Prime News Ghana

Lulu-Briggs' widow moves to stop inquest into husband's death

By PrimeNewsGhana
Lulu-Briggs family
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Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs, the widow of the late Nigerian billionaire and philanthropist, High Chief Olu Benson Lulu-Briggs, is challenging the jurisdiction and orders of the Kaneshie District Magistrate Court in Accra, for an inquest.

She has consequently filed processes at the High Court in Accra for orders of certiorari and prohibition to stop the Magistrate at the Kaneshie District Court from proceeding with the inquest.

Mrs. E.K. Barnes-Botchway, the Magistrate and Coroner in the case, had on September 6, 2019, granted an ex-parte motion application by Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, the eldest son of the late High Chief for an inquest after the court’s earlier order for an autopsy was delayed.

Mrs. Barnes-Botchway ordered the inquest saying it was necessary because events following the death of the then 88-year-old philanthropist on Friday, 27th December 2018 gave her reasonable cause to believe that the old man did not die a natural death.

But the new twist is that Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs says she believes the court lacks jurisdiction to order an inquest because the death occurred within the La Dadekotopon Municipality and outside of the Accra Metropolitan District within which the court sits. Besides, the Magistrate’s comment that she has reasonable cause to believe Mr. Lulu-Briggs did not die a natural death exposes her bias in the case.

Mrs Lulu-Briggs also argues “that the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court stipulates that the coroner does not have the jurisdiction to order an inquest when the cause of death is known”, saying that all papers pertaining to her husband’s death, including the medical certificate of cause of death, the death certificate, and the medical report, all concluded that her late husband died from cardiac arrest due to his Parkinson's disease.

She argues that these documents were available to the Coroner before she ordered the inquest into her late husband’s death and that because these documents are official documents from independent sources, they enjoy a presumption of regularity and the unsubstantiated allegations of the stepson cannot form a basis to rebut them.

“That since the Coroner did not have reasonable cause to suspect that my late husband did not die of natural causes, she lacked jurisdiction to order an inquest into his death,” argues Mrs. Lulu-Briggs in a 54-paragraph affidavit she deposed to.

Again, Mrs. Lulu-Briggs said she believes the Magistrate, being the Coroner, was unfair and “acted illegally, irrationally, and procedurally improperly to have ordered the inquest” as she relied on prejudicial ex-parte evidence from the husband’s eldest son.

“That I am advised by Counsel and I believe same to be true that because an inquest is a quasi-judicial proceeding, the mind of a Coroner prior to the inquest and throughout the inquest proceedings must be independent and not unduly prejudiced.

“That I am advised by Counsel and I believe same to be true that the Coroner's Act, 1960 (Act 18) stipulates that the Coroner can only conduct an evidentiary hearing after a decision to conduct an inquest and not before the decision to conduct an inquest.

“That I am advised by Counsel and I believe same to be true that in so far as the Police had commenced the request for an autopsy, it was improper for the Coroner to admit evidence from the Interested Party in the absence of all interested parties.

“That I am advised by Counsel and I believe same to be true that, when an autopsy has been conducted, the proper and fair procedure is for the Coroner to rely on the contents of the autopsy report to determine whether to order an inquest.

“That it is clear that in spite of the clear evidence before the Coroner which indicated the cause of my late husband's death, the Coroner relied on the prejudicial testimony and evidence of the Interested Party to order an inquest when it was completely unnecessary to do so.

Credit: graphiconline