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150-year-old Atan Cemetery ‘still has space for new corpses’

150-year-old Atan Cemetery ‘still has space for new corpses’
January 29
19:08 2015

After existing for close to 150 years, the Atan Cemetery in Yaba, Lagos, still has abundant space to accommodate new corpses, Jude Aisuebeogun, a director at the cemetery, said on Thursday.

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In an interview with NAN on Thursday, Aisuebeogun said half of the graveyard, which covers 25 hectares of land, is yet to be used.

The cemetery, established by the British colonial masters, ranks among the oldest of its type in Nigeria.

The director said there were files for all corpses buried at the cemetery and each grave is numbered for proper administration.

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“The Atan Cemetery was established in 1868 and it covers a 25-hectare of land and half of it has not been used,” he said.

“There will still be spaces to accommodate dead bodies for a long time. When someone pays for a vault, the grave is dug in front of him and no skeleton has been removed or reburied in the process.”

Aisuebeogun revealed that the cemetery had vacant lots to lease to Ebony, a private cemetery operator.

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He also said that the management of the cemetery usually ensured proper sanitation to prevent offensive odour from coming out of the graves.

“There is no offensive odour coming out of the cemetery that could pollute the environment as we take preventive measure by ensuring the graves are well covered,” he said.

On security of the graveyard, the director said that there was 24 hours patrol and security surveillance to prevent the incidence of ritual hunting for human parts.

He said that the management of the cemetery had a long-term plan of acquiring new sites at Epe and Ikorodu areas whenever space at the Atan graveyard is exhausted.

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4 Comments

  1. Meadow Lark
    Meadow Lark February 05, 15:05

    I am always reluctant to join in issues that involve public officials who are held in positions of trust making claims or statements that border on deception or economy of the truth. Today I make an exception.

    To start with, I will like cable.ng to confirm to me if the picture associated with this piece is a recent picture of the Atan cemetery that I know and have been for a couple of burials, a product of photoShop exercise or was it just harvested from somewhere on the internet. I really will like to be corrected because this looks in no way like the place I was about 8 years ago. I therefore confess that I am not up to date on what obtains in the place today. The picture with the immaculately kept lawn looks very American in concept. It is a sensible and beautiful way of managing cemetery real estate in an era where land is a scarce resource.

    If the old system had been redesigned to look as this picture shows then it is a great stride by the management but I have a sneaky feeling that this is very unlikely in the Nigeria and Lagos State of today. The effort will just be too much and it will probably make no easy money for anybody. Those who buried their dead here 70 years ago are simply off the management’s radar especially if they are not people of means in the present society. Finally, it will be impossible to effect this manner of transformation without digging up the bones of the long dead.

    I will like to conclude by saying the picture can only be that of the section leased to the moneyed people like Ebony, the private cemetery operator. Like I said earlier, I stand to be corrected. They are the prime customer for whatever space the cemetery management now claims is available. They are simply the highest bidders.

    Now back to my grouse with the claims by Mr. Jude Aisuebeogun above, I beg to differ with the picture and most of the claims regarding the state of the cemetery. I speak as someone who has had a firsthand experience of following close families to bury their loved ones in the cemetery, the last time about 8 years ago. This is what I saw with my own eyes:

    1. The whole cemetery was overgrown with different kinds of tropical weeds, predominantly the almighty elephant grass and the ubiquitous “Akintola” weed (no disrespect intended here).

    2. The grave prepared for the deceased at the burial was hemmed in by dilapidated tombs and tombstones in addition to the overgrowth.

    3. The grave was shallower than I would expect considering that money was paid to “boys” in the employ of the cemetery management to prepare a befitting final resting place.

    4. The concrete slabs provided for covering the grave were flimsy and brown in colour hinting at a low level of cement content.

    5. I have always heard rumours of old graves being recycled for fresher corpses at the Atan cemetery due to high demand for space. I really didn’t doubt this, much because with the economic downturn and the level of deprivation the larger society has come to experience in Nigeria, not many people have the time to go paying respects to the dead or checking if the graves are tidy or are even still in existence. But I digress, what I saw on this occasion at the Atan cemetery not only amazed but saddened me. When I took a cursory look around the surroundings of the dug grave and in the dirt that was dug up, I saw several fragments of bones (human) finely mixed with the soil. Every where close to any new grave we passed presented the same “archeological” evidence that some dead people indeed once resided in this grounds or must have just “passed” the way of the Atan cemetery into detritus. So much for the management’s claims to the contrary on security, complete files/records of the dead (and intact skeletons? whatever that means, only he knows) and sanitary conditions in the grave yard.

    7. The motorways around the cemetery at some point will bring to your memory a journey into very rural areas of our land, this smack in the middle of Lagos mainland.

    8. My final observation is about the unruly and mean behaviour of the “boys” in the employ of the cemetery back then. They made sure they added to the grief of the mourning family by insisting that they must pay them money again before they can fill up the grave and seal it with the flimsy slabs. They were quite audacious as they came with their own trays and harassed people who came to sympathise with the family for their “offering” after the internment service. We called their bluff and started filling the grave ourselves before they relented.

    My conclusion is that the truth will always be a constant although one can abuse a position of trust by misrepresenting facts to the the unsuspecting public in order look good on paper and in the media.

    “You can fool some people some time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”
    – Bob Marley (I think)

    Reply to this comment
    • Omo Eko
      Omo Eko February 09, 19:38

      Meadow Lark, you are right and wrong. The picture is actually from the cemetery however it is the portion reserved for the British Government and maintained by the Common Wealth office for the burial of Nigerian soldiers who died in the service of the British Crown. The rest of the cemetery is a mess except the private portion. The irony is that just next to the British Government portion is the part reserved for the burial of Nigerian soldiers who died in the ECOMOG. It is an eye sore. you would think that our military establishment would borrow a leaf from the British Government and provide a dignified resting place for our soldiers . Alas, this is not the case.

      Reply to this comment
      • Nonny
        Nonny February 10, 19:15

        That is true. I was at the cemetery in December. its really an eye sore. considering the kind of money they charge there, one would think it deserves a better management.

        Reply to this comment
  2. Woke
    Woke April 06, 06:48

    The state of the Cemetery is indicative of the entire city of Lagos. We are all responsible for our city. If we’re too lazy to demand clean streets why should anyone change our minds.

    Reply to this comment

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