July 12 would have been the 13th wedding anniversary of Mr Hammed Ademola and his wife, Mrs Jemilat Ademola. The couple planned to add more spark to their love life by engaging in romantic activities regardless of the pandemic especially as Hammed also clocks 38 on Sunday.
Jemilat took charge of the whole plan. On July 2, she composed a message to commemorate the day and saved it in her phone, eagerly anticipating the D-Day. The next day, fate took over the plan from her while she was returning home in a boat from Lagos Island where she had gone to deliver goods to some customers.
Together with her phone housing the wedding anniversary message, the 34-year-old mother of four drowned after a 21-passenger boat capsized.
Jemilat was among the seven females who lost their lives in the accident last Friday when the ill-fated ferry en route to Ikorodu from Ebute-Ero capsized around 8pm.
The Lagos State Waterways Authority and Lagos State Emergency Management Agency blamed the incident on violation of travel time, restricting journeys on waterways to 6pm.
While the agencies vowed to sanction the operators of the boat, the irreversible loss has brought grief and sorrow to the Ademolas and families of other deceased victims.
“I don’t know who can replace her in my life,” Hammed grieved. “She was practically more than a wife. She was like a mother, my personal assistant and my friend. She was everything to me. We met each other at young age and had come a long way. We really understood each other.”
Shortly before the tragedy struck, Jemilat exchanged calls with her husband. She informed him and their children – aged between 13 and five – she would soon be home with them. For the joyful family, everyone was eagerly awaiting Jemilat.
Hammed stated, “She traded in clothes and shoes and went to deliver goods to some customers on Lagos Island that day. She used that opportunity to visit some of her relatives in that area. Normally, she delivered goods through dispatch riders.
“She called me when she was about to board the boat around 7pm. I was praying then. I called her back and she said the boat had taken off. She also spoke to her children on the phone. She told us she would soon arrive home.
“When it was 8pm and I didn’t hear from her, I became worried. I started calling her mobile but her phone was switched off. I went down the street to check if she was stranded but didn’t see her. I then went to the Ikorodu jetty where I learnt that a boat capsized. We called LASEMA and Marine Police. They said they were aware and already searching for the victims.
“They searched for her till around 4pm the next day (Saturday) when her corpse was found. She told us she would soon arrive home but unfortunately we never saw her again. Our children are the ones consoling me. Even the youngest among them is aware their mum is dead. We have accepted it as our fate.”
With a heavy heart, Hammed, who lives in the Oreyo area of Ikorodu, shared glowing memories about his late wife with Saturday PUNCH. He described her as a generous and gentle woman who loved everyone.
He said, “She was a wonderful woman and wife. She could give anything to anyone. They called her a philanthropist in our community. She was a devoted Muslim. July 12 was supposed to be my birthday and our 13th wedding anniversary. We had already composed a message we would post on the social media to mark that day.
“The message was in her phone which lost inside the water. She composed the message on July 2. For our 10th anniversary in 2017, we went to Hajj to mark it. I never knew we would not celebrate this year’s anniversary together. My wife might not be an angel but she was perfect.”
Jemilat’s elder brother, Shina Abubakar, described her as an embodiment of virtues and a source of unity in their family. He said the death of Jemilat, who hailed from Osogbo in Osun State, was more devastating because of their aging parents she left behind.
Going down memory lane, Abubakar stated that Jemilat’s demise came as a shock having survived an ailment many years ago when the family thought she would die.
He said, “We grew up together. Even when we thought she was going to die as a child, she survived it. She was sick for days and hospitalised. She took a lot of injections. Fortunately, she survived that moment. Ever since then, she grew up to become an angel. She was a unifying factor in the family. She was calm and didn’t get upset. When things were rosy, she would advise you not to be overjoyed and when things were difficult, she would advise you not to be worried. She was a mother.
“I never knew she travelled by boat. If I had ever heard, I would have advised her not board ferries. When I heard that she was missing inside water, I knew she was not going to survive it. I made up my mind that whatever happened, we would take it as the will of Allah (God).
“What actually gave me concerns was how to break the news to our parents. Mum is hypertensive and dad just survived a stroke. We had to involve some Islamic scholars in Osogbo to break the news to them. We are all devastated and wondered it shouldn’t be her. We lost an angel.”
An Islamic cleric in the deceased’s community, Alfa Sulyman Obadina, also told of a virtuous life Jemilat led and people whose lives she touched. He said Jemilat would give out almost everything she had to make other people happy.
Obadina said, “She was a generous person. She gave out her children’s clothes just to make other children’s happy. She was also a devoted woman. She was the soul of her husband in prayers. There was a time she came to me and complained that her husband sat for exams in the office but was not promoted. She was crying. I asked her to make some prayers and after two months the husband was promoted.
“Anytime we had a programme, Jemilat would drive her car and carry some members. At times, she would bring her husband’s car so that it would be convenient for the group to move together. She was a pillar in her family. She hardly got angry.
“She didn’t want to have issues with anybody as if she knew she was not going to live long. She also taught Quran to women and kids in our community. She would not comprise anything with God.”
Beyond night travel which LASWA and LASEMA attributed to the accident, one of the survivors, who identified himself only as Layiwola, revealed that the boat engine exploded due to a mechanical fault.
He said the boat took off at Ebute-Ero jetty around 6.30pm and they were supposed to arrive at Ikorodu by 7pm but for the fault. Layiwola added that night fell while the captain was trying to fix the boat.
He stated, “The boat engine did not show any obvious sign of fault before we left the jetty. Along the way, it developed a fault. The crew told us the engine didn’t have enough power to take us to Ikorodu. It stopped working twice and I suggested that they should take us back to Ebute-Ero if the boat could not carry us to our destination.
“As the journey progressed, the engine exploded suddenly and people started shouting and jumping into the water. I sat in the middle of the boat.”
Layiwola, who was going to visit someone in Ikorodu, said death stared him in the face but God saved him.
He added, “We all wore life jackets. I think the suddenness of the incident caused panic which made many people to jump into the water. Also, some people didn’t fasten their life jackets and the wave was high. Some of us held on to the boat until another ferry met us there and rescued us. Other boats later came from Ebute-Ero to rescue more people. I live on Lagos Island.”