BY DOTUN IBIWOYE
WHEN Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), was signing the Cremation Law of Lagos State almost a year ago, he said “cremation is a way to go, given the mega-city status of Lagos”
Today, however as the signing of the law marks its first anniversary, no resident of the city has officially applied for the cremation of dead relatives.
Even when the law empowers medical practitioners, with government approval, to cremate abandoned and unclaimed corpses, after a reasonable period, none of such has taken place.
This law implies that the practice of burning the dead and collecting the ashes for disposal in any manner desired by the family of the deceased was approved by the state.
The law is to legalise and strictly regulate the manner in which cremations will be carried out in the state.
Before an application for cremation is allowed, there must be a death certificate; a certified true copy of the entry of the deceased death in the relevant registers; and confirmed medical certificate which must certify the cause of the death.
Under the law, it must be the deceased that provides for it before his death or their families who will apply for the cremation.
Applying for cremation
Last week, the Special Adviser to Governor Fashola on Political and Legislative Powers Bureau, Hon. Folami Olohuntele disclosed that the Cremation Law was not compulsory for Lagosians.
Olohuntele also affirmed that the law was principally passed by the State House of Assembly to provide solution to the problem of unclaimed corpses in various mortuaries.
The question now is whether the intrinsic values and belief systems of the over 20 million Lagosians will be side-stepped for cremation?
The law further states that where a will is silent, the closest relation who may apply must have attained the age of 18.
Also, a medical officer can apply for cremation for abandoned corpses which are not claimed after a period of time. The law dwells on the aftermath of unclaimed corpses in the state and the step-by-step approach to their disposal.
Once a 14-day notice is given after cremation and if nobody claims the ashes, the office can dispose it.
Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Bamidele Aturu said there was nothing wrong with the law as long as it did not compel anyone to cremate his or her loved ones, saying it is just a choice.
The Pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, last year decried the cremation law, saying that it is against the tradition and culture of the Yoruba race.
Also, the Director of Media, Catholic Church, Lagos, Gabriel Osu stressed that the rights of the living and the dead were often violated in the country, saying that the cremation law is anti-poor and anti-dead.
Osu called on those who passed the law to live by example by allowing their dead loved ones to be cremated first to show that they are serious about the issue.
According to Chizoba Ibekwe who sells cars at Berger Bridge, Mile 2, Lagos, the law will not be patronised by anyone because the cultural beliefs did not make provision for burning the dead as an alternative to space and unclaimed corpse.
“I am from Imo State but I was born and bred in Lagos, my father also grew up in Lagos in the 1950s, so we are true Lagosians in all ramifications but that does not mean we will be adjusting our culture due to the new trend, new millennium or jet age.
“How will I allow my relatives to burn me when I die? No, it is impossible.
“I have also lived with Yorubas, Ijaws, Hausas, Efiks and other ethnic groups in Nigeria. They will not bend their culture for this cremation law. So the law will only be applicable on paper not in reality. I also commend the government of this state because it is always ahead and always compliant with the world.
For Morakinyo Adebowale who lives in Festival town; “Psychologically the families of the deceased will not be okay with cremation.
“The act of cremating unclaimed corpses will not go well with our people. It takes only an educated man to understand the positive side of this law. The multi-ethnic nature of the country will also hinder its application. When I was very young I used to watch in India films how they cremate their dead. I don’t think Nigerians will be comfortable with that.”