The Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Aguata, His Lordship, The Rt. Rev’d. Dr. Samuel Chukwudi Ezeofor has commended the government of Anambra State under the leadership of Chief Willie Obiano for enacting a law to curtail burial expenses in the state but cautions on some grey areas in the provisions of the law.
Bishop Ezeofor sounded this caution while delivering his Presidential address to the ongoing Third Session of the Fifth synod of the diocese at St. Mark’s Church, Ajali, Orumba North Local Government.
In his address, Bishop Ezeofor said that while it is desirable to curtail burial expenses and other money involving activities in the state but noted that some of the provisions of the law run contrary to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and in some aspects will be difficult to implement.
“The law is a step in the right direction and it will help the church in her policies to curtail excesses concerning burial/funeral issues which we have embarked upon as a Diocese. However, if the state wants this law obeyed, certain aspects of the law need to be looked into and revisited…. After a careful study of the Burial law of Anambra State, made up of 36 sections, it is obvious that it has some provisions that run contrary to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In addition, certain aspects of the law are unrealistic and will create more problems than it seeks to solve.”
Referencing sections 3 and 4 that deals with the registration of deaths with town unions, Bishop Ezeofor noted that the intentions of such provisions is not readily understood. He expressed concern that the imposition of one thousand, five hundred (N1,500) naira for the registration of every death in all the communities could create opportunity for some unscrupulous elements to exploit and suppress others.
“There is no need for this imposition of levy on the family of the deceased. We need to bear in mind that death is for all persons of all ages, some are very tragic, untimely and devastating. By this law, all deaths must be registered including those of infants and very painful and tragic ones. There are instances where the dead is buried and funeral performed simultaneously on the same day the death occurred. Will the bereaved be required to register the death before carrying out the burial? The idea of registering death with money is not appropriate and may become source of crisis in some towns.”
Bishop Ezeofor also frowned at the sections of the law that addressed the timing of burial services, entertainment and the use of live band among others noting that it is an attempt by the state to regulate freedom of worship.
“The mode of worship of each religious group or faith or denomination is peculiar to them and protected by law of the land. The prohibition of life band during service of songs is not proper because gospel band which most churches use is after all a “life band”. Music is an indispensable part of worship of some churches/denominations. The music may be provided by the choir, gospel band/life band or musical accompaniment of any sort. Accordingly, to place a blanket prohibition on the use of life band amounts to an indirect attempt to regulate the mode and method of worship of any religious group which runs contrary to the constitutional freedom of religion.”
“The most unfortunate aspect of the Burial Law is the prescription of strict time for the conduct of burial/funeral services. The Law states that such service SHALL (which is a command and mandatory order) commence by 9:00am and SHALL not last more than two hours. It is not a matter of argument that the constitution of Nigeria is supreme and any law that is inconsistent with the constitution shall to the extent of the inconsistency be null and void, and of no effect. It is preposterous that the burial Burial Law will direct a church on what time it shall start a church service and how long the service shall last.” He said.
The member representing Orumba North in the State Assembly, Hon. Emeka Aforka who was present at the occasion, while responding to the Bishop’s address promised to take the views of the Bishop back to the House for possible amendment. He commended the Bishop for his thought provoking address and for the consistency he has demonstrated in leading the diocese to greater heights.