A recent law by the Anambra State government on the regulations of burial practices is attracting public attention and we join all well-meaning people to commend the governor, Chief Willie Obiano, for the bold initiative and courage. The challenge with burials in our society today is a consequence and disposition of human proclivity and propensity to extremities and abuse of every salutary and convenient necessity.

The burial of a beloved departed one is an obligation most people accept without question in this part and no expense is spared to give the deceased a befitting exit from this world. In most African societies, burial is a sort of celebration for the dead as well as the living, which somehow detracts and negates the whole essence of its purpose and objective. Although the holy book recommends decent burial as a blessing for the dead, burials seem to have transcended the basic meanings of decency and acceptability.

Burials are no longer the necessary and basic conditions of according the departed ones some worthy material recognition of their toils and endeavours, either directly by their efforts or through their off-springs, in their last moments on earth, but an absurd display of ostentation in what has been euphemistically termed “Celebration of life” regardless of how the deceased lived and died. Families now compete and see burials as an opportunity to display their economic status, which is contrary to what it should be for grieving people.

Whereas the bible approves decent burial for the dead, what most burials have become is offensive and against the definition of decency and befitting; it has been turned into flagrant abuse of common sense and an economic burden on the living. It is outrageous and defeats logic that families would incur heavy debt to bury the dead and spend a long time in financial distress and pains afterwards simply to keep and maintain tradition, by trying to impress the Joneses.

But the truth is that traditions are man-made and was introduced one day just like any other thing in human life; they did not drop from the air nor handed over to us by God. We created them. Like any law that no longer meets the expectations of the people and fulfils the purpose and objectives for its enactment, are changed or amended; in the same vein, traditions that become inimical to the economic, moral and social well being of the people should not have a place in any decent society.

Instead of burials becoming a celebration of the life of the departed and those of the living to an extent, it has become financial enslavement of the living irrespective of their financial status, as the cost of burials is often proportional to the financial positions of the celebrants. With the rising rate of poverty in society and other social challenges arising from economic deprivations and social inequality, it is obscene and unacceptable to continue in this so-called tradition.

So the Anambra Burial law could not have come at a better time if it is our collective desire and wish to create a peaceful society where no man is oppressed. Anambra state is not alone in this bold step to reform this important aspect of community life that may have become an albatross to the people. Just in Asaba, the Delta state capital, and their next-door neighbour, a similar regulation of burial exists, which has curbed the previous financial hardship it imposed on the people, which used to delay burials for upward of one year as those concerned scouted for funds.

Some of the 30 provisions of the burial law include registration of all deaths/burials, a two month limit for depositing corpses in a mortuary, no printing of brochures, and display of banners, billboards and posters etc, and making entertainment optional. Some of these are the major cost contents of burials which make them financially prohibitive and burdensome. Particularly necessary is the registration of deaths because it will provide statistical data and records for future planning. Our major challenge as a nation as evidenced in the COVID-19 situation is the abject lack of data for planning and development purposes.

“A “rejected corpse” is a corpse deposited in a mortuary for more than two months”, the law says, which gives the government power to dispose of such.

Although this is commendable and would provide an alternative revenue source for the government as a fee of N1,500 is required to be paid, we warn that as good as it may seem, there should be caution in increasing the fee to avoid discouraging people from registering their dead despite the N100,000 fine or six-month jail term attached to any default.

However, the coup d’ grace of the law is the provision on items of condolence visit. In the state, in-laws of the deceased are expected to provide cows, which have kept its demand high and costly. We believe that if properly implemented this will reduce the growing dependence of our people on the supply of cows to the region.

“All condolence visits after any burial/funeral ceremony must not exceed one day. During a condolence visit, no person must give to the deceased person’s family, as a condolence gift, any item exceeding money, one jar of palm wine, one carton of beer and one crate of soft drink”, it says.
The law also sets up Monitoring and Implementation Committee, which shall include town unions and official of local governments. The Implementation Committee must be present at any burial ceremony to observe the implementation of the Law. Contravention of the provisions of the Law is an offence punishable by N100000 fine or six months jail term.
As a newspaper, we commend the government of Anambra state for this positive and creative contribution to the improvement of society and appeal to other states in the region and the South-south to adopt this model of burial law to deliver our people from the oppressive financial stranglehold that is perpetuating poverty and creating all manners of social ills in society.

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