If the dead could talk or make demands, they would have by now besieged the office of Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu in protest over the deplorable state of their eternal resting places.
However, they are helpless and those whose duties it is to ensure these cemeteries are in good condition appear indifferent.
The abandonment is glaring in three major public cemeteries in Lagos, namely; Matori Cemetery, located around Ladipo Auto Spare Parts Market, Mushin, Lagos. Atan Cemetery, in Yaba and Trinity Cemetery in Ajegunle.
Visits to the three revealed gory sight and the opposite of what is seen in private cemeteries in the metropolis.
Apart from being overgrown by weeds, with several broken tombs, they are also homes for rodents and criminal elements in the society.
The situation at Matori cemetery is more because even the offices of its managers are not spared of the appalling dilapidation.
The two office buildings in the compound are inhabitable for anyone. And there are several broken graves with no hope of getting them fixed.
A worker in the cemetery, Samson Famoyegun, told The Guardian that some of the graves were in such a deplorable state because they were not designed to be permanent.
He said: “There is permanent and temporary grave. When a family pays for a temporary grave, it means there won’t be any mark to identify the person, nothing will be built on it, but when one pays for a permanent grave, it means the person will always come back to pay homage or pray on the grave.
“Payment also depends on the age of the deceased. A permanent grave costs between N90,000 and 300,000. Others go for between N400,000 and N1.5 million. We also have vault spaces.
“Some families will cry to us that they don’t have money and we can’t ask them to return their dead. So we ask them to pay the grave diggers to bury their deaths and they can’t come back because they won’t be able to identify where they buried the deceased when they return. People buy space permanently as a means to identify a buried family member.”
On why the cemetery is in a poor state, he said: “We take good care of this place, but unfortunately, the man clearing the grasses is sick and that’s why it’s bushy. Baba Oloja is in charge of this place and I’m his brother.”
Asked if the cemetery is safe from prowling ritualists and hunters of human parts, Famoyegun said: “Some may come in disguise to pray and thereby try something funny but we are always at alert. The last arrest we made was about eight years ago and we handed the person to the police after beating him up.”
Atan Cemetery in Yaba is a tale of two cities. Atan is one of the most popular public cemeteries in Lagos and the final resting place of a lot of Nigerians and even foreigners. It features a portion reserved for the British Government and maintained by the Commonwealth office for the burial of Nigerian soldiers who died in the service of the British Crown.
Broken into sections, there’s one side for the poor while the other is reserved for the rich and privileged members of the society.
While the public section is overgrown by weeds because of poor maintenance, the private section, which is being run by Ebony Casket Ventures, is well maintained and manned by security men.
It was learnt that bereaved families pay about N50,000 to the local government for use of space, while opening a vault costs N100,000. The management also charges N100,000 for marble and granite permit, while cross slab and marble go for N40,000.
A staff member of Yaba Local Government, said the family of the deceased has the responsibility to clear the grave and repair broken tombs.
At Trinity Cemetery, Ajegunle, the resting place is divided into two sides, one for the Muslim community and the other is for Christians. What is noticeable is that the portion belonging to the Muslim Community is kept clean, while that for Christians is unkempt.
To this, the man in charge, who gave his name as Baba Ijesha explained that each community take care of cleaning their side of the cemetery. An official of Mushin Local Government said the council has no resources to adequately manage public cemeteries. (Guardian)