It was an unusual service at the Church of Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Area 3, Abuja venue of a vigil mass for the late Prof. Celestine Onwuliri, who died in the Dana Air crash.
The church was filled to capacity. Security check was not handled with levity. Dignitaries were also frisked.
The widow and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, and the children attended the service, which lasted for two hours.
At the service were the Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, former Inspector-General of Police, Sir Mike Okiro, Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Mike Oghiadomhe and some members of the National Assembly.
Okorocha, who spoke with The Nation, said: “It is a painful death and may God give the family the fortitude to bear the loss.”
A Deputy Director at the National Universities Commission (NUC), Mr. Christopher Mayaki, said it would take time for him to get over the shock.
Mayaki said: “Prof. Celestine Onyemobi Onwuliri was a man I would like to describe as a good man. A very seasoned administrator, an academic and a religious man, he was always there for the family, the community, and by extension, Nigeria. I have known him since he was a professor at the University of Jos and since then, he had been very hard working and committed. We are going to miss him and his dedication and sacrifices for humanity. It is only God that can console us (NUC) and console the academic community and grant us all the fortitude to carry on without him.”
On his last moment with the deceased, Mayaki said: “I recalled that he brought lunch to us in the office through his wife and each time he turned to me, he would say ‘my son’. His personal relationship cannot be faulted. I never saw him lose his temper.”