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Dividends of democracy for the dead

By Ishola Balogun
Atan cemetery, a shouting distance from the University of Lagos is wearing a new look. And more is coming to make it a “beautiful abode of the departed,” according to Mr. Jude Aisuebeogun, Director-General of Cemetery’s management committee.

The cemetery is one of the oldest public cemeteries in the country having been opened in the 19th century. It occupies about 20 acres of land.

The fence has been raised and although provided as part of the measures to provide security there.
“The illumination serves both outside and inside of the cemetery. We call dual solar light,” Mr. Aisuebogun told Saturday Vanguard.

“We also have some personnel there who weed the grass and ensure that the place is well kept always,” he said.
There are in addition to police patrol of the area, while government keeps reviewing security measures in the area to ensure that the dead truly rest in peace.

At the entrance of the cemetery are the Christians vaults some of which are covered by bush. Adjacent to it is the private area leased to Ebony Casket Ventures, which in turn sells vaults to customers for N800,000 per vault. Directly opposite the Christian vaults are the military vaults which are arranged in plots.

The main plot contains the remains of Nigerian soldiers who died in the world wars. At the far end are the Muslim vaults separated by roads from the two in the foreground, which contains the temporary burial space for Christian and Muslims. Close to the gate is the office of the management committee headed by Mr. Aisuebeogun.

But Aisuebeogun and the Secretary of the council, Mr. Doyin Rojaiye dismissed fears of insecurity or congestion at the cemetery. They said part of the land has been leased to a private company.

Rojaiye said: “Atan cemetery cannot be filled up in this generation”. “There are lots of virgin land there. It is unfounded and I say that with every sense of responsibility. We have close to 20 acres of land there, part of which has ben given to a private company called Ebony Casket Ventures.” There are two types of vaults: permanent and temporary vaults. The former, according to him, is a permanent arrangement where a vault is bought and after burial a permanent grave can be built.

The construction may be maintained or renovated as wished by the family from time to time. Families are allowed to visit there at will. The other, according to him is “an arrangement where they clear and dig the ground and put the body there for a period of time. After some time, say about five years when the body must have decayed, the place is dug again for another temporary user because it was not bought permanently,” he said.

He explained that this is mostly procured three who want to bury their dead instantly. “Once you buy a permanent vault, nobody goes there to do anything even after 50 years. It is permanent. You can buy a one chamber vault, you can buy two-chamber vault or three-chamber vault as the case may be. the difference is that, the multiple chamber vaults are mostly used by families. Two to three persons can be buried there separately in each chamber fr a family,” he said.

A permanent vault costs N70,000 while a temporary vault goes for N15,000. Those who cannot afford a permanent vault go for the temporary vault. “It gives you a sad flowing feel in that section that after some three to four years, you can’t see the tomb of your loved one,” Adisa Matanmi who buried a distant relation there some years ago. He said the family was not aware of the disparity but argued against the rationale behind such option. “Burial in whatever name they call it must be sensible,” he said.

“Again, we want to immortalise some of those buried there by appealing to their families to come so that we can name streets after their loved ones. This is part of the proposals we have now to making the cemetery a beautiful abode of the departed. We also want to extend the dividends of democracy to the dead,” he said.

Residents of the neighbourhood differ in their opinions about living close to a cemetery. Abayomi Fajumobi who resides in the area said, “there is nothing strange, I have not seen anything like ghost. All I notice usually is that the whole area is silent.
A petty trader and also a resident said: “I am a child of god, I don’t belief in all that. It is a function of faith and as a person, it is a cock and bull story,” she said.

One of the grave diggers speaking on his experience told Saturday Vanguard: “It is frightening to some people; but that’s our job. We have been doing it for quite sometime and we are used to it. No fear, no bad feelings at all.

Mr. Aisuebeogun is not tired tet with upgrading the cemetery. He said: “We want to immortalise some of those buried here by appealing to their families to come so that we can name streets after their loved ones. This is part of the proposals we have now to making the cemetery a beautiful above of the departed. We also want to extend the dividends of democracy to the dead.”


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