Okey Sampson, Umuahia
An Abia traditional ruler and some Local Government officials have been accused of collecting money from a bereaved family before giving approval for the burial of their dead mother.
In an attempt to check the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Abia State Government came out with a protocol directive which included that families of deceased persons should obtain the approval of traditional rulers, Local Government and the Secretary to the State Government before the dead are buried.
However, investigations revealed that some native rulers and Local Government officials have abused this government measure aimed at containing the pandemic by collecting money ranging from N1,000 to N5,000 before such approvals are given.
A man who identified himself as Eke from one of the communities in Abia North narrated how he went to his community to collect an attestation form from his traditional ruler and that he was asked to pay N1,000.
Eke alleged that after paying the money to his traditional ruler for the burial form, when he went to the Local Government headquarters to get approval for the burial of his late mother which comes up next month, he was forced to tip some council officials with N5,000 to obtain the approval.
‘When my traditional ruler asked for N1, 000 for him to give me the form, I thought he was joking, but when he persisted, I gave it to him. At the Local Government headquarters, at every table, they demanded money and at the end, I spent not less than N5,000 there for me to get the approval,’ he said.
Eke advised the State Committee on COVID-19 to provide traditional rulers with the required forms in order to stop them from collecting money from their subjects who want to bury their dead.
Isuikwuato Local Government Council had some time ago alerted people of the area about some people it described as fraudsters who went about collecting money from unsuspecting bereaved families in the guise of giving them approvals for burials.
When contacted, the Commissioner for Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs, Chief Gabriel Onyendilefu, said his Ministry had no control over those handling COVID-19 relented issues, including the native rulers and Local Government officials.
The Chairman of the State COVID-19 Committee and SSG, Chief Chris Ezem, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to him to comment not the matter.