IT TAKES the heart of courageous
parents to bury four children on the same
day. I had wondered if I could celebrate a
funeral with a gaze on four corpses in front
of the sanctuary but I did that on Friday,
March 4, at the Seat of Wisdom Chapel,
Eriam, Afaha-Obong, Abak, Akwa Ibom
State, Nigeria. Four young Novices of the
congregation of the Handmaids of the
Holy Child Jesus (HHCJ) were killed in
an accident on Ikom-Calabar road. Their
car was crashed by an articulated vehicle
(truck-trailer) on February 9. Although
most accidents on Nigerian roads are due
to lack of maintenance of the roads and
the recklessness of some of the drivers,
most victims very often resign their fate to
the will of God. Akin to an act of perfect
resignation, the Handmaids of the Holy
Child Jesus (HHCJ) mourned the tragic
death of their angelic daughters with the
dirge, “My Father planned it all”. Amidst
drizzling tears that could transcend the
clouds to reach God in heaven, the rhythm
and echo of the hymn could not silence the
tears and sorrow of the worshippers:
Although the way be lonely
And darkness shadow falls
I know where ever it leads me
My father planned it all
I sing through the shade and the sunshine
I trust in whatever befalls
I sing for I cannot be silent
My father planned it all (Chorus)
At the wake of the funeral, Fr. Bisong
Kekong titled his homily, “Jesus wept”
(John 11:35). At the funeral mass, Fr. Sam
Okwuidegbe SJ in his homily eulogised the
qualities and virtues of Sister Bridget Okung
(born on April 12, 1993); Sister Stella Igbang
(born February 10, 1996); Sister Mary-Judith
Anuforo (born February 25, 1992) and Sister
Mary Enueze (born July 15, 1988). Mother
Leonie-Martha O’karaga, the Superior
General of HHCJ, described the reception of
the news of the death of these daughters of
the Church and daughters of Nigeria and
the journey to the scene of the accident
as Stations of the Cross. While Bishop
Camillus Umoh of the Catholic diocese
of Ikot-Ekpene called the young Novices
Saints, some other worshippers called
them innocent martyrs. Being beautiful
Handmaids of Jesus, Sisters Brigdet, Stella,
Mary-Judith and Mary had resigned to
the will of God. However, they did not
know that their exit would be through the
violence on the road. They had rendered
in sonorous rhyme the lyrics of how God
would welcome them to heaven:
If when you give the best of your service
Telling the world that the Saviour is
coming
Be not dismayed when men don’t believe
you
He’ll understand and say well done
O when I come to the end of my journey
Weary of life and the battle is won
Carrying the staff and the Cross of
redemption
He’ll understand and say well done
(Chorus)
That is why I titled this narrative,
“violence against children on Nigerian
roads” because millions of people die on
regular basis to road crash in Nigeria. These
accidents kill the old, the young, the rich,
the poor, ministers, government officials
and all categories of people. Shortly after
the death of the four novices, six Vincentian
Seminarians of the Congregation for
the Mission (CM) who were travelling
from Ikot-Ekpene to Enugu died on a
road crash. Emeka Osisuiri, Emmanuel
Okoli, Michael Nwafor, Emmanuel Adah,
Emmanuel Agbo and Joachim Erineyoma
were between the ages of eighteen (18) and
twenty five (25) years.
The “End violence against Children”
campaign by United Nations Children’s
fund (UNICEF) has so far concentrated
on violence against children in the homes,
schools, streets etc. Parents killed in autocrashes
can lead to emotional violence
on the children who suddenly become
orphans. No matter the age at which
people are victims of crash on the roads,
children are directly or indirectly affected.
On March 7, 2016, almost all the print
and electronic media reported that the
Minister of State for Labour, Chief James
Ocholi (SAN), his wife and second son died
in a fatal auto crash along Abuja-Kaduna
highway. While Ocholi was 55 years old,
his son, Aaron Enojo was 20 years old.
With the death of these bread winners of
the family, what will now happen to the
remaining children of the family who are
less than 20 years old?
The news of Chief Ocholi’s death
was reported because of his status and
position in the society. There are millions
of unknown families who die on Nigerian
roads on regular basis. Girl children below
the age of fourteen are daily kidnapped
on the streets and forced into marriage.
Street children are kidnapped regularly
for rituals. Child labour on the streets
and highways in Nigeria have remained
constant. The commentary on road crash
on Wazobia Radio on Monday, March 7,
2016 was on accidents on Nigerian roads.
One of the commentators recommended
that the federal government and state
governments should repair the roads to
reduce road accidents. Another said that
the government officials in Nigeria do not
normally travel by road hence they are not
aware that the roads are death traps.
According to the statistical analysis of
road accidents in Nigeria, Federal Road
Safety Corps Onitsha Anambra State 2002-
2015, road accidents are caused by various
reasons, ranging from carelessness on the
part of the drivers to the deplorable nature
of our roads. Nigerian roads have become
killing fields without protection for their
users. According to this report, most
victims are between the ages of 20-40 years
(http://nairaproject.com/projects/1051.
html). This confirms that children and
youths are mostly affected in the violence
on the roads.
I believe this because I have lived
with victims of those who suffer trauma
from the lost of their loved ones this
way. May 29, 2010 is a memorable day
in the life of Omonokhua family. This
day, a truck-trailer crashed the car of
my brother Adolphus, between Irekpai
and Ayogwiri, Edo State, Nigeria, while
avoiding a pothole. That accident killed
his wife Carol, her friend and the driver.
Although Adolphus was the only person
that survived, he still finds it difficult to
get over the shock because of the trauma
the children (Oshiokhai, Esi, Okhai and
the little daughter Etse) had to go through.
This experience and my other encounters
with children who suffer trauma due to the
violence on the roads give me the audacity
to make this clarion call. May the souls of
all the “road martyrs” and all the faithful
departed rest in perfect peace!
Fr. Omonokhua wrote in from Abuja


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