortuary in Badagry. Then I returned to the hospital to take the baby. I wrapped him in nylon and prayed for him.
“Then I took him to where I buried him. It was very painful to use my hands to bury my first child. I never thought I could find myself in that position. No, Blessing and I didn’t expect this at all when we spoke fondly about our baby.
“When I pass by couples laughing together now, I remember her and tears flood my eyes. Also, when I see someone with a new born baby, I remember my dead child.”
Fighting back tears, Eze said he already missed Blessing, who he described as his “love and adviser”. He said it was Blessing that had given him some sanity since he lost his job at the mill, where he used to work as a contract staff.
“She always advised and encouraged me,” he said. “Anytime I didn’t have money, she would assure me not to worry and that everything would be fine. Sometimes, we would drink garri together. We would stroll in the streets, talk and laugh. We ate and bathed together. Everything about us just matched.
“I was still going to the flour mill daily because sometimes, if there was shortage of workers, they would come out to get people to work for N850 for the day. We were using that to survive. Sometimes when I had no work to do, I would return home in a bad mood. But she would encourage me to take it easy and that things would be fine someday.
“It is also painful she died because she has suffered with me. So why would she just go like that? She really tried for me. She would encourage me not to give up.”
Both of Igbo origin from Eastern Nigeria, Eze’s immediate problem is to get Blessing’s body to the East for burial and final rites.
In line with their tradition, Eze is expected to marry the Blessing as the two had not formalised their union before her death.
“I almost died when I realised that she was dead,” he said.
“I started thinking of so many things. I understand the Igbo culture and I knew I was in trouble since I had not formalised the union, although; I had her mother’s permission to bring her to Lagos. My family and hers are in the East. My family has gone to her family house in the village but her family said they would not say anything till they see their daughter’s body.
“The family is saying that I should bring her body and that has further compounded my problem. They have accused me of killing their daughter and that because we had not formalised the union, I would have to marry her, do the traditional marriage, pay her dowry and perform everything I was expected to do if she was alive. Blessing and I had planned to travel to the East in December to start preparations to formalise the union.
“Now I want to get her body to Imo State first, that is my priority now. I just want to get the money I need to bury her so that she can rest in peace. It was a painful death so her spirit will still be roaming the streets.
“The driver that wants to take the body there wants to collect N60,000 and the estimate of the amount I would need to settle the mortuary and get to the east is N25,000. So I need at least N85,000 to get my woman’s body to the East.”
Meanwhile, Eze said even though some of his neighbours had sympathised with him, the man who owns the septic tank andthe pit his woman had fallen into had not done so.
“His wife came to say sorry but the husband did not come; he does not talk to Igbo people in this area because we supported former President Goodluck Jonathan and he supported President Muhammadu Buhari,” he said.
But the neighbour Eze had referred to, Mr. Oyewole Ogundele, denied Eze’s claims, saying he had recently got a new job that had been taking a lot of his time.
He, however, accused Eze of being rude to him in the past.
“The lady died in the hospital; she did not die in the pit,” he said.
“He was not taking care of the lady and the first time the lady fell inside the pit, my wife and I were the ones who called on other neighbours to force him to take her to the hospital. He did not want to take her to the hospital because he did not have money.
“She was rejected by three hospitals before they got to the hospital that agreed to treat her. The guy did not have money to pay for her bills. Then the hospital rejected and he brought the lady home. The lady needed blood and was not okay.
“According to him, he went to get her fruits when the second incident occurred, but the lady was looking for him up and down and imagine somebody that had shortage of blood roaming up and down, her eyes would be dizzy.
‘That was how she fell inside the pit the second time. I was not at home when it happened. She died because there was lack of money to take care of her. This guy has not talked to me in almost two years, but the lady was nice to me. She was very nice to me, but the guy never greeted me. ”
On the reason why the septic tank and soak away were left open, Ogundele said: “I know, I just got a new job about three weeks ago. Very soon, I will start work on it. Thank you for your advice. I appreciate.
“When I started the project in 2012, we dug them for soak away and septic tank but could not complete them.
“Along the line, we had some challenges. I lost my job and had some crisis to the extent that I had to abandon the project and when the landlord was troubling me and even took me court, I left and moved into my uncompleted building. It is not as if I abandoned them (pits), and they are on my land.
“You would see that the house is not plastered, but very soon, we would complete the soak away and septic tank.”
Another neighbour, who identified himself as Alfa Saheed, also described Blessing’s death as mysterious, saying “nobody understands how she fell inside the pits twice.”
He also said it could be that Blessing was feeling dizzy since she was said to have needed blood.
“But Eze didn’t take care of the lady; the lady needed blood,” he added. “Even small children play there but don’t fall inside.”
Lagos State Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Samuel Adejare, could not be reached on his mobile telephone as it was switched off, but a lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, said the person who constructed the septic tank and soak away could be criminally liable if found to have been negligent by leaving them open.
Shittu said he ought to have exercised “due care to ensure that his soak away and septic tank do not constitute danger to persons and property around”.
He said, “The relevant questions are: does he hold a duty of care? Has he breached that duty? The answer will be yes because he ought to have put in place some precautionary measures. Arising from that breach, has some damage been caused to particularly person(s)?
“But also since it happened twice, the issue of contributory negligence could arise on the part of the woman having been aware that the place posed some sort danger. Having fallen into the pit previously, she should have taken steps to mitigate the damage. But everything will depend on the evidence of proof. But these are evidential issues that an impartial arbiter will consider.”