Head of the Akhigbe family, Mr. Joseph Akhigbe, who on Monday denied media report of the former CGS’ death, later confirmed it yesterday in his Fugar country home in Estako Central Local Government Area of Edo State.
Joseph Akhigbe said the eldest son of the late Mike Akhigbe called him by telephone from the U.S. and announced the death of his father.
“At about 1 am, Mike’s first son called me from the U.S. and said that his father, my brother, is dead,” he said.
He said that his brother’s son told him that Akhigbe’s remains were still in the U.S and that no arrangement had been made to bring them home.
The family head said that a condolence register had been opened in the family’s compound in Fugar.
Director General of NCS, Mrs. Ify Anazonwu-Akerele, in a telephone chat with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY yesterday expressed sadness over Akhigbe’s death.
“Initially when we heard the report, we had hoped that it would not be true. We hoped he would pull through but unfortunately he couldn’t. This is so sad. He was such a wonderful man. He contributed so much to the development of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping and to the maritime industry,” Anazonwu-Akerele said amidst sobs.
Chairman of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapamo, also said he received the news of Akhigbe’s death with shock.
“I never knew that the last time I saw him would be the last time I would ever see him. His death is very sad to me personally because he was my friend and he was also my boss in the Navy. The entire shipping community will miss him,” Jolapamo said.
Sympathisers, including Mr Emmanuel Momoh, the Chairman of Etsako Central Local Government, are thronging the Akhigbe’s country home to condole with the family.
Momoh described Akhigbe’s death as “a big blow to Estako people and Nigeria in general.” President Goodluck Jonathan, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, extended condolences to the wife, children and relatives of the former CGS.
Jonathan commiserated with officers and men of the Nigerian Navy which Akhigbe once led as Chief of Naval Staff, and with the government and people of Edo on the passage.
He described Akhigbe as a “very courageous officer who patriotically served his nation to the best of his God-given abilities throughout a most distinguished career in the Nigerian Armed Forces.”
Before his appointment as the chief of general staff following the death of the then Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, in 1998, the late Mike Akhigbe served as the Chief of Naval Staff.
After his retirement from the navy he went to read law and became an attorney with specialisation in Maritime and Real Estate Law.
He was a seasoned businessman with substantial interests in real estate.
During his military career that spanned about three decades, he was the Principal Welfare Officer of the Nigerian Navy Flagship NNS Aradu, military governor of Lagos and Ondo States, Director at the Naval Headquarters and Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Naval Command.
Akhigbe attended the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Royal Naval School of Maritime Operations Dryad, Southwick the United Kingdom, Command and Staff College Jaji, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru and University of Poitiers, Rouan, France.