Freetown Mayor Franklyn Bode Gibson said Tuesday the increase in the fees had been necessitated by a huge demand to meet the running cost of cemeteries because after burial people seldom took care of graves making it a direct responsibility of the council.
Mayor Gibson told journalists at his Wallace-Johnson Street Office in Freetown that the plan to increase burial fees also came at a time when criminals had been invading cemeteries and opening up graves leaving corpses exposed. He said dozens of graves at both Kingtom and Accession Town cemeteries had been tampered with.
The two cemeteries are the largest in the west of the Sierra Leone capital.
The mayor said similar reports of invasion of graves had also come from the east of the city.
Many people have pointed accusing fingers at the group called ‘Friends of the Dead’ for the crime, but the mayor said that could not be true because most of the group members were skilled men who had been offering reasonable services to the cemeteries.
“Not all of them are bad, though some of them take drugs,” he said.
He said the incidents were not connected to rituals, as had been thought by many, adding that they believed it was done by people only in search of economic gains as the thieves were only tampering with the ornaments buried along with the corpses.
The new burial fees would also be introduced at a time when Sierra Leoneans were trying to cope with the reality of burying their dead themselves, after about two years of a ban on individual burials as a precaution against the spread of the virus.
Concern Worldwide, the international Non-Governmental Organizations that ran the cemeteries in Freetown and Waterloo during the Ebola outbreak recently handed over the Kingtom and Waterloo cemeteries to the FCC. But there were concerns as to whether the Council would be able to maintain the current state of man’s final resting place.