By Jude Atupulazi
Within the last week, the Anambra State Government came out to announce that the state’s law governing how funeral ceremonies should be conducted in the state was still in force, while it expressed dismay that all the letters of that law were being observed in breach. It therefore went ahead to republish in full, what the law says.
I will not hesitate to agree with the government that the law was and is not being obeyed. It was as though the citizenry laughed in the face of the government and dared it to do its worse, knowing full well that such laws were only theoretical; at least, as far as previous experiences showed.
And so the citizenry has continued to conduct funerals the way they want. Undertakers still dance with corpses in their caskets, throwing them in the air as though they were playing basketball. Streets are still closed just to allow privileged families to conduct funerals the way they wanted, not minding how other citizens were affected.
Indeed, you can be rushing to meet some emergency when you suddenly will be confronted by a closed street or road, leaving you without any option than to reverse and try to find alternative routes. Those behind this usually carry on as if there is no government. But sometimes the government leaves loopholes which can be exploited by the citizenry, just because government is seeing it as a revenue window.
Let’s take an aspect of the Burial Law, for instance, where it says that a street can be closed only by the permission of the government; be it state or local. And mind you, the permission of government is based on the interested parties paying fees to the government to be allowed to do their do, as we say. But can this ever be justified? How can any sane government allow a road to be closed for individuals to either party or mourn and thus causing inconveniences to other tax payers just because they paid the government?
I must give credit to the time of Peter Obi when no one was allowed to block public roads. At least I remember how the then chairman of Awka South, whom I remember as Jakpo, would swoop down on anyone who attempted to block any road within his jurisdiction and force such a road open. There was no consideration for how much such a person paid. Government’s only concern was to ensure free flow of traffic.
But in the Obiano regime, streets and roads began to be blocked by merry makers and mourners. On one occasion I contacted the then chairman of Awka South and I was told the people involved paid for that. I was quite mad. So if someone paid to have everybody stay away from Awka because they were holding an event there the government would agree and allow them to block everywhere?
This is therefore one place where the government does not help matters. There are things which government must insist should be done properly. The idea of robbing Peter to pay Paul is not good at all. There are supposed to be village squares or other open spaces where mourners or celebrants should do their thing and not disturb others.
Let’s look at other aspects of the Burial Law
That burial/funeral ceremonies of a deceased person should commence with the registration and payment of N1, 500 Naira to the Town Union.
My View: It is okay and the amount is affordable
That No person shall erect any billboard, banner or posters of the deceased. Persons are allowed to erect only directional posts.
No directional post shall be erected before seven days to the burial date and should be removed not later than seven days after the burial date.
Any person who contravenes the provisions shall upon conviction pay a fine of N100, 000 or go to jail for six months, or both.
My View: It is clear here that government is looking for revenue. Those who put up huge billboards in the first place are wealthy people. So how can government think that asking them to pay a fine of just N100, 000 will deter them? How much are billboards in the first place? Thus, if government truly desires that this aspect of the law should be obeyed, it should declare an outright ban on posters and billboards because, no matter how much fine you impose, there are people who can and will pay it.
That no person shall deposit a corpse in the mortuary beyond two months from the date of death. Any person who contravenes this shall pay a fine of N100, 000 or serve an imprisonment term of six months, or both.
My View: Again the fine is a joke. The fine is just too insignificant to deter anyone from leaving the corpse of their dead for as long as they want in the mortuary. The only place where this works is in the Catholic Church where everyone, no matter their standing in society, is compelled to obey. Kudos to the Church here.
That no person is allowed to block a road for any burial except with permission from the appropriate Local Government Authority. (I’ve already spoken about this).
That no person shall publicly display a casket for the purpose of fabrication and sale in the state, and any person who contravenes is liable to pay a fine of N50, 000 or go to jail for one month, or both.
My View: just go to some places and see how caskets are openly being displayed by those who make them. In Awka, just go to Regina Caeli Road and see for yourself. I’m sure government will love this as it is a sure means of raising revenue.
That there shall be no second funeral rites after burial except in the case of legacy.
There shall be no wake-keep (sic) of any kind for any deceased person in the state. All vigil Mass/service of songs/religious activity for the deceased prior to burial shall terminate latest by 9pm. There shall be no food, drinks, live-band, cultural entertainers during and after any vigil-Mass/service of songs/religious activity for the deceased.
All Burial/Funeral ceremonies shall be for a day. Burial Mass/services shall commence not later than 9am and shall not last for more than two hours.
No preserved corpse shall be exposed for more than 30 minutes.
My View: There’s a substantial degree of observance of these, thus it is working.
That undertakers should not be more than six in number and there shall be no undertakers’ display during a burial ceremony.
My View: I’m almost laughing out loud, as they say. If you attend most burials you have to be careful as the casket may be thrown at you by dancing undertakers. Thus this aspect of the law is a farce.
There shall be no burial on any local market day of every town in the State.
No Funeral Brochure shall be made except for the Order of Mass/Service.
No person shall subject any relation of a deceased person to a mourning period of more than one week from the date of burial/funeral.
My View: These ones are working. Kudos to the government here.
The government rounded off by insisting that the magistrate court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction over matters specified under the Anambra Burial Law.
It is for the government to determine whether its laws can work or not. It is just for it to have the will to enforce what it prescribes.
Salute to my fan
Just like the last time, I wrote about how a young man I ran into at a fast food joint expressed joy at seeing me in real life after years of reading me, I was also privileged to meet another one, this time, a religious, Rev Sister Prof Cordis Mariae Achikeh of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM).
She had come to my office for an official business when I was introduced to her. She was delighted at finally meeting me and told me how she always rushed to my page to see what new thing I had written.
I promised her she would also be read by others this weekend and this is what you are reading now. I thank her for enjoying reading me and it will no doubt be a fillip to me to strive to greater heights. It is always good to know that we, in this industry, are sometimes appreciated.
As I was rounding off this piece, the Supreme Court was delivering judgement on the petitions filed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi against INEC’s declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election. The court was unanimous in affirming the decision of the lower court that Tinubu was the winner of that election.
But it is not as if many Nigerians believed they would hear anything different. The only relief is that the entire process trailing the conduct of that election has finally come to an end and everyone will now face other issues in the country which are many. Every society reaps what it sows. In the fullness of time we shall all reap the results.
But in the meantime, the masses will continue to suffer the impact of bad governance occasioned by terribly bad electoral and judicial systems. Only those who pin Nigeria down will be enjoying, while the others who support them will join you and I to suffer too.