From JOHN ADAMS, Minna
While a majority of Nigerians are daily burdened by epileptic power supply which had adversely affected economic and social activities, residents of Kpatungu, a community in the heart of Minna, the Niger State capital, have a positive testimony; they witness round-the-clock power supply in their neighbourhood, but ironically, not for their use.
Here, the dead enjoy privileges the living lack, and uninterrupted electricity is one of such. At the Kpatungu cemetery, a public burial ground for Muslims, the dead have their graveyards illuminated with 99 solar powers, which provides light 24 hours daily.
It is to provide them comfort of sorts, to enable them rest in peace, protected from dare-devil robbers of human body parts contracted by unsympathetic persons engaged in rituals under the cover of darkness. And until recently when respite came their way, the souls of deceased persons whose bodies were buried at the Kpatungu cemetery were said to be serially tormented.
“It was a daily occurrence; every morning, we wake up to see a corpse exhumed and abandoned on the surface after a part had been removed. The act went on for a very long time, and we were not able to arrest anybody because they usually came at night when nobody could see them as there was no light”, says Yunusa Idris, an attendant at the cemetery.
In a bid to relieve the dead of sustained attacks by men of the underworld, managers of the cemetery initiated an electrification project in 2007, which was however, stalled shortly after its commencement due to lack of funds as the project was driven by donations from individuals. More than eight years after, only a lighting point was provided for the cemetery spanning over two hectares of land.
The situation remained the same until a flicker of hope was raised by the incumbent Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Ahmed Marafa Guni, who donated N250, 000 in furtherance of the project, when he attended the burial of one of his friends at the cemetery.
That too, was like a drop of water in the ocean, but worried by the plight of the dead, authorities of the cemetery officially sought intervention of the state government. “The Speaker gave us N250, 000, but at the end, it did not take us far until we wrote a letter to the government begging for its assistance. The government approved the request and directed provision of solar power for 24-hour electricity supply to the cemetery”, Idris told our correspondent.
It was however, gathered that apart from Kpatungu, the state government also gave approval for the electrification of two other cemeteries, including the one used by Christians on David Mark Road in the state capital, but nothing has so far been done on them.
“I don’t know what you want me to say. It might be okay to cater for the dead in terms of comfort and their security, but I don’t think it should be done at the expense of the living. Here, the dead sleep with light at night; they enjoy uninterrupted electricity supply to protect them from attack by hoodlums. But we who are still alive are abandoned to our fate, left with no light, no security”, lamented Ahmed, a resident of Minna.
But he says the state government should accord equal privilege to the dead at all public cemeteries since that seemed to be one of its priorities. “Kpatungu is not the only public cemetery in the state capital. If they deem it fit to provide electricity for the cemetery, it is also necessary to do same at the other public cemeteries, whether Muslim or Christian. But they should remember that we are living in darkness”, he added.
For the dead at Kpatungu, they no longer need to turn in their graves over incursions by hunters of human parts, who had troubled their souls over the years.
“Cases of ritualists coming to exhume corpses still occur, but not as frequent because of the electricity. We now experience it once in a while, not like before when we must rebury a body or two daily”, Idris said.