Public cemeteries in Lagos State are in deplorable, despicable and nauseating conditions, underscoring a total lack of respect for both the living and the dead in Nigeria’s chaotic economic capital.
A detailed investigation on the state of Lagos cemeteries, undertaken by correspondents of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) showed that Local Government authorities have failed woefully to maintain cemeteries, despite huge revenues generated from the burial grounds by the councils.
At the Atan Cemetery in Yaba, classified as Nigeria’s oldest cemetery, it is a sorry tale of neglect, decay and repulsive smell at the public section of the cemetery, which is also overtaken by weeds with graves caving in.
A check showed that the public section of the cemetery, built in 1868, has been contending with congestion with little or no more spaces for burial of new corpses.
But the story is different at the private section of the cemetery, where some workers have been deployed to make the environment to look good.
A worker at the cemetery, who identified herself simply as Alhaja Korede, told NAN that the private section of the cemetery was maintained because it was costing a lot to bury corpses in the facility.
She explained that burying corpses at the public section of the cemetery was far cheaper, noting that families were paying various sums to bury their loved ones, depending on their choices.
”A single chamber vault at the private section is N250, 000 while the double goes for N500,000. Three-chamber vault goes for N600,000 while the special three-chamber vault with gate, tiling and engraving of the deceased’s particulars goes for one million naira.”
The same scenario obtains at the Ikoyi Cemetery, managed by the Ikoyi Obalende Local Council Development Area. Ikoyi is home to the old rich in Lagos State.
Weeds and bushes have covered most of the grave sites, while some of the graves have collapsed, due to a lack of care and maintenance.
NAN correspondents noticed that graves were placed too close to each other, owing to the inadequacy of spaces.
It was learnt that the cost of burying dead people at the cemetery, ranges from N300,000 to one million naira.
”Burying one or two dead bodies would cost you the same amount, which is N950,000 while burying in a family vault of three would cost over a million.
”If you want to bury more than three bodies. It will cost even more and payments must be made a week before the due date so that the necessary preparations can be made.
”The price was recently increased from N750, 000 because the cost of maintaining the cemetery is high. So the increase was made to cover the overhead and others.”
At the Ikoyi Vaults and Gardens, the private section was well maintained, with burying cost ranging from N4 million to N10million, depending on the land size and design of the vault.
At the Ita-Marun Cemetery in Epe, east of Lagos, it is the same story of rot and neglect as the cemetery has been covered by bushes.
Most graves at the cemetery have collapsed while slabs have broken down, due to poor maintenance.
A resident, Opeyemi Ibrahim, told NAN that hoodlums had turned the cemetery into their hideouts.
”The cemetery has been overgrown by bushes and hoodlums hide there to smoke hemp and do other nefarious activities.
”We are calling on the council to do something about the bad state of the cemetery.”
The Cemetery Manager, Ayodele Adeola, told NAN that the bad state of the cemetery was as a result of poor funding.
He said the Epe Local Government Council was facing funding challenges and that the problem affected the management of the cemetery.
”The problem is funding. Once the money is available all these problems will vanish,” he said.
Giving the costs of burying dead people at the facility, Mr Adeola said that burial at the private section of the cemetery, which is better maintained, costs between N150,000 to N300,000 while burial in the public section costs between N50,000 to N70,000.
The manager said that congestion was also a major issue at the cemetery, noting that corpses were buried close to each other or on top of each other because of space constraints.
In Badagry, NAN observed that the Ite-Olorisa Cemetery, one of the major cemeteries in the ancient city, has been taken over by weeds and bushes.
Some of the graves have collapsed while neglect could be seen everywhere at the cemetery.
A resident, Sunday Avoseh, said that criminals were always taking refuge at the dilapidated cemetery and causing problems.
He revealed that hoodlums and fortune seekers were always taking advantage of the darkness at the cemetery to exhume corpses for ritual purposes.
”The state of the cemetery is a disgrace to Badagry town. This is not a befitting resting place.
”We are urging the Badagry Local Government, led by Mr Segun Onilude, to clear the bushes and put the cemetery in good shape,” he said.
NAN correspondents observed, however, that the Christian and Muslim cemeteries, located in different parts of the town are well maintained.
Sunday Hunyinbo, Co-ordinator of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Badagry, said the Christian cemetery was managed by the council before CAN took over the management for proper maintenance.
”CAN, under my supervision, took over the Christian cemetery in 2009 because we believe that where our beloved brethren are resting should be kept clean.
”Before, it was bushy. We met the local government people and we agreed on 70/30 per cent on the management of the place.
”Today, the place is very neat because we employed gardeners who are taking care of the facility.”
Commenting on the state of the ”Ite-Olorisa” cemetery, the spokesman of the Badagry Local Government Council, Adeyemi Adetunji, said there were plans to hand over the facility to a contractor for proper management.
”We will hand over the cemetery to a contractor soon to address all the issues.”
Mr Adetunji said the Christian and Muslim cemeteries had been handed over to the leaderships of the two religions for better management.
Similarly, the story is different in Ikorodu town with the Ojokoro cemetery in the area maintained well, following a recent rehabilitation of the cemetery by the council.
A fence has been built at the cemetery to provide security.
A resident, Mr Salawudeen Shokunbi, who resides close to the cemetery thanked the council for the renovation of the cemetery.
”I just have to commend the council chairman for the renovation and reconstruction of the cemetery.
”In fact, it seemed like it had been totally neglected until the council came to the rescue.
”At a point, the cemetery was a hideout for criminals, owing to neglect, apart from the fact that people were dumping refuse and defecating at the cemetery.
”Now, the story is different. We thank God and the council for the intervention.”
Another resident, Aderonke Shittu, said that fencing of the cemetery had helped to remove fear among people living close to the facility.
She applauded the council for improving the cemetery and uplifting the standard of things therein.
”The cemetery was an open place before and if any of your family members was coming to visit you, they were always afraid of coming in the night, due to the proximity of your house to the cemetery.
”Now that the place has been fenced, there is no more fear.”
Speaking to NAN, the Chairman of the Ikorodu Local Government Council, Wasiu Adesina, appealed to residents to make good use of facilities provided at the cemetery.
He said the council would employ more workers to ensure proper maintenance of the cemetery at all times.
”Proper maintenance of the cemetery remains the priority of this administration.
”Rehabilitation is not completed yet. After everything has been put in place, we will employ more workers for proper maintenance,” Mr Adesina said.