It has been ten months you lost your wife and all your children to an auto crash. How have you been coping?
Every day I wake up, it’s new to me because it comes very fresh losing your blood is not easy. I don’t think anybody can understand how I feel but I can only say that I am moving forward.
We understand that you have set up a Foundation in your late wife’s name as a way of immortalizing your family. Can you tell us how it all began?
My late wife, Comfort Ngumimi Jebe was a humanitarian. She had a skill training and acquisition centre where she was a training people free of charge before her demise. We were in Abuja and she discovered that the house rent was much so she called my mother and told her that she wanted to start her fashion house but from what she had gathered, things were very expensive so she was coming back home . So my mother asked her if she was going to leave her husband behind. She said that her husband had a lot of things that he was doing so she needed to support him. She wanted to stay with my mother because my mother had some health challenges. She felt that it was better for her to come close.
My late wife started the Foundation so when she died we started having revelations about how to continue. When I discussed it with my mother, she told me that it was exactly what she wanted too. When she came back to establish this vocational training centre, she named it after my father. She called it “David Jebe Fashion House”. She said she realized that my father was someone who was generally accepted and she believed that if the fashion was named after him it would go places and she went ahead and registered it with Corporate Affairs Commission, that was in 2012.
When she sent me some complimentary cards to print, I discovered that she had made my mother the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) while she was to serve as the Managing Director. When I asked why, she said my mother was close to retirement in the civil service so when she retires she will be in the shop taking care of it while she will be going round looking for contracts for the shop. That was how she started and people started coming and she was training them. My wife was the founder of Comfort NgumimiJebe Foundation. My mother is the co- founder because she started it and we were just following her steps.
When the accident happened, we started having a lot of revelations and working with a lot of psychologists, we were able to package things together and people were talking to us to see that we continue with what she started. We decided to set up a Foundation for trauma cases. This Foundation is to support various sufferers of various forms of emergency trauma cases especially accidents survivors and their dependents; linking them to psychological counseling, educational scholarships, skills and vocational training of their choices, helping them regain their sanity and dignity. It does not have to do with only the accident victims but also the people affected by crisis and we already have a lot of outreaches to widows and orphans. These widows are those who have been affected by crisis. We have auto crash, herdsmen crisis and so on.
Benue State has been affected by crises and Governor Samuel Ortom has been providing succour to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Are you working in Partnership with the Government?
The Governor is the Chief Security Officer of the state and we cannot leave everything to him. We have written letters of introduction to the government introducing ourselves and seeking partnership with some have acknowledged the letters while we are still waiting for others to respond. We have already written to the Federal Ministry of Health. We met with the Honourable Minister of Health and he gave us assurance that he will support and initiate other Non-Governmental Organizations to partner with us. We are partnering with the World Health Organization and the Red Cross society. Recently, the Red Cross promised to train 25 staff in our Organization in first aid so that we can function without dependence on government.
We are supporting the government of Benue State although we need to register our presence with them. There is a community at the back of Nigeria Army School of Military Engineering barracks that didn’t have a space in the IDP camp and I am sure the Government is not aware that they exist because nobody has taken their issue to the government. We went there and identified with the community. Government cannot do everything. We need to support in little ways that we can. We are praying and hoping that we should be accepted by the state government because we intend to cover all the 36 states of the federation. Right now we are working in four states; we have a state Coordinator in Kaduna, Plateau, Oyo and Nasarawa. Nasarawa was the place the accident occurred and we are looking at the hospitals. We want to deal with them and have applied for ambulance services to see how we can partner with government hospitals so that when survivors are rescued and taken to the hospital, they will have free treatment.
We are also partnering with the Nigeria Police, DSS, Federal Road Safety Corps, Immigration, the Fire Service and so on. We are trying to see how we can work with all government agencies because we need to use government facilities. We are not well equipped but if government embraces us, it will be a plus to us and it will help us to also partner with international Organisations.
It might also interest you to know that when my wife died, the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom gave me money; it is the Money the governor gave to me that we are using for the Foundation.
What are the aims and objectives of this Foundation?
The aims and objectives are to identify, categorize survivors of traumatic experience and their dependents; link them to relevant forms of assistance and to help and attract philanthropic Organisations and other available windows seeking to render assistance to survivors of trauma. It also aims to help attract the technology through the social media to render aid and support in already existing medical emergency system, help develop new system Operation and Organisation in identifying contents by categorizing and attracting donor seeking to add value to emergency space; to help provide psychological and relevant counseling for victims; to help source for and supervise the use of finance and give the mention survivors for sustainability; to help the survivors gain access to educational scholarships; to help them develop new skills and assist them in admissions in schools.; to help them establish vocational skills and additional skills for survivors and so on.
How many people have you assisted?
Like I told you earlier on, this foundation has existed and even before now, we had alot of people we had trained in the area of fashion designing, making bags and shoes. We have trained over 50 Persons. Right now, we have 120 widows, 80 orphans and a community called Daudu at the back of NASME Barrack that we have been assisting. We have been reaching out to them and giving them food and non-food items. We identified that they do not have water. They go like two kilometers before they get water. So when we got to the community, the commandant of NASME barrack, Major General Esoromere sought to know us and we told them our mission that we want to help the community and provide water for them. The commandant assisted the community with water. The water launched and the commissioner of water resources, commissioner of health, commissioner of environment and even the Governor of the state was also there. The commandant told the government to prepare the water channels so that when the water is released, it would not cause flood. The capacity of Water they have is more than a borehole.
The ugly incident occurred on 15th September, last year. Do you have any plan of a remembrance ceremony?
I am a member of NKST church and we do Thanksgiving. In any thing, the Bible say we should give thanks to the Lord, in the time of sorrows, give thanks to God, in the time of your prosperity, give thanks to God. He is a very wonderful God, who has really shown us mercy. His ways are different from that of man. The sacrifice my family paid on the Nigerian road which is supposed to be well kept has really given us the urge to start up this foundation. Although we are in pains but their death has challenged us to put smiles on other peoples’ faces. I would have been talking about my wife and three kids but now we are talking about 500 persons who are already benefitting from the foundation. We are not working with the fear of what we have lost but we are working with the joy of what we have been doing.
So the joyful part of it is that we are putting smiles on people’s faces. It pains me so much to see that when accidents happen people are left there for long. Like my family when the accident happened for over four hours, the truck blocked the road and vehicles that were coming from Abuja could not gain access to the road and the ones that were coming from Lafia could not gain access too. Even the Road safety Corps officials that were coming to rescue them were very far away, they couldn’t get to the scene of the accident.
We are looking at partnering with international bodies to see how we can get air ambulances so that when such accidents occur, the air ambulance can get there in a short while.
We have applied for 182 ambulances and want to see how all the federal high ways in all the 36 states in each and every 6 kilometers; we should have an ambulance and a clinic. We will go to the communities, talk to them, tell them what we want to do and they will give us land to build the clinics. There are people who are ready to give us medication and there people who are ready to come and install solar system for us. This will create employment opportunities to health workers who would work in those clinics.
So, we are going to make 15th September “Comfort Ngumimi Jebe Foundation Day” and it will always be celebrated. Subsequently we will start celebrating the day; we will be inviting people from orphanage homes, people with disabilities, widows among. We will make it a global day for the whole world to know that on the 15th of September, such angels were called by God. But for this year we are only organizing a thanksgiving, it is not going to be elaborate. We cannot launch the foundation not because of the issue of COVID-19. So for now we are looking for funds to execute our projects, we are not celebrating.
After the accident, I went to the accident scene, I entered the ditch and I met one Chief in the community and told him that my family died there that I wanted to see the place. So he took me to the place and pointed at the place that the accident occurred and there I saw some policemen there, I told them I wanted to see the place and they allowed me. I entered inside and dept was very deep, I prayed in there for over an hour. I even picked my children’s belonging at that place. There was this easy wear I bought on Saturday for my son and he wear that shoe that Sunday they were traveling. I also picked a stone that was different from other stones there and I have kept the stone with me and a contact between my father and me. I prayed and decreed that there shall be no accident in the place again. Two weeks later when I passed there, I discovered that the government had already started making the road.
So I commend the government for the action taken to construct a dual carriage road. The government is dualising the road from Abuja to Port Harcourt and that place has been made already. It is only me who passes there that know the place the accident occurred. So the government is working and I think if this road is completed it will save a lot of lives. If that road was a dual carriage, the accident wouldn’t have happened. Also, if the federal Road Safety had air evacuation services that wouldn’t have given them problem. Four hour rescue mission? The time was enough for the accident victims to bleed and die.