By MIKAIL MUMUNI
The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) has allayed fears being expressed by the Lokogoma Estates Residents that the citing of a Cemetery at Kaura District in Phase II of the Federal Capital City (FCC) constitutes a long-term health danger to persons residing within the residential estates.
It said in a statement made available to The State Online on Thursday that “…on the fears that burying COVID-19 dead bodies at the Cemetery poses danger to the residents in the neighbourhood through the contamination of boreholes, the FCDA wishes to state that except in cases of haemorrhagic fevers (such as Lassa Fever and Ebola) and Cholera, dead bodies are generally not infectious.”
The statement titled “KAURA DISTRICT CEMETERY POSES NO THREAT TO RESIDENTS” and signed by Richard A. Nduul, Media Assistant to The Executive Secretary, FCDA, read in full :
“The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) notes the complaints by the Lokogoma Estates Residents that the citing of a Cemetery at Kaura District in Phase II of the Federal Capital City (FCC) Constitutes a long-term health danger to persons residing within the residential estates and therefore the call that the FCT Administration considers relocating the Cemetery to another area or location. The FCDA views this controversy as unnecessary and uncalled for as the claim is both baseless and misinformed.
“2. This clarification has become imperative in view of the recent protest by residents of some Estates including Suncity, and Golden Spring which are situated in the area over the proposed citing of the Cemetery and the clamour that it should be relocated to an area less habited by human beings. Standing on the solid ground of being Custodian of the Abuja Master Plan, the FCDA more than anyone else remains the most competent and appropriate authority to interprete and implement its provisions on the various aspects of the city’s development.
“3. It should therefore be noted that the Abuja Master Plan is designed to achieve coordinated balance and systematic development of all land uses. The “Neighbourhood” concept is adopted in the formulation and design of the Abuja Master Plan, the Neighbourhood is the basic unit with all necessary facilities and services such as Shopping Centres, Schools, Religious Institutions, Police Posts, Fire Service etc, are to be provided and a Cemetery for each District (which is a combination of a group of Neighbourhoods).
“4. The Master Plan equally prescribes for a Sector Cemetery to cater for three (3) to four (4) Districts at a higher level, and all Cemeteries are planned to be buffered from all adjacent land uses, (except for Green Areas and Open Spaces) by a landscaped area along the perimeter of the Cemetery to help mitigate the effects of any adjacent development that might clash with the purpose of the Cemetery.
“5. Accordingly, in line with the Detailed Land Use Plan, Plot 320 (measuring about 9.54 Ha) is designated Cemetery plot for Galadimawa District where both Suncity and Spring Estates are located though yet to be developed. On the other hand, Plots 1151 and 1152 in Kaura District are designated as Sector Cemetery plots in line with both the Abuja Master Plan and the District Development Plan.
“6. Furthermore, on the fears that burying COVID-19 dead bodies at the Cemetery poses danger to the residents in the neighbourhood through the contamination of boreholes, the FCDA wishes to state that except in cases of haemorrhagic fevers (such as Lassa Fever and Ebola) and Cholera, dead bodies are generally not infectious. There is also little or no evidence of persons having become infected from exposure to bodies of persons who died from COVID-19. This is the position of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and further collaborated by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is pertinent to note that, upon the death of a COVID-19 patient, the body and the burial environment are fully decontaminated. So it can be safely concluded that it is impossible for COVID-19 to spread through ground water as a result of burials. Even the Gudu Cemetery where COVID-19 bodies are presently being buried is within residential neighbourhoods without problems.
“7. It is equally important to note that, whereas Boreholes are dug at a depth of about 80 metres and above, corpses are buried at a maximum of 2-3 metres depth below the surface of the ground. Sand beds or soil provide a natural filtration process that normally cleanses all form of pathogens, bacteria and viruses. The Kaura Cemetery site is located 2 Kilometres away from the Suncity Estate which is on a higher level when compared with the level of the location of the Kaura Cemetry. The implication of this is that Suncity Estate and Kaura Cemetery are far apart both vertically and horizontally and since Suncity Estate is at a higher elevation, ground water can only flow from the Estate to Kaura, not the other way round as their fears seem to suggest.
“8. In addition, there is an on-going Contract which was recently awarded and meant to extend water supply to the Abuja Technology Village as well as the Private Developers Estates along that axis, which includes the Estates in question. Work on the laying of the pipeline has reached advanced stage but was stalled by encroachment of Peace Court Estate as some buildings are on the right of way of the water line along the Ring Road II. When this is completed, there will be no need for such boreholes as the Abuja Water Master Plan does not support the sinking of boreholes anywhere in the City.
“9. Presently, there are three (3) Cemeteries in operation in the Federal Capital City (FCC). These are the National Military Cemetery at Kukwaba, as well as the Gudu and Gwarinpa Cemeteries. While the National Military Cemetery is reserved for the Military, Gudu and Gwarinpa are the only ones available for public use. The Gwarinpa Cemetery is further constricted by a stream, making it virtually impossible to bury there now. As a result of this, the Gudu Cemetery is overstretched, hence the need to identify and develop other Cemeteries in the City.
“10. The present pandemic and the need to prevent the unhealthy experience in some countries where corpses were left to litter in the streets for days due to lack of burial spaces, is responsible for the FCT Administration’s pro-active decision to rehabilitate the two (2) existing Cemeteries in Gudu and Gwarinpa, in addition to the immediate development of anyone of the designated Sectoral Cemeteries. The Kaura Cemetery plot became a candidate for development at this time, simply because of its proximity to the availability of infrastructure as determined by the right of the dead to a safe and dignified burial.
“11. Finally, the FCDA enjoins residents of the territory to be rest assured that the FCT Administration is committed to building a world class city based on the UN Habitat concept of “the city we need”. But in doing so, it will always be mindful of the welfare and well-being of the citizens.”