…Celebrates 2021 Widows’ Love Feast
Men have been tasked to make the right choices while alive to ascertain the future of their families, and make them less vulnerable in the event of sudden death. T his charge was given by Prof. Pat Utomi during the 30th anniversary of the dedication of the Pat Utomi Widow Support Centre and 2021 Widows’ Love Feast, held recently at St. Anthony Catholic Church Hall, Gbaja, Surulere, Lagos. Utomi disclosed that the widows’ centre was borne out of the need to protect women and children from turning destitute in the case where the man’s relatives confiscate the deceased properties.
According to him, “Thirty years ago, the then Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, His eminence, Anthony Cardinal Okogie and Rev. Fr. Raphael Adebayo then Parish priest here in Gbaja came to dedicate the centre in Surulere, Lagos to the service of poor widows. It was the formalization, as a Pat Utomi Widows Support Centre, an initiative that started nearly a decade before.” He disclosed that the death of a man whose wife became homeless because relatives rushed in to disposes her of her husband’s property caused him to write an opinion piece titled “The Agony of the Nigerian Widow.”
He said: “To give teeth to the opinion, I put together a group of my friends who were lawyers to offer pro bono services to widows. One of those services involved bailing out two women accused of killing their husbands by relatives. “We had no name for the organisation. One day I just began to call it the Pat Utomi trust for Humane Co-existence. And I began to look for ways to expand its efforts for widows.”
He said he shared his burden regarding supporting widows with the then Rev. Fr. Mathew Hassan Kukah who suggested that he talk with one Mrs. Gwani who was coordinating the Archbishop’s effort in Kaduna to provide land where widows could farm. He said: “My partnership with Mrs. Gwani to sustain that effort in Kaduna opened the door of ideas of what could be done for widows. We then started advocacy for change of laws to better protect widows.
This brought collaboration with a lady working on a Ph.D. thesis on widowhood Rites in Igboland, one Mrs. Patricia Okoye.” He disclosed that after an automobile mishap that resulted in the death of his driver, while supporting his (driver) widow he thought of more programmes for widows, which includes microcredit scheme for widows enrolled at the Widow Support Centre.
He said: “I shared our experience of the scheme with Mrs. Maria Sokenu a family friend who had been appointed Manging Director of Peoples Bank. She would personally come to the centre and help with a micro-credit scheme we set up for the Widows. She also brought the widows into the Peoples Bank lending. She helped with our skills training programmes and counseling for widows.” He further disclosed that the centre offers free training in IT such as desk top publishing to widows to increase their earning power. According to him, “It would prove very popular and by popular demand would be extended to the children of the widows.”