Father allowed to travel to see son only after he died — but they almost made it — here’s how

Sixteen days after her son, Benjamin Byhomann, died at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, Lagos State, his mother, Kehinde, read to her son the final goodbyes before he embarked on a last journey,…

Father allowed to travel to see son only after he died — but they almost made it — here’s how

Sixteen days after her son, Benjamin Byhomann, died at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, Lagos State, his mother, Kehinde, read to her son the final goodbyes before he embarked on a last journey, realising her prayers had finally been answered.

Bidu had spoken with Benjamin while she boarded a foreign charter flight to catch her connecting flight in Dubai in January, hours before he died. That was a day after she told Benjamin in an emotional phone call that the family was travelling to Dubai where he had already put his feet down on a bed.

On that Monday last year, she went to Lagos, arriving about six hours after she spoke with Benjamin and then waiting at the bridge toll gate with a three-and-a-half-hour traffic tailback to receive her son and bundle him into a taxi.

Benjamin’s trip to the UAE had begun nine days before his death. At the five-day trek from Lagos to Ibadan, he called his mother four times, alerting her of his location and presenting a few travel itineraries with transport details, but being told to check his cellphone after that because an SMS had been sent to his phone that morning asking him to follow up with friends and family.

On February 7, after 11 days, Benjamin paid the $35 toll to travel with his brother and mother from Ibadan, when he would have completed the 15-hour drive to Dubai.

“I became his boss,” her late son had said on the phone. “I have a good salary, I go everywhere with you, put food on your table, take care of you. I have done everything for you, coming all the way from Ibadan.”

Those brief conversations were the last the family heard from him, however, and the only communication they would have with him.

Benjamin’s employer, Lafarge WAPCO Cement Company, declined to allow Mrs. Byhomann see her son on arrival in Dubai, because he was not carrying his work ID tag, and it was certain that he had accepted a job in Dubai that will pay less than his usual salary.

Shortly after she had gotten to Dubai, her son’s co-workers, who had been part of her son’s journey, contacted her and informed her that he had been declared dead. She was reluctant to tell her son the good news because he was the one that had called her, but eventually, she broke the news to him. “Yes!” he repeated in tears, and then added, “There are things God does not want people to know until it is too late.”

Days later, she was informed the next of kin of any Nigerian who dies overseas would be briefed about the person’s death. Only then could she fly home to receive the body, after four long trips which would take five hours of travelling at lightening speed.

“Why did they not tell me the news before?” she asked. “His work identity tag is not on his body.”

“There’s a little bit of joy that it happened to Ben,” she said, but not a moment’s peace.

A memorial service is now in the offing.

“It’s very important to me,” she said. “I don’t want to leave Nigeria without telling them that he is gone.”

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