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Akunyili, Attahiru, TB Joshua — 12 shocking deaths of 2021

  The outgoing year has been a roller coaster. Since the beginning of 2021, Nigerians have been inundated with security problems ranging fro...


The outgoing year has been a roller coaster. Since the beginning of 2021, Nigerians have been inundated with security problems ranging from robberies, kidnappings to killings.

In the year, some prominent Nigerians fell to diseases, armed attacks, air crash and other unfortunate incidents.

Here are 12 shocking deaths of 2021.


The life of Yinka Odumakin, publicity secretary of Afenifere, Yoruba socio-political group, was cut short by COVID-19 complications on April 2.

The late Odumakin drew his last breath at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). He was said to have been sick with COVID-19 for some time but had “underlying health issues”. 

Although he later tested negative for the virus, he never recovered from the complications arising from the infection.

Odumakin was a human rights activist who played a vital role in the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) that fought the Sani Abacha regime after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election.

His death was seen as a huge loss to the Yoruba nation as he fought for the advancement of the south-west region.

He was once a spokesman of President Muhammadu Buhari but he later turned to a critic of the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.

Despite being a critic of his government, Buhari still described the deceased as “a man of conviction who had a lot more to contribute to society and the nation at large”.


The death of Ahmed Gulak, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), sent shock waves down the spine of Nigerians, especially in the political space.

Gulak was killed by gunmen in Imo state in May. The former aide of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was shot dead by gunmen while returning to Abuja from Owerri, Imo state capital.

His death caused a ripple in the political space as there were speculations that his killing was politically motivated.

Commencing an investigation into the murder, the police said Gulak left his hotel without any security detail in spite of the insecurity in the state. The state had been witnessing a series of violent attacks.

Bala Elkana, the Imo police spokesman, had said six “armed bandits” ambushed Gulak’s car at Umueze Obiangwu in Ngor-Okpala LGA while he was on his way to the airport.

The police also alleged that members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were behind the murder, adding that its personnel trailed the attackers and ‘”killed some of them in a shootout”.

IPOB, however, denied the allegation.


Ibrahim Attahiru, the late chief of army staff (COAS), died in an air crash near Kaduna international airport on May 21.


Attahiru was killed alongside 10 other military officers in the crash. According to the military, the plane crash was caused by bad weather. The three-star general died barely four months into his appointment as army chief.


Upon assumption of office, the late army chief had shown his readiness to combat insecurity in the country. He had said under his leadership, the army would do things differently to address security challenges in the country.


Under his watch, many bandits and insurgents were captured or killed while some communities held by Boko Haram were recaptured after Attahiru gave the soldiers 48 hours to go after the insurgents and reclaim the areas.


An Accident Investigation Board was constituted to unravel the immediate and remote cause(s) of the unfortunate accident.


In September, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) submitted an interim report of the air crash.


Attahiru’s demise made him the shortest-serving chief of army staff in Nigeria.




Obadiah Mailafia, former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), died on September 19 after a brief illness.


There was controversy surrounding his death. The Middle Belt Forum claimed that the ex-deputy governor of the CBN faced a sad ordeal at the hands of doctors at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH) where he was taken to. The group claimed doctors refused to attend to him, but the hospital denied the allegation.


Bissallah Ekele, chief medical director at UBTH, described the allegation as false. He said Mailafia tested positive for COVID-19 at two hospitals he was attended to before he was transferred to the facility when his health degenerated. He said the former CBN deputy governor eventually died of COVID-19 owing to underlying diseases.


The 64-year-old Mailafia made the headlines when, during an interview on an Abuja-based radio station, he said a governor from the north is the leader of Boko Haram.


His claim made the Department of State Services (DSS) invite him for interrogation.


After being invited for questioning, Mailafia later recanted, and said he had no proof to back his claim on Boko Haram sponsor.



Another death that shocked Nigerians was that of Temitope Balogun Joshua, founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN).


The 57-year-old international preacher died on June 5.


He reportedly suffered a stroke two months before his death and was flown to Turkey for treatment.


Known for his prophecies and healing services, the late prophet was widely sought after by Nigerians and foreigners for healing miracles.


During the Ebola outbreak, he claimed that his ‘anointing water’ could cure Ebola and sent bottles of the water to Sierra Leone which was battling an outbreak of the disease.


In 2014, the pastor made headlines when a building within the headquarters of his church collapsed, killing at least 115 people — mostly foreigners.


His funeral attracted a large crowd including dignitaries like Rotimi Akeredolu, governor of Ondo, and Lucky Aiyedatiwa, his deputy; Dele Momodu, media mogul and former presidential aspirant, among others.


He was buried within the church premises in Ikotun area of Lagos.


On July 11, Nigerians woke up to the sad news of the death of Olanrewaju Fasasi better known as Sound Sultan, who died at the age of 44 after a four-year battle with cancer.


The late Nigerian singer died of Angiommunoblastic t-cell lymphoma. He was said to have been flown out of Nigeria to the US for chemotherapy following his diagnosis. Sound Sultan had expressed gratitude to his well-wishers, saying he would tell the story of his struggles.


Tributes poured in for the versatile musician who left an indelible mark in the music industry.


In July, the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) paid tribute to the late musician by dedicating D’Tigers’ victories over teams — USA and Argentina — to his memory.


The deceased was known as one of the biggest fans of basketball in Nigeria. 



Racheal Oniga, veteran actress, died at the age of 64 on July 30.


There was the rumour that the actress died of COVID-19 but her family said she died of a heart-related ailment she had battled with for a while.

In tributes, the late movie star was described as “a hardworking, committed and down-to-heart actress”.


The Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), a movement co-chaired by Olisa Agbakoba and Abduljeleel Tafawa Balewa, described the late Oniga as “the voice of the voiceless”.


“She was a very committed Ambassador of the movement agenda to take back power to the masses of Nigeria and she was involved in the movement accords in some states of the federation and at the National level, which yielded results during the 2019 elections,” the group had said.


“Lady Racheal Oniga, a titled chief of Ile Ife, installed by Oba Sijuwade Olubuse, lived and died as a voice of the voiceless.


 “We, therefore, pray for the repose of her soul and fortitude to bear this huge loss by her children and family members. We hope to explore a way of immortalising her legacies in succeeding days. Racheal Oniga lives on.”


She was buried on August 27 in Lagos state.



The murder of Chike Akunyili, husband of the late Dora Akunyili, ex-minister of information and communication, also came as a rude shock to Nigerians.


Akunyili was killed by gunmen in Anambra state in September. He was said to be on his way from a memorial lecture in honour of his late wife.


He was reportedly killed alongside his police escort and one Aloysius, identified as his driver.


His death generated condemnations from many Nigerians. The south-east governors lamented the killing and said the region had lost “one of its finest to hoodlums in the zone”.


Willie Obiano, governor of Anambra, also blamed “invaders” for the attack on Akunyili. The governor announced a N20 million reward for information on the perpetrators and asked security agencies to speed up efforts to find the attackers.


IPOB was alleged to be behind the attacks and killings in the south-east, but the group denied killing the deceased.


The late Akunyili was laid to rest in Agulu, Anambra state.



On November 1, tragedy brought Femi Osibona, managing director of Foursquare Homes, to the news after a 21-storey building he was developing in Ikoyi area of Lagos state collapsed, killing and trapping many people inside.


As families and friends waited outside the collapsed building with bated breath for reports on their loved ones trapped under, the body of Osibona and those of a few others were recovered from the rubble.


The tragedy claimed the lives of over 40 people.


The incident raised questions and controversy over the approval for the construction of the building.


Gbolahan Oki, suspended general manager of Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), had said Osibona got approval to construct only 15 floors.


Oki, who was temporarily laid off owing to the incident, also said the owner of the property was previously arrested, adding that the materials he used for the building were “so inferior and terrible”.


But Obafemi Hamzat, deputy governor of Lagos, said the approval was for 21 floors, but added that following the issuance of approval three years ago, the building was sealed by LASBCA recently when some “anomalies” were observed.


A tribunal was later set up by the Lagos government to probe the collapse of the high-rise.


The Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers (NIStructE) also said the 21-storey building was originally designed to be six floors. Kehinde Osifala, NIStructE president, said the changes made to the project appear to “have been seriously inadequate” and that “preliminary investigation also revealed some evidence of structural inadequacy in the construction and signs of some structural distress had already started to show within certain elements of the building”.



 While Nigerians were still reeling from numerous reports of killings across the country, the news of the death of Tordue Salem, Vanguard newspaper reporter, filtered in.


Salem, a House of Representatives correspondent, was found dead in Abuja – weeks after he was declared missing.


He was declared missing after he was last seen on October 13.


The news of the death of the reporter came about two days after the green chamber passed a resolution mandating all security agencies to immediately investigate his whereabouts.


The police, however, said Salem was killed by a hit-and-run driver. He was said to have been killed on Mabushi highway in the federal capital territory (FCT).


The police said a 29-year-old suspect — Itoro Clement — was arrested in connection to the crime following an investigation by the force intelligence bureau.


The suspect reportedly confessed that he knocked down the reporter and did not stop to check the victim because “the area is known for criminal activities”.




Death struck again in the movie industry and this time, it took Babatunde Omidina, comic Yoruba actor popularly known as Baba Suwe.


Baba Suwe died in November after a long battle with an undisclosed ailment.


Baba Suwe, who was popular in the movie industry, had a run-in with a law enforcement agency in 2011 when he was arrested by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at Murtala Mohammed International Airport over the suspicion that he was trafficking drugs.


He was detained for three weeks and allegedly tortured on suspicion of ingesting cocaine wraps. He was later granted bail after no drugs were found on him.


Although a Lagos high court had ordered that Baba Suwe be compensated with the sum of N25 million after no drugs were found on him, the veteran actor lamented years later that he did not receive any compensation.


Twice in 2019, he was rumoured to have died while he was abroad for medical treatment. The rumour was debunked by his colleagues in the movie industry.


He had earlier solicited financial support to enable him to travel abroad for medical attention.


While sharing the video of the corpse of his father online, Adesola Omidina, son to Baba Suwe, claimed that people abandoned his father but he later retracted his statement and apologised for his comment after he was criticised and accused of “disrespecting” the late actor.



If death could be said to bring relief and joy to people, the death of Abubakar Shekau did just that. Shekau was the leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria until his death in May.


The Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, confirmed the death of Shekau, former leader of the terrorist group. He was said to have blown himself up on May 19 following a confrontation with ISWAP fighters.


He was said to have killed himself with a bomb “when he observed that the ISWAP fighters wanted to capture him alive”.


The report of his death was met with mixed feelings – while many were elated, some were doubtful about the genuineness of the news owing to the fact that the army had claimed, on several occasions, to have killed Shekau but the Boko Haram leader resurfaced in online videos, debunking those claims.


Although the army said it could not confirm if he was truly dead, many Nigerians hope he remains dead.

Culled: TheCable

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