■ How undertakers are making death ‘attractive’
By HENRY UMAHI ([email protected])
ON the way to Aladinma Estate in Owerri, the capital of Imo State, your attention is drawn to the array of exotic cars lined up along Chukwuma Nwaoha Road. They come in various brands, specifications and colours. There, you find Hummer and Escalade, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), VIP limousines, BMW and Mercedes Benz series among other luxury automobiles. In fact, these are vehicles you will love to die for.
The vehicles are not for sale. And they are not even for human beings. They are reserved exclusively for the dead. They are funeral vehicles otherwise known as ambulances. So, as someone remarked, “if you cannot ride in them while alive, at least you can go home in them when you die.”
There are several funeral outfits operating there, offering luxury funeral services with attention to detail. Trying to make death a luxury event as it were, they also provide high-end model caskets made with precious metals and fancy fabrics. Taking luxury further to the grave, some of the caskets are fitted with adjustable headrest. The locally made caskets are sold between N60,000 and N250,000 while the price of foreign ones is from N450,000.
New face of burial
Luxury funerals really do not come cheap. Indeed, it is as expensive as they come. However, funeral parlour owners have changed the face of burials, introducing out-of-the-box innovations and packages to the business. Perhaps, it could be said that they are adding value to death and making it attractive. Someone said: “if you see the kind of cars they use to carry corpses and the general treatment given to them, you will feel like dying.”
Pretending to be a prospective client preparing to give his deceased father befitting burial, the reporter approached the operators to find out the cost of their services. They disclosed that a Hummer jeep could be hired for N80,000 if the location of the burial is outside Imo State while Sequire ambulance goes for N60,000. To get a device that lowers the casket into the grave, you must be able to cough out N50,000. A complete set of undertakers with flower girls cost N150,000 while an incomplete set (without flower girls) goes for N130,000.
A manager in a funeral office, who gave his name as Obi, gave the prices for vehicle hire and other funeral services taking place outside Imo. Escalade – N180,000; Hummer – N180,000; Limo – N120,000; Rolls Royce – N400,000; Horse driver carrier – N900,000; Undertakers N80,000; Lowering device – N40,000; Mobile stand – N20,000. However, these prices are subject to 35 per cent reduction if the funeral holds in Imo.
Asked why he went into this kind of business, one of the undertakers said: “If you don’t see what to do, you do what you see to do. The dead cannot bury themselves, so we are helping bereaved families to give their departed loved ones befitting burial. We give luxury to the dead or rather we ensure that the dead takes luxury to the grave. That is the least you can do for a beloved one. The type of burial given the dead shows the kind of love you have for that person.”
Interestingly, ladies are part of the enterprise, serving in various capacities.