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Elizabeth Ndubisi-Chukwu, deputy director-general of Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN), bid her colleagues goodnight and went to bed after the closing dinner of the conference of the African Insurance Organisation (AIO) in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, June 12.
On Thursday morning when she was scheduled to travel back to Nigeria, Ndubuisi-Chukwu neither showed up for breakfast nor was she seen at the airport prior to departure. Her colleagues were said to have rushed down to the Emperor Palace Hotel where they lodged- a 10-minute drive from the O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg. Her phone rang but she didn’t answer the call. Hence, the door was forced open and she was found dead.
While Ndubuisi-Chukwu was initially believed to have died in her sleep overnight, an autopsy report from South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs revealed the unexpected. The death certificate issued said the 53-year-old mother died of “unnatural causes consistent with strangulation”.
The South African police service were said to have taken up the case, while the hotel was alleged to have prevented the police from having access to its CCTV cameras and other evidence that may help investigations.
@AriyoAristotle Our heartfelt condolences go out to family and friends. Emperors Palace management is deeply saddened by this incident.
The matter is currently being handled by the SA Police Service.
— Emperors Palace (@EmperorsPalace) July 5, 2019
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, executive chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), said CCTV footage showed no one entered the deceased’s room despite the autopsy report that her death was unnatural.
“Update on Ndubisi. Our CG in SA along with the deceased’s brother are on the sad incident. Cctv showed no one entered the room. Autopsy showed she died of unnatural cause. An officer from the HC detailed on the case, working with SA police. Will keep you updated,” Dabiri-Erewa tweeted.
However, a few hours after Dabiri-Erewa’s post, Emperor Palace Hotel posted a tweet, saying the South African police had not requested the required footage.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to family and friends. Emperors Palace management is deeply saddened by this incident. The matter is currently being handled by the SA Police Service,” the hotel said.
Update on Ndubuisi. Our CG in SA along with the deceased’s brother are on the sad incident.Cctv showed no one entered the room. Autopsy showed she died of unnatural https://t.co/44cN12q1Em officer from the HC detailed on the case, working with SA police. Will keep you updated https://t.co/TPNyn6ypgc
— Abike Dabiri-Erewa (@abikedabiri) July 5, 2019
Emperors Palace is fully cooperating with the SAPS and has given permission to view any required footage – however, as of yet, SAPS has not requested it.”
Chidi Odinkalu, human rights lawyer, expressed displeasure over the case, wondering why no action had been taken 25 days after the incident.
In series of posts on Twitter, he said Ndubuisi-Chukwu’s killers denied her teenage son of a loving mother.
“So, @abikedabiri, there u go: 25 days after our sister, Uju Ndubuisi was killed by strangulation in her hotel room inside @EmperorsPalace, SAPS hasn’t asked for footage. Is that normal? & from where did u get ur info as to what CCTV showed, ma’am?” he asked.
In this release by the Chartered Institute of Insurance of #Nigeria #CIIN, Colleagues who were with Uju Ndubuisi on her fateful last trip to the AIO Conference in South Africa tell of their last encounters with a much loved colleague#WhoKilledUjuNdubuisihttps://t.co/NiWBYdNeoF
— Chidi Odinkalu (@ChidiOdinkalu) July 4, 2019
Responding, Dabiri-Erewa said: “I’m sure all will be unraveled.Her family fully involved with an officer assigned to the case I cannot make any deductions but we will ensure the truth is revealed”
In a statement announcing Ndubuisi-Chukwu’s demise, Richard Borokini, CIIN’s director-general, said she left a legacy in the industry.
“It is with great sadness that we wish to inform you of the passing on to glory of the Deputy Director General of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, Mrs. Elizabeth Uju Ndubuisi-Chukwu who joined her maker on Thursday, 13th June 2019,” he said.
“Mrs. Ndubisi-Chukwu was a dedicated staff of the Institute and was a valued member of the Institute since she resumed duties at the Institute on the 9th April 2016.
“During her time at the Institute, she consistently championed the ideals of the Institute, promoting the insurance Industry agenda with her expertise and experience. In particular, the CIIN Breakfast Seminar Series, a program that has become a feature in the insurance industry is one of the legacies that she leaves behind.
“Mrs. Uju was kind and always had a pleasant disposition to her work and in all her relations with everyone. At this difficult time, her family and friends constantly remain in our thoughts and prayers as we pray they find the strength to go through this period. We urge you to equally keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
A touching tribute on her memorial page reads: “No one is truly dead until the ripples they create in the world die away. The ripples Mrs. Uju Ndubisi Chukwu has stirred in her time at the Institute and in the Insurance industry will last for a lifetime. She will be sorely missed by all.”
Many Nigerians have been killed in South Africa, which has a record of xenophobia. The death toll of Nigerians killed in the country has been on the rise. Over 120 have lost their lives since 2016.
Between April 6 and April 9, 2019, three Nigerians were killed at different locations in the country. In May, another was allegedly killed by the South African police.
When he visited Nigeria last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa blamed the persistent killing of Nigerians in his country on “criminals”, vowing to bring perpetrators to book.
“There has been quite a number of incident in our country where foreign nationals some of whom are Nigerians have lost their lives and are being attacked. I will like to say here and now that, that has been as a result of criminal activity among our own people which we are focusing on from a criminal element point of view,”he had said.
“I want to state here and now that South Africans do not have any form of negative disposition or hatred towards Nigerians and in the main Nigerians in South Africa and a number of places of our country live side by side. So, I want to dispel this notion that when a Nigerian looses his or her life in South Africa, it is as a result of an intentional action by South Africans against Nigerians. That is simply not true. You will know that South Africa has a number of challenges, one of which is criminality which is all pervasive.”