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Tussle over Late Ngozi Patricia Ogunwa’s estate, Family Members Stills Locked up in Battle After Court Intervention

By Ukandi Christopher, Port Harcourt

The Ogunwa family of Erema Town in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) of Rivers State is still locked up in a protracted battle over the administration of the estate of Late Ngozi Patricia Ogunwa.

Barely one year after the court granted the powers of administration to the Rivers State administrator general, beneficiaries of Late Ngozi Patricia Ogunwa estate have accused one Mrs Nkiruka Harris-Eze and Mr. Stanley Inye Lawson for unauthorized and illegally administering her estate without the knowledge and permission of her family.
They have also alleged that Mrs Nkiruka Harris-Eze is in possession of Late Ngozi Patricia Ogunwa’s interim death certificate, jewelries, two cars, and other vital documents as well as unspecified funds.

Consequently, the beneficiaries of late Ms Ngozi Patricia Ogunwa are demanding that the accused hands off the illegal administration of their sister’s estate and called on Mrs Nkiruka Harris-Eze to account for the money she solicited and got from friends and well wishers for the burial and funeral rites of the deceased amounting to millions of Naira.

Reliable sources close to the family hinted that the administration of the deceased estate was legally granted to the Administrator General of Rivers State by the High Court of Rivers State on 30th March 2023.

One of the sources which spoke on condition of anonymity said the Rivers state Administrator-General had in a letter dated 24th May 2023, signed by one Bernadette Nwanyanwu Esq, Principal State Counsel in the Attorney General’s office requested the management of First Trust Mortgage Bank PLC, where the deceased worked to forward all rights and benefits of the deceased to them for proper administration to her beneficiaries.

However, battle for the deceased estate began a month after her demise on 15 August, 2022, when the accused, without the knowledge and approval of the family sent out a flyer soliciting for funds for the funeral rites of the deceased.
Documents available to this publication indicate that Elder Victor Azubuike Ogunwa, Head of the Vincent Ogunwa family, on sighting the flyer reacted by affirming that the accused was not a member of the family nor a beneficiary of the deceased estate.

“On the 10th of September 2022, I was notified by a WhatsApp group platform post by one Nkiru Harris-Eze of a letter from Ashes to Ashes funeral Home, with a false claim stating that the said Nkiru Harris-Eze is a cousin to my deceased sister Ngozi Patricia Ogunwa, which is not true and a misrepresentation since she is not a blood relative but a known friend and work colleague of the late Ngozi Patricia Ogunwa;
“Therefore, her motive and this deliberate misrepresentation was suspect even at that point in time and from my phone conversation with Femi Odubela (Director, Ashes to Ashes funeral Home) after our discovery of the theft of the interim certificate, he confirmed dealing with Nkiru Harris-Eze clandestinely and without authorization from the family.”

Other documents in possession of this publication indicate that the Ogunwa family also petitioned the Eze Oba of Ogba land, the traditional ruler of the Ogba people, who promptly constituted a four man Peace and Arbitration Panel.

The panel, in its judgement delivered on 30th September 2023, thanked both parties for their respect for the traditional institution and advised them on the way forward for peace to reign.

“The Arbitration Panel advises Mrs. Nkiru Harris-Eze to disengage from or refrain from involvement in matters concerning Ogunwa family as her humanitarian services and kindness are not appreciated in this context. However, if she wishes to continue supporting late Ngozi’s mother and her only surviving daughter Shiloh Ogunwa, it should be done under the care of Elder Victor Azubuike Ogunwa and Emeka Ogunwa,” stated the Panel’s report.

This publication gathered that the non compliance to the Panel’s advice by the accused, coupled with rumours that she was making moves to obtain another letter of administration from the Lagos state High Court prompted the family to seek for legal redress for the accused to stay clear of their sister’s estate and to return the items allegedly seized by her.
The family, on 20 December, 2023 filed a suit in a Port Harcourt High Court against the Administrator General of Rivers State, with five others, including the accused and the Probate Registrar, High Court of Lagos state as defendants.
In suit No: PHC/3659/CS/2023 before a Port Harcourt High Court, the family is seeking, among others, “a declaration that the letter of administration granted to the 1st defendant by the High Court of Rivers State is valid and subsisting.

“A declaration that by the letters of Administration granted to the 1st defendant by the High Court of Rivers State, the defendants are precluded from applying for or entitled to be granted any letters of Administration with respect to the estate of Late Patricia Ngozi Ogunwa.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 2nd to 6th defendants, whether by themselves or their agents, privies, servants or whomsoever from applying or granted letters of Administration with respect to the estate of late Patricia Ngozi Ogunwa.”

The deceased, who was an Executive Director with First Trust Mortgage Bank, is said to have choice property in Lagos and Abuja as well as jewelries.
All efforts to contact Mrs. Nkiru Harris-Eze proved abortive as at press time.

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