By Benjamin Omoike
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at the weekend, said the state’s mortuaries are getting filled and congested, urging owners of corpses in the state’s morgues to pick them for burial in line with the protocol established in the management of COVID-19 in the country.
The governor, who is the Chief Incident commander of COVID-19 pandemic in the state, stated this while giving update at the eighth briefing in the series on management of the dreaded disease in the state, saying owners of the corpses have two weeks to claim them, or risk mass burial by the government.
Sanwo-Olu stated emphatically that the corpses referred to, were not those killed by COVID-19, explaining that they were corpses of those that died during Lent, and left unburied as a result of Christian beliefs, which frowned at conducting burials during this period, coupled with the current lockdown of the state, which had congested the mortuaries.
The governor added that inter-state movements for burials will not be tolerated, saying the state borders had been toughened to restrict those not providing essential services from entering the state.
Sanwo-Olu said, ‘’Still on this matter of essential movement, I would like to speak concerning funerals. One of the outcomes of this lockdown is that many families and households have had to postpone funeral plans for loved ones, who have passed away before or during this period.
“As you might know, many Christian denominations do not carry out funerals during the Lenten Season. Funerals are typically kept on hold during this period, and scheduled for the period immediately following the end of Lent.
‘’Unfortunately, this year, the Covid-19 Lockdown coincided with the end of Lent, which caused many families and households to further suspend or put off funeral plans.
‘’Because of this inability to hold funerals, occasioned by the restrictions on movement, the mortuaries in Lagos State are now full and in urgent need of decongestion. Let me make it clear at this point that these are not Covid-19 deaths.
‘’The mortuaries in Lagos are not full because of Covid-19 deaths – the total number of Covid-19 deaths in Lagos as at today is 20; the only reason the mortuaries are full at this time is because funerals are not being held, and have not been held for most of the last two months.”
He appealed to all Lagosians, who have the corpses of their loved ones in the mortuaries, to go ahead and schedule these funerals, saying funerals are on the list of activities exempted from the lockdown restrictions.
‘’You can hold or attend funeral ceremonies in Lagos State as long as you comply with the requirements that we have outlined, as follows: The total number of persons at the funeral, including officiating religious leaders, must not exceed 20; Physical distancing must be maintained at the funeral ceremony; All attendees/mourners must use masks and ensure they wash their hands after the ceremony.
‘’There must be no receptions or parties to accompany these funerals; rest assured that as long as these directives are fully complied with, funerals will be allowed and encouraged to take place.
‘’If we are unable to see a decongestion of the mortuaries across the state in the next two weeks, the Lagos State Government will be compelled to carry out mass burials to achieve this. We do not want to be forced to do this, which is why we are asking for your cooperation in this regard.’’
The governor said in exercise of the powers conferred on him by Section 212 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) he had ordered the release of 209 inmates remanded in various correctional centres in the state.
‘’This was done in part to decongest correctional centres in view of the Covid-19 Pandemic; and is part of a larger effort to bring lasting reform to the administration of criminal justice in the country.
“The beneficiaries of this release order are the following; above 60 years of age; less than six months to go on their sentence; have served 75 per cent of their sentence; those serving time for misdemeanours and minor offences; and those with physical and mental health issues.’’
He said the use of face masks are now compulsory in public places in Lagos State, saying failure to use masks in public will attract sanctions and penalties.
He added that ‘’as at midnight yesterday April 24, 2020, Lagos State had a total of 670 confirmed cases of Covid-19, an increase of 291 cases since the last time I addressed you, on Monday April 20. What this means is that we have seen a 76 per cent increase in our number of confirmed cases within four days, an average of 70 cases daily.
“These numbers demonstrate the following: one, that we are now firmly in the community transmission phase of this pandemic in Lagos; two, that our strategy of ramping up testing especially within local communities is working, and, three, that this is not the time for us to relax or to slow down in the efforts we are making to break the chain of transmission.’’