Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
It made a shocking sight and incredulous news when a Benue man, in a fit of cocktail of depression, anger and jealousy, for being jilted, poured fuel on himself and on a lady with whom he was in a sizzling romantic relationship, struck a match and thereafter ended their love and lives in a raging bonfire. The incident which took place last week Saturday has become the talk of the town.
As you read this, their charred remains are lying somewhere in a mortuary waiting to be committed to mother earth. It was a classic case of love tango gone awfully awry. Even in the world beyond to which she has been untimely sent by the man she loved and who she thought nursed the same feeling for her, Shiminenge Pam, the lady at the centre of the sad story, is perhaps going to continue to curse the day she met Nicodemus Numyange and accepted to go into a romantic relationship with him.
An eyewitness’ account
Until the sad incident took place, Nicodemus, said to be a married man and Shiminenge, a single lady were said to have been in a love relationship for some years. But one day, she decided to call it quits and pointedly told him that she was ready to move on and marry another man since their relationship appeared not to be headed for marriage.
Initially, Nicodemus was said to have tried to talk her out of the step she was planning to take. He was said to have even sent away his first wife, in order to, ostensibly marry and move in with Shiminenge. Details of why things did not quite work out after he had sent away his first wife are still sketchy but his lover was said to have got entangled with another man with whom she hoped to settle down in marriage. They had even set the ball rolling by going for the normal traditional introduction. But last week Saturday, tragedy struck in a way nobody could have ever imagined. By the time it was all over, it was too late for anybody to do anything about its grim aftermath.
It happened when at about 5pm, that day, inside Shiminenge’s one-room apartment located off Inikpi Street in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, Nicodemus reportedly poured fuel on himself and his girlfriend and set both of them ablaze. The story sounds stranger than fiction. But it is true.
Before help could come their way, both lovebirds had been roasted to death. Their charred remains were later evacuated from the burnt building by officers and men of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC). Sunny Call, an occupant of the ten-room compound where the incident happened, narrated to our correspondent the much he knew about the incident.
According to him, he had just returned from work about 5pm that evening when he suddenly heard Shiminenge calling for help from her room. He, along with another guy who also lives in the compound rushed to find out what the matter was.
“By the time we reached there, we looked through the window and saw Nicodemus wetting everywhere in the room with a gallon of fuel which he earlier brought to the house. We saw Shiminenge both begging him to stop and also appealing to us to rescue her. We tried to open the door but discovered that it was locked from inside. She then asked us to break the adjourning door which connected her room to the room of another occupant. While we were trying to do that, Nicodemus struck a match and there was fire everywhere. We couldn’t do anything other than raise alarm and call for more hands while the fire continued to billow until it consumed everything and everyone in the room. I heard the painful cry for help from Shiminenge as it resonated through the raging inferno while the man (Nicodemus) kept silent as the fire licked his body until it dispatched him to the great beyond.”
Call said from what he gathered from another neighbour who was around, Nicodemus came into the compound with 10-litre gallon of fuel while Shiminenge went to look for okra with which to prepare food for him. “I was coming back from work when I saw the girl in the room. The girl owns the room. I heard the guy bought 10 litres of fuel and brought it to the house. The girl works at Lobi Hospital while the guy works at the Millennium Guest House within the same area.”
How the tragedy unfolded
Call added that from what he was told, Nicodemus had earlier met Shiminenge and told her he was hungry. She reportedly came home, peeled some yam and put on the fire. She was cooking it for him when she later went out to look for okra with which to prepare stew so that he could eat. It was while she went looking for okra that the guy, unknown to her, came in with the gallon of fuel. “When the girl came back, we didn’t hear any sound of argument, fighting or something like that,” he said. “We only heard her raise alarm and by the time we got there, the door was locked. It was while we were trying to open an adjourning door leading to her room that we saw blazing fire everywhere and we couldn’t do anything to help anymore. The fire also completely burnt down the next room to Shiminenge’s which was being occupied by another lady and her little sister.”
Call who described Shiminenge as a very nice lady in her mid-30s added that she was good and always related cheerfully with everyone in the compound. Asked what must have led Nicodemus into taking his life and that of the lady, he disclosed that there was actually a romantic relationship going on between the two. But at a point, the lady told the man that she was ready to move on and get married since he was already married with children.
He said: “The man was married with children. He used to threaten the lady before the incident. Priscilla Shiminenge Pam was Tiv like the man. I heard her tell him recently that she was ready to move on with her life and get married to another man. It later became an issue and many people, including elderly people in their area waded into the matter and everybody thought the matter had been laid to rest. We heard he had been telling Shiminenge that if she left him he would not be able to live. This lady had even gone for introduction with the man she wanted to marry before the sad incident took place.”
Agatha,a14-year-old girl sister of the lady living next door to Shiminenge’s one-room apartment, added another twist to the story when she said she had had a dream a week before the incident that their room and the one next to them (Shiminenge’s) got burnt. She said she shared the dream with her elder sister and they prayed about it. But she was surprised that, despite their prayers, their apartment still got gutted by the fire.
“I was not at home when the incident happened,” she told Saturday Sun. “My sister went to the market and I told her I would go and stay with one woman that I usually call “Mummy” within our neighborhood. It was when I came to check whether she was back that I discovered that our room had been burnt down. We lost everything.”
Acquaintances talk about the two lovers
Nancy Orave, an attendant at the Lobi Hospital where Shiminenge worked as a nurse said the deceased was on morning duty that fateful day and closed at 1:30pm. “She was a very nice lady loved by all,” she said. “She was at work that Saturday and closed at 1:30 pm. She was a nice person and very hard working,” she repeated her earlier statement before breaking down in tears.
Teryima Achaku, a security guard at the guest house where Nicodemus used to work as a manager and a close friend of his said although they were together that Saturday, he never divulged to him his intention to commit suicide.
“Nicodemus was the manager at the Millennium Guest House on Edward Ujege Street where we both work,” he said. “He was my friend and a good man. He had three children but one is late. Now he has two. A month ago, he went to the village and drove his wife away. He was my friend but he didn’t confide in me. We were together that day and he never confided in me before going to do that thing. It’s a sad development. I was in the room when my wife came to inform me about the incident.
“The only thing he said was that he asked one of the workers if he remembered the woman that killed her husband and children in Makurdi and that one said yes and then he kept quiet. Later that day, he entered the generator house, picked the 10-litre gallon and asked a motorcyclist to take him to the filling station to buy fuel. That was the last I saw of him.”
Kelvin Numyange, nephew to Nicodemus revealed that on that fateful day, he was at home with his aunt with whom he is staying when his uncle called and asked him to come to his house. “I knew my uncle with the lady for a long time,” he revealed. “I saw him when he took the gallon to buy the fuel. He told me he was coming back. But one thing I noticed was that he had been quiet and withdrawn for some days before the incident. He said I should stay with him that Saturday. I came and washed things for him and all. Before he left, he left his phone with me and showed me his pattern of opening the phone in case I needed to. The next thing I heard was that he had died in an inferno in the lady’s house.”
Asked if it was true that his uncle drove away his first wife in the village, possibly in order to marry the lady, he said: “Please, it’s a very complicated issue and I can’t speak on that. We have elders in the village who can talk to you about that.”
Kelvin who cried throughout the duration of the interview wondered what could have led his uncle to take his life saying that he still can’t believe what happened. “It was only one person that was in that compound that day,” he said amid tears. “What you’re saying is the account he gave but we can’t really say what actually happened.”
Police confirm incident
Contacted over the report, the Police Public Relations Officer, Catherine Anene, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) said:” that is what was gathered from eyewitnesses living within the area; we are still investigating the case.”