The Anglican Bishop of Aguata Diocese in Anambra State, Rt. Rev Samuel Ezeofor has faulted with several sections of the Anambra State burial law, which came into effect on May 9th last year.
The law, which was passed by the state House of Assembly and had since been accented to by Governor Willie Obiano, aims to control burial activities in the state so as to reduce cost.
Bishop Ezeofor, in his charge to the Third Session of the Fifth Synod of the Diocese at Ajalli in Orumba North local government area, said for the law to be obeyed, certain aspects of it needed to be looked into.
According to the cleric, burial is a cultural, social and religious activity in every clime much so in Igbo land where the people attach big importance to it, arguing that it was therefore a surprise that such a law could pass through the House of Assembly without the church, communities and other stakeholders being called upon, in a public hearing, to make contributions.
He said: “The law is a step in the right direction and it will help the church in its polices 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. Any law that seeks to regulate what will happen to us when we die, particularly when it touches on regulating the type, manner and time of the religious service or rites pertaining to our burial and how those rites would be performed, should be passed after adequate consultation with various interest groups which the law has imposed certain duties to perform.
“There is nothing wrong with passing a law to regulate burials and funerals, if the aim is to curb the excessive waste and ostentation that accompany such enterprise. If the truth must be told, it is not only in burials that people display ostentatious lifestyle. People also spend fortune in wedding ceremonies, naming ceremonies, birthday parties, memorial services, one anniversary or the other, and so on.
“The state cannot easily promulgate laws to regulate each human conduct, particularly when they are social, cultural and religious, but it can through constructive engagement of churches, communities and other stakeholders address the issues and forge a change of attitude.
“Anambra State is a predominantly Christian state. Ordinarily, one may wish our state to be governed by Christian ethos. But the reality is that we still have some traditionalists in the state. “Even in the Christian faith, there are denominations with different modes and times of worship and care must be taken to ensure a balance when making a law to regulate burials in the state.”
He said that after a careful study of the Burial Law of Anambra State, made up of 36 sections, it was obvious that it had some provisions that ran contrary to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, noting that certain aspects of the law were unrealistic and would create more problem than it sought to solve.
Ezeofor added: “The mode of worship of each religious group or faith or denomination is peculiar to them and protected by the law of the land. The prohibition of life band, for instance, 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.
“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.”