. . . Defaulters to be Penalised
. . . Initiator, Bishop Ezeokafor, Reacts
By Abuchi Onwumelu
Anambra State House of Assembly has passed a Bill for a law to control burial/funeral ceremonial activities in the state.
The bill which was sponsored by the member representing Anaocha II State Constituency, Hon. (Engr.) Charles Ezeani was passed after due consideration by the House, thus making it unlawful for people to spend too much money in burying their loved ones.
The burial/funeral control bill was aimed at cutting down the cost of burial activities in the state. The bill provided that in the event of death, no person shall deposit any corpse in the mortuary or any place beyond two months from the date of the death, while burial ceremonies in the state shall be for one day.
It further stipulated that during burial and funeral activities, the family of the deceased shall provide food for their kindred, relatives and other sympathizers at their own discretion.
It placed a ban on destruction of property, gunshots, praise singing, blocking of roads and streets during burial ceremonies in the state, with defaulters to be punished according to the law.
The bill also made it clear that from the commencement of the law, no person shall subject any relation of the deceased person to a mourning period of more than one week from the date of the burial ceremony.
In his explanation, the sponsor of the bill and member for Anaocha 11 State Constituency, Chief Charles Ezeani, said the bill also made provision for a monitoring and implementation committee that would enforce the law as well as their responsibilities.
Engr. Ezeani described the bill as a welcome development and a great achievement by the Sixth Anambra House of Assembly, adding that the bill had put to rest the high cost of burial/funeral activities in the state.
For his part, the Deputy Speaker, Sir Hafford Oseke, described the bill as apt and timely, saying it had put to rest high cost of burial activities in the state.
The speaker, Mrs Rita Maduagwu, commended the lawmakers for passing the bill, which according to her, would moderate burial expenses in the state.
Reacting to the development, the Catholic bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, who had been championing the call against expensive funerals, expressed delight with the way and manner the bill was passed, saying he was happy that what he started years ago had today become a reality. He however called on the House to attach more stringent measures in enforcing the law.
It will be recalled that the Catholic Diocese of Awka had since May 1, 2017, directed her faithful not to delay burying their dead beyond two months. The diocese had also decreed that no funeral brochures should be printed beyond writing the biography of the deceased.
Earlier, the diocese had also banned her priests and religious from offering any sort of entertainment at the burial of their family members.
Bishop Ezeokafor who reacted immediately the news filtered in at St. Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, Awka, observed that the issue of expensive funerals was one that affected both the rich and the poor, saying that, though everybody complained about the practice, nobody was ready to talk about it.
'I am happy that the bill has been passed. I started it as a voice in the wilderness and after sometime, a lot of people keyed into it. I seize every opportunity to preach against expensive funerals. I am glad that it is now a law. We thank God for everything,' he said.
The Catholic Prelate appreciated God for the grace and political will He gave to the lawmakers to reverse what he described as the burdensome practice, saying that the issue was one he was yet to receive a negative response to.
He therefore expressed the hope that the enforcement and compliance would work.
He disclosed that the Catholic Diocese of Awka was already on the move to fully implement the change, adding that for the change to work, the traditional rulers, presidents general of town unions and the Church needed to cooperate.
The bishop applauded the lawmaker, Hon Charles Ezeani, and all associated with articulating the bill, noting that Awka Diocese had already started implementing most of the provisions of the ban.
Noting that the Catholic Church had banned the production of funeral brochures, he said that what was only allowed was just a prayer card that may have the picture of the dead, short biography and prayer in something that would be portable and more affordable.
Bishop Ezeokafor also said there was now a time frame for the burial of Catholic faithful in his diocese and that if after two months, the bereaved was not ready to bury their dead, the Church would no longer be part of the funeral process.