By Davies Iheamnachor
WOJI—HAIR-RAISING particulars of how at least 38 residents of Woji and other communities in Obio/Akpo, Bonny and Gokhana Local Government Areas, Rivers State, breathe their last breath, 24-72 hours after drinking suspected toxic locally brewed gin, popularly known as Kai Kai at a dog meat joint have emerged.
Proprietor of dog meat joint, Mr. Friday Dickson, purported to have laced the delicacy with killer- seasoning, hotly denied the allegation. He spoke to Niger Delta Voice at the Woji Police Divisional Headquarters, where he is under custody. Irate youths razed his restaurant, but Dickson, who has been in the business for over a decade, recalled that a man called Chikobi and Chiefo brought the local gin to his restaurant that Sunday allegedly to celebrate his new chieftaincy title.
Curiously, the celebrant did not drink the gin he brought. The wife of one of the victims corroborated Dickson’s story. The mysterious Chikobi, said to be a Yoruba man from Ogun state, is on the run after the episode but Dickson said he could recognize him if he sees him. There is also a puzzle on how the killer-gin got to Bonny and Gokhana local governments. Chikobi came to Woji but there is no information on who took the gin to aforementioned two local governments.
Except he left Woji for the Bonny and Gokhana after the “celebration of death” or they were other merchants of death. Investigation by Niger Delta Voice revealed that many of the victims expired wrestling with death, vomiting and complaining of abdominal pain. Some lost their vision, cried of chest and waist pains.
Jarry fought death
Niger Delta Voice witnessed the death of a victim, Mr. Jarry, who passed away inside a tricycle that was conveying him home. The poison apparently reacted at the point, as he started struggling with unseen forces at the back seat of the Keke NAPEP. The panic-stricken tricycle driver took to his heels. Our reporter saw him go to meet his Maker.
Akpan left church to dine with the devil.
The death of Engr Joseph Akpan is pathetic. He left a Church service on the ill-fated Sunday against the counsel of his wife and a church member to partake in the drink at the dog meat joint. Moreover, after the drinking spree, he refused to confess to his apprehensive wife, a nurse, for possible medical assistance.
His bereaved wife, Mrs. Pauline Apkan, “On Monday, I was called that a man is dying within Mini-Woji and that the person drank kai kai. When I got there, I told the people to take him to the hospital that I cannot handle such case and my husband was having pity for the man the way he was shouting and rolling on the floor. Later the man died.
“I remembered that on Sunday, somebody called my husband while we were in the church and he left me in the church to honour the call. A man close to him in the church asked him to wait until after service then he can go and answer the call, but he refused. Maybe they told him they want to start.
“Earlier on Friday, he told me that there is a man they gave chieftaincy title in his community and he is coming to that restaurant to celebrate it. I told him that he should not go that I do not like him going to that restaurant often, but he started shouting at me, that is it because he told me? I said the man may poison him, he said do I think the man will bring poison to all the people there,” Mrs. Akpan asserted.
Her words: “So when the issue of that his friend, Fabian, that just died and other three people came up and all relating to the people that went to the bar, I asked him to tell me the truth if he went to that bar to drink, but he denied and said he only went there to charge his phone.”
Too late, he died in my hands ‑Wife
She continued, “Later, one man came and told me to look for an antidote for my husband that he met my husband drinking at that restaurant on Sunday. On Tuesday morning, he woke up saying that he cannot see again. I said but it is daybreak, he continued shouting that he cannot see.
“Soon, he said his waist and chest. That his chest is very hot I called my pastor he said I should pray for him. He started rolling and groaning, then he died in my hands. “The poison is not from the dog meat, it is that kai kai they drank. Some people who came here said people who bought only dog meat are not dying that it is only those who drank the kai kai,” she added.
I know nothing about the local gin- Dog meat joint operator
Owner of the dog meat restaurant, Mr. Dickson, told Niger Delta Voice: “I have been in this community doing this job and I did not kill anybody. That Sunday, I was inside my restaurant busy with other things I do not know what happened outside. “I only heard that one man that use to come to my restaurant, he is from Yoruba, brought kai kai for all the people there to drink. Me I do not know anything about it.”
Asked if he used other special condiments in preparing penultimate Sunday‘s delicacy, Dickson said, “I used all the ingredients that I have been using since my 10 years in Woji. I do not know the man who brought the drink. But I think they use to call him Chikobi and Chiefo, if I see him, I can recognise him but I do not know where he lives.”
Sorrow in Woji
Woji and other affected communities have been mourning since the incident. Now, all shops that trade on locally made gin in the area have closed down. The people were still in deep shock when we visited Woji. They were concerned about identifying all those that drank the deadly gin at the dog meat restaurant.
How death started
Community Development Committee, CDC, chair of Woji community, Chief (Dr) Brain Ogbonda, who also doubles as the Secretary, Woji Town Council, said: “On Monday, we received a report that three people have died in the community after consuming dog meat at a dog meat restaurant on Mini-Woji Road. Tuesday, the death toll increased to five, so that Tuesday, the community had Woji Town executive meeting.
“As the CDC chair, I was instructed by the community to follow up the issue. In course of our investigations, we heard three different stories, firstly, that somebody from Ogun state came that he is now a king and the people there crowned him a chief and poured libation that Sunday.
Monday, death started.
“Secondly, we were told that a man came from Ogun state with gin (kai kai) saying that they made him a chief in his state and all of them that were in that restaurant ate dog meat and drank the gin, but that the man himself did not drink.
“Thirdly, that they used the gin in cooking the dog meat and this sounds unbelievable. On Monday when I was at Mini-Woji, I met one of our daughters, Otunahia Chioma. She greeted me, that same Monday night, she started vomiting and then gave up.” Chief Ogbonda added, “Same Monday, I also saw one Umoh from Akwa Ibom state whose wife is a nurse, he died after awhile. So far, we have recorded 11 deaths.
“Some of the names I have here are Mr. Friday from Akwa Ibom, Miss Otunahia from Woji, Mr. Jackson Adams (popularly known as Scatter), he is a carpenter from Akwa Ibom, Mr. Jerry from Omoku in Rivers state, Umoh from Akwa Ibom and Chief Amadi Odum’s gate man also died.”
He asserted, “Our fear now is that we do not know how many persons ate and drank the gin. The owner of the restaurant, Mr. Friday Dickson, a member of Man O War is now at Woji Police Divisional Headquarters. We are still trying to identify the man from Ogun state who brought the drink. Nobody has seen the man, we are still investigating.”
He disclosed, “Mr. Friday Dickson has been in this business of selling dog meat in our place for some years now. Those who eat dog meat in our community patronize him. We are even lucky that most of our youths who eat dog meat did not go there that Sunday. “One of our daughters was unlucky to be one of the victims. The relatives of most of the victims have taken their corpses and probably buried them and some of them are in the hospital.
“This is the first time this community is experiencing this kind of ugly situation. We cannot say it is the dog meat, the gin or the coronation per se, but we want the government to wage into the issue and find out the real cause of the death. “The gods of our land are not angry that a stranger is crowned a king in our land because the coronation they did was just out of joke. We are a developed people and we do not believe in those fetish things,” he stated.
His words: “We cannot go to juju to find out the cause of the strange deaths because this generation has gone beyond that. Christianity has taken over; we will only investigate scientifically and come out with the truth.”
Illicit gin smuggled into community
The community leader said, “We suspect that the same gin that killed people in Ondo state was smuggled into our village. Some of the people there have confirmed that those who are dying are those that drank the gin. That gin should be the cause of this death.” He added, “And for the man who brought the drink to refuse to take the drink and disappeared till now should show that he imported the dangerous drink into our community. The man is wicked; he does not reside here because we have tried to know whom he is and where he resides.
“He is a visitor to the restaurant and decided to bewitch the community. The owner of the restaurant should tell us more about the man; although it is not every customer that he should know his house.”
Police nonchalant until death escalated
Similarly, the secretary of Woji Youth Association, Mr. Daniel Adolphus, said, “The strange deaths on the streets baffles every one of us. The story we heard is that some people drank local gin on Sunday. The people are Ben, Marshal, Jackson, Fabian, Ojiboy, Chika, Jerry who just died, Otunahia who is from Woji here and Mr. Akpan.
“We as youths, we have tried in our own capacity to see how we can assist them. We have also announced that anyone who visited the restaurant last Sunday should declare himself for help. There is one funny thing that happened, when the number of death was about three, I called the police to come and assist us, but they said since my relative is not there, I should forget about the matter. However, when the death increased to 11, the police came into the issue.
“When they came, they said they have gone to the scene of the incident that they did not see anybody, I replied them that if they had come earlier, there would have been remedy to the situation. We call on the government to send medical teams to conduct some tests so that we can know what led to this whole thing,” he asserted.
…condemns burning of dog meat joint
He said, “Some angry youths from the community have already burnt down the restaurant, it is condemnable. That is the more reason we needed the police to arrest the situation. Now there is no gin or the dog meat from the restaurant to be used as sample.”
No sample yet for laboratory test
The Rivers State Centre for Disease Control has confirmed the death of 10 persons in Woji area. Director of the department, Obed Rowland Whyte, said one of the victims was female.
“We are advising the general public not to panic but should refrain from drinking locally made gin from unidentified sources pending the determination of the actual cause of the death. The report we are getting is that nine people are now dead, including one female and eight males resulting from the consumption of gin.
“The symptoms presented are similar with that of Ondo state poison, abdominal pain, vomiting, loss of vision. Already we are tracing a victim that is still alive. A sample of the drink will be taken for laboratory test. However, how to get the drink for the test is even a problem because right now, the community youths have burnt down the restaurant. “If we can get one of the victims who still have clear vision, we can get a lead into what happened. We are doing our best to control the situation,” he said.
Local gin, not dog meat caused deaths
Director of Public Health in the Rivers State Ministry of Health, Nnanna Onyekwere, said preliminary investigation showed locally made gin caused the deaths and not dog meat as being speculated. He said the ministry has taken proactive measures to investigate the cause.
“Initially, they said the people ate dog meat, but further investigations have shown that somebody sold some local drink to them. It is those that took the drink that are having issues, not those, who ate the dog meat. Our health team in conjunction with that of the local government council is already there at Woji going from house to house of those that died to get more information,” he said.
Last Friday, the Rivers State Ministry of Health confirmed the death of 38 persons in relation to the illicit gin in the state. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Somieari Isaac Harry, told reporters that 38 persons have died in relation to the consumption of an illicit gin.
He said 10 people died in Woji, Obio/Akpo local govern-ment area, 17 persons in Bonny local government area, 11 in Gokhana local government area, totaling 38, clarifying that the deaths were not from the consumption of dog meat. Consequently, Rivers state placed a ban on the selling and drinking of illicit gin in the state. Dr. Onyekwere explained that the ban was to stop further death, while a task force to check offenders with the assistance of security agencies is already in place.