Despite the protracted controversy that trailed its passage by the House of Assembly, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Monday assented to a bill legalising cremation of bodies in the state.
He also signed into law, two other bills seeking to establish Ibile Oil and Gas Corporation as well as Christian and Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, both of which he said were designed to add values to the state and its residents.
The governor signed the bills into law at a ceremony at the State House, Alausa, attended by the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeola Ipaye, his Energy and Mineral Resources counterpart, Mr. Taofik Tijani, and other members of the State Executive Council.
Before signing the bill into law, the governor explained that cremation was voluntary, adding that its enactment showed how the concept of globalisation had taken its roots in the state.
The governor commended members of the state House of Assembly for responding to global yearnings, thereby noting that their enthusiasm in passing the law also showed that cremation “is the best way to go”.
On the laws establishing Ibile Oil and Gas Company and regulating the Christian and Muslims Pilgrims’ Welfare Board, Fashola said though the state had laws enacted in the 80s to regulate the activities of the two boards, the state government decided to harmonise the amendments done on the laws over time to make them uniform and effective.
Speaking extensively on the cremation law, the attorney-general said it allowed only voluntary cremation, adding: “It allows for voluntary cremation, whereby a person may signify interest to be cremated when he dies or a deceased’s family members who must attain the age of 18 years can decide to have the corpse cremated.”
According to Ipaye, the law also empowers the state government to cremate unclaimed corpses in its mortuaries after a period of time.
“If the owners of the corpses also failed to show up to collect the ashes after a 14-day notice, it will be disposed by the state government subject to the consent and approval of the commissioner for health,” he added.
He explained that section 2 of the Act stipulates that no cremation may take place except in a crematorium established by the Ministry of Health or by any other body upon the recommendation of the authority and approval by the commissioner for health.
Section 6 of the law also stipulates the guidelines to getting permission to cremate and lists those who could apply for permission to cremate to include a child or children of the deceased; a close relative of the deceased; an undertaker and an agent/legal representative.
He said Section 10 of the law states that the cremator in charge of a crematorium must not dispose of the ashes remaining after a cremation except in accordance with any reasonable written instructions of the applicant.
Ipaye affirmed that the cremator in charge may bury the ashes in a burial ground if, “within one year after the cremation, the applicant does not give reasonable written instructions for the disposal of the ashes”.
The state assembly had passed the bill into law in December last year amid criticisms from groups and individuals who argued that the law is a violation of the people’s cultural and religious beliefs.
The bill, which is a private member bill, was initiated by the Chairman, House Committee on Health Services, Suuru Avoseh, a member representing Badagry Constituency 2 at the assembly.