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Communities battle private cemetery over open vaults

•Vaults and Gardens, Ikoyi
The management of Vaults and Gardens, a private mausoleum, is at the receiving end of criticism for keeping open vaults, writes FOLASHADE ADEBAYO
AT Vaults and Gardens, the act of digging shallow trenches may be a standard practice
which quickens the process of interment. But those living around the funeral service provider risk exposure to attacks of malaria fever.
With its array of medium and low-density vaults, the private mausoleum located off Federal Secretariat Road, Ikoyi, prides itself as the most sophisticated and aesthetically pleasant private cemetery in West Africa.
The cemetery is bordered by Dolphin Estate, a police barracks and some densely populated communities.
With the intermittent downpour of the past few weeks, residents say accumulated rainwater in the unused vaults poses a public health hazard.
One of the residents, who lives in the housing estate opposite the cemetery, Mr. Andrew Komolafe, says the managers of the cemetery have been good neighbours, expressing confidence that they will cover the vaults once they are made to realise the dangers.
“We have been there once with some environmental and health officials of the local government. But we were refused entry. I believe the management is acting out of ignorance. They are educated people and I am sure they will change their approach once they allow us to enlighten them,” he says.
Another resident of the estate, Mr. Lateef Abayomi, expresses the same opinion. As far as he is concerned, what the management of the cemetery needs to do is to cover the trenches until they are ready to be used.
“We are not asking them to change their modus operandi and this is not going to affect patronage in any way. I believe they will see reason because it is also for their own benefit,” he says.
However, another resident blames the Obalende/Ikoyi Local Council Development Authority for the lapse. According to her, the Ikoyi public cemetery, which is closer to the local government secretariat, is in a worse shape.
“It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. The local government runs the bushy Ikoyi cemetery and it is an eyesore. I am not holding brief for Vaults and Gardens, but I don’t think the local government authority has the moral justification to call the private cemetery to order,” she says.
A burial service was in progress when our correspondent visited the mausoleum last Saturday. The open vaults could not be immediately observed within the manicured garden and lush décor of the cemetery’s forecourt.
The General Manager, Mr. Olumide Araoye, declined to speak with our correspondent. Instead of confirming or denying that there were open vaults in the cemetery, he simply asked our correspondent to send him an email. He also refused to have his photograph taken.
“This is a private cemetery and we like to do things privately, so send me a mail,” Araoye said.
However, despite several reminders, he has yet to respond to the questions sent to him as of the time of going to the press on Monday.
Although data from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation showed that new cases of malaria has declined by 25 per cent globally, in Nigeria, the disease is reportedly responsible for about 60 per cent of outpatient visits to health facilities and 30 per cent of childhood deaths, as well as 25 per cent of the deaths of children under one year.
The Executive Director, Westfield Development Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, Mrs. Omobola Lana, says malaria incubates in the body of a human host for about eight to 10 days.
“Increased rainfalls and stagnant pools of water or surface water provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. With the aid of mosquito vectors, a single infected individual can transmit to hundreds of other individuals within a few months. This is more than the infectiousness of HIV or tuberculosis.”
Meanwhile, it was discovered that there are bigger health and environmental hazards in the area. The Ikoyi cemetery, which flanks the road on both sides, is a forest of trees and weeds, while a large refuse heap sits almost opposite the Etiosa Local Government secretariat, also within the vicinity.
However, in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Sunday, the Health Superintendent, Ikoyi/Obalende LGA, Mr. Olayiwola Abdullahi, indicted the management of the private mausoleum for not cooperating with the government. He also hinted that the company would be charged to court.
“You know it is a private enterprise, but that does not mean the management is above the law. They are not cooperating with us. We have warned them not to burn their refuse and use the PSP, instead, but they would not listen. We have been there a number of times and we were refused entry. There is no way we can assess the place without gaining entry first. We even had to serve them notice of obstruction of duty and we are about to take them to court,” he said.
However, when asked about the condition of the Ikoyi cemetery, Abdullahi simply said “Mortuary attendants are there and they are cutting it. We were also there on Saturday because of the environmental sanitation.”