Tuesday, January 18, 2022
african illustrator
she died from COVID-19 by sef adeola

Over the years, people have been dying, and they are always buried either elaborately or modestly. But the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way funeral services are been conducted in Lagos State. Funeral service begins the moment a doctor declares someone dead, it is all about taking care of the corpse and giving it a befitting burial. In most cases, it starts with the process of embalming the corpse, the service of mortuary attendants, the purchase of casket, ambulance services, the use of pallbearers, interior decorators, gravediggers, band boys, tomb stone designers, and other funeral service professionals whose services have been reduced to its lowest minimum during this period. Pallbearers, band boys and interior decorators have practically been pushed out of business as a result of COVID-19 outbreak while others especially the casket producers’ sees this period as a wearisome time. A funeral service director, in Odunlami Street, Lagos Island, Mrs Kafilat Sanni rants about how funeral service business has been crawling since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

Pallbearers lifting a corpse

“I have been in this business for about 15 years now, Funeral Service has never been very dull like this, and the reason is due to the precautionary measures on the spread of COVID-19 outbreak. Before now, on Friday like this, you will only find few casket in each shops. If there is patronage, you won’t find so many caskets in every shop. Now, if you bring a customer to this environment everyone will make attempts to snatch the customer from you and if you are not smart they will collect him from you. It was not so before, because as one customer is walking in, so will another and everyone will make sales. Though, many believed that as people are dying, funeral service directors would be making fortune but it is not so because so many people are broke. They will come and be telling you pathetic stories and before long we would have sold a casket that worth ₦100,000.00 at the rate of ₦50,000.00 or less.
“Let me explain something to you, funeral service involve five basic things; first is the purchase of casket, second is the band members, third is the ambulance that they will use to carry the corpse, fourth is the pallbearers, those who will put the corpse inside the vault and the fifth is the vault which involves the gravedigger and bricklayer. But right now, no party, no band, all the dances that is supposed to bring money for us has been stopped, no more pallbearers stepping that will thrill the people to spend money for us. After buying casket and renting of ambulance that will be used to carry the corpse nothing else, in fact so many of them don’t use ambulance any more, what they use now is Volvo because it is very cheap. If you see one customer that will pay ₦60, 000.00 for an ambulance that is supposed to be rented out at the rate of ₦100.000.00 to ₦150,000.00 we will appreciate God for that, says Mrs Kafilat.”

Corpse in an ambulance, ready to be transported.

The Managing Director of Fash Undertaker, Fashola Ogunfemi also laments low patronage of funeral service directors as a result of COVID-19. He said, there are no much activities during funeral service now and only 30minute is allocated for all funeral activities in the cemetery.

Fashola said; “Funeral business at the moment is unpredictable, because people do die every day, and are taken to the mortuary. Every day you see people been buried but the most worrisome aspect of it is the financial aspect, to get money to bury someone now is not easy, the money they collect in the mortuary has increased and a casket ranges between ₦30,000.00 to ₦150,000.00 coupled with the cost of transportation, you will realise that it is not easy to engage in funeral service this period.

“How we do funeral service now is different from the way it is being done before, there is no more ceremony, very minimal pallbearers will be there, there will be no band, those who will partake in the burial will not be more than 20, though it do depend on the cemetery as some will only allow 15 persons because there must be social distance and the maximum time they normally allocate for the burial of a corpse at the cemetery is 30minutes. What we do now is that when we pick a body from the mortuary, it is straight to the cemetery, no lying in state decoration, no church service. Anything you want to do will be done in the mortuary. Once you have seen the body in the mortuary the next is straight to the cemetery, the maximum they can do in the cemetery is to open the casket for a period of 5minutes.”

An empty casket with a rift

Sudden death and COVID-19 related death seems to be very rampant in Lagos, the sudden death of the wife of a Lagos-based pastor, Ibidunni Ighodalo on Sunday, June 14th, 2020, the death of an On Air Personality (OAP), Dan Foster, and Senator Adebayo Osinowo’s death are few of the numerous death that has happened in recent time. With the alarming rate of sudden death and 126 COVID-19 related death records in Lagos as at Saturday June 27, 2020, one would have thought that funeral service directors would have recorded high patronage.

However, the guideline to curtail the spread of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has made so many Lagosians not to be financially buoyant to bury their corpse flamboyantly. Similarly, the precautionary measure on gradual easing of COVID-19 also contributed to the ranting of the funeral service directors because activities such as lying in state, the use of band members, church service and other ‘owambes’ that are associated with funeral ceremony has been suspended. For instance, the service of Pallbearers are not requested in most funeral activities during this period as some of the relatives of the dead do volunteer to lay the corpse to rest. This has hampered the source of livelihood of the Pallbearers.

By Ife Adewole

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