It has now become clear that the planned demolition of houses to give way for the massive expansion of roads and bridges in Abeokuta, Ogun State is not only going to affect the living.
The proposal is giving some residents concern. While some residents of Idi-Ape, Ago-Oko area of Abeokuta are concerned about the initial discomfort that normally characterises such an exercise, 42 families are in a dilemma on how to relocate the corpses of their loved ones in a cemetery in the area.
The almost a century old cemetery belongs to the Cathedral of St. James African Church, Idi-Ape, and like all other structures along the Federal Medical Centre Road, Idi-Aba, it has been marked for demolition.
This development, PUNCH Metro learnt, has compelled the authorities of the church to give the affected families up to November 27 to exhume and rebury the corpses of their beloved ones elsewhere or risk mass reburial.
Although the church has already informed 35 of the affected families, members of seven others could not be traced.
One of the affected families heeded the church’s call last Friday by exhuming and reburying the body of Mrs. 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 freshly dug grave covered with concrete slabs.
A formal reburial ceremony conducted by the Cathedral Provost of the church, Venerable Samuel Adeyemi, was held for Omidiji in the presence of family members, relations and friends.
Adeyemi, in a short sermon at the graveside, urged the living to strive to do good.
Adeyemi, in an interview with our correspondent, expressed displeasure over the development but admitted that there was nothing the church could do stop the demolition.
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).”
According to him, the church may consider mass burial for the corpses whose family cannot be traced.
A mass burial for such bodies, according to him, will come up probably in December.
“We are only preparing ourselves towards the demolition because we don’t want them to come and destroy the tombs,” he added.
Asked what the church would do if after giving the unclaimed bodies mass burial some of their relations showed up, 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.”
However, for the 58-year-old son of the reburied Omidiji, Rev. Bayo Omidiji, the planned demolition of the cemetery had afforded him the opportunity to do what he could not do when his mother died about 52 years ago.
As a six-year-old boy, Bayo said he did not know the import of losing his mother then.
Bayo said, “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.”
The part time clergyman advised the families of 41 others buried in the cemetery to “do likewise because that will enable them to know what is going to be the end of every human being and more or less for record purposes.”
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