5th July, 2012
By Eromosele Ebhomele
Officials of the Lagos State Government as well as members of the Lagos State House of Assembly tried to no avail on Wednesday to convince residents of the state and religious leaders who attended a public hearing on the State cremation bill at the House that the bill was for the good of the state.
Different explanations by officials of government in attendance and members of the House did not go down well with the residents who rejected the bill and urged the House to throw it away.
The bill, which seeks to make it a law to cremate unidentified corpses after a period of time at the mortuaries in the state and also allow members of the public voluntarily cremate corpses of their relations, had faced serious criticisms since it was introduced.
Many of those who attended the public hearing on the private member bill agreed the bill was against religious and cultural practices in the state and country.
They, therefore rejected the bill on the grounds that it is alien to the country and not religious.
Those who criticised it also saw it as disrespect for the dead in a society where the dead are reverred.
The Deputy Speaker of the House, Taiwo Kolawole, who stood in for Speaker Adeyemi Ikuforiji, had explained that the bill was being considered because the state now lacks enough space for burial.
He cited many of the cemeteries in the state, stressing that they had become filled up to the extent that bereaved relations are forced to pay through their noses to get their people buried.
Kolawole said most corpses to be cremated are those that have been abandoned and did not have identities, adding that the state mortuaries are overstretched currently due to the number of unclaimed corpses in the mortuaries.
Some of the government officials in attendance also explained that only abandoned corpses would be cremated when the law becomes operational and that people could voluntarily apply to be cremated too.
The officials tried to disabuse the minds of the residents against their negative perceptions about cremation with one of them even adding that the state was currently battling with over 180 unclaimed corpses.
However, in their submissions, many of those who spoke berated the government for the dilapidated state of most mortuaries in the state.
Most of them claimed that the government was not doing enough to keep the mortuaries effectively working. They also rejected the government’s excuse on the lack of space for purposes of burial.
They accused the State Government of using lands within the state to build expensive estates in order to make money.
One of the residents, Abdulrasaq Olatunji, who spoke on behalf Muslim lawyers in the state, asked the government officials: “if it is true that lands in Lagos State have been exhausted, why can’t the state government liaise with other neighbouring states and ask them to give it land to be used for mass burial?”
Also speaking on behalf of a Muslim group, its leader, Abdulmojeed Addulkareem, explained that the proposed bill is against Islamic faith.
According to him, “if we keep silent on the issue, and we say unclaimed corpses should be burnt, the spirit of Muslims among the corpses will be on our heads.
“This idea apart from being against our religion, it is also against our culture. If you say there is a crematorium in Ogun State, we know that there is no such law in Ogun State. So we are not in support of this particular bill.”
They were supported by other participants except a member of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dele Asaju, who explained that when someone dies, the spirit is gone, adding that what people see is the mere flesh.
“Even, the Bible said that we should give dust for dust and ashes for ashes,” Asaju said.
The cremation bill sponsored by the Chairman, House Committee on Health Services, Avoseh Hodewu Suru, with support from the government, has scaled through the second reading with the lawmakers declaring that there was no going back on it.
Kolawole, while summing up the public hearing, promised that the House would consider inputs from the public as he pleaded that people should submit memoranda to make the work easier.