by Isi Esene
The infrastructural development currently being experienced in Abeokuta, Ogun State, will require some form of discomfort from residents of the city as 42 families are in a dilemma over how to relocate the corpses of their loved ones in a cemetery in Idi-Ape area to allow for the expansion of roads and bridges.
Reports say the government has alerted authorities of the Cathedral of St. James African Church, Idi-Ape that its century old cemetery is in the right of way and would have to be demolished prompting the church to inform the families of the dead to rebury their loved ones or risk a mass reburial.
The cemetery like all other structures along the Federal Medical Centre Road, Idi-Aba, has been marked for demolition.
The church authorities are, however, concerned that only 35 out of the affected 42 families could be notified claiming the remaining 7 families could not be traced.
One of the affected families heeded the church’s call last Friday by exhuming and reburying the body of Dorcas Omidiji which was buried at the cemetery 52 years ago.
Her exhumed remains were encased in a new white casket and interred in a new grave covered with concrete slabs.
A formal reburial ceremony was reportedly conducted by the Cathedral Provost of the church, Venerable Samuel Adeyemi.
Adeyemi later spoke with newsmen expressing his displeasure over the development saying there is nothing the church can do to prevent the government exercise.
He said, “We felt bad about the development when we were first informed about it but there is nothing we can do because we know that it’s part of the development of the state. So, we cannot kick against it.
“As soon the government notified us about the planned demolition, we began to move because our plan is that before the exercise begins, we want to exhume all the bodies and move them to another part of the cemetery that will not be affected. The cemetery can still accommodate all of them. They are just about 42 in number and we have prepared a portion somewhere at the right hand side of the cemetery. It’s now left for the families. Some may not want to do it in this format (reburial).”
The clergyman claimed the remains of the dead whose families could not be traced would have to be given a mass burial. When asked what the church plans to do if their families later show up, he said nothing can be done about that either.
Adeyemi said, “That’s not our business because we pasted a list already and secondly we have been making announcement in the church and we are also going to write formally to all the families concerned on Sunday.
“Some of the bodies were buried here about 70 years ago while some were buried recently. It is not the making of the church. The government wants to develop the state.”
Bayo Omidiji, one of the children of the reburied woman said the exercise had given him the opportunity to do what he could not do in 1961 when his mother died.
“When she died in June 1961, I was just six years old then. This is more or less a designed programme by God because when it was 30 years, I did likewise. But now that God has planned it that I should remove her from that place due to the planned construction of the road, this has given me the opportunity to do what I was not able to do then.
“I believe exhuming the remains from there to here had really given me the opportunity to really know how it feels when somebody dies because the Bible says we were made from soil and we’ll return to the soil.
“To verify this, this is the only way I could do that and after interpreting everything I discovered that it was only the soil and the planks of the coffin that were seen inside her grave.”
He advised all the other families to do the same so as to “know what is going to be the end of every human being and more or less for record purposes.”