A shocking and detailed account of the events that led to the deaths of about 38 residents of Rivers State within three days of drinking locally brewed gin popularly known as ogogoro or kai-kai which eventually led to the ban placed on the consumption of local gin by the Federal Government.
Initially, there were allegations pointing to the fact that a Mr. Friday Dickson, who is the owner of the dog meat joint were the gin was sold, had added poison to the meat while preparing them which resulted in the numerous deaths. But Mr. Dickson has denied these allegations while speaking to the Niger Delta Voice at Woji Police Divisional HQ where he is currently in custody.
Recalling the events that unfolded, Dickson stated that the gin was brought to his joint on that fateful Sunday by two men named Chikobi or Chiefo who claimed he was celebrating his chieftaincy title. But according to Dickson, Chikobi did not take part in drinking the gin.
While Dickson’s dog meat joint is in Woji where about 10 people died, how the mysterious gin also got to Bonny and Ghokana Local Government Areas remains to be seen. However, one of the victim’s wife has corroborated Dickson’s story.
According to the Niger Delta Voice, one of the victims identified as Mr. Jerry died in a tricycle or keke among locals, when he was been conveyed home. The poison had eaten deep into his system that the fight for his life was so apparent that the driver of the tricycle took to his heels.
Another one of the pathetic victims, Engr. Joseph Akpan, lost his life partly to the gin intake and his own foolishness as he had left a church service on that fateful day against the advice of his wife, a nurse, and stubbornly refused to confess the consequences to her as she could have sought immediate medical assistance.
According to the grieving 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.”
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 concluded.
Mr. Dickson on his part, 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.”
In reaction to the question as to whether he had poisoned the dog meat, 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.”
The incident has thrown the Woji community into a deep state of mourning as everyone appears to be in a state of shock while still trying to identify all those who drank the gin on that day.
Chairman of the Community Development Committee (CDC), Woji community, Chief (Dr) Brain Ogbonda, who is also 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.
“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.”
According to him, “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.”
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.”
Secretary to the 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.
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.”
The director of the Rivers State Centre for Disease Control, Mr Obed Rowland Whyte, has confirmed the death of 10 persons in Woji area and that one of the diseased person was a female.
He said; “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.
According to Nnanna Onyekwere, the director of Public Health in the Rivers State Ministry of Health, initial investigation indicated that the cause of death wasn’t the dog meat but the locally made gin the victims drank adding that measures have been taken by the ministry to look into the cause of death.
“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.
As a result of all the deaths, Rivers State government has set up a task force backed by security agents to check offenders who are still involved in selling and drinking of the locally made gin after the ban on its sale and consumption had been placed.