Life After Death: How Wealthy Nigerians Prepare for Afterlife

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As it is on earth, so do many super-rich Nigerians want it to be in the afterlife. They want an extension of their life of luxury even when they are dead and buried. That is why some of Nigeria’s wealthiest, royals and aristocrats are spending millions of naira on where they will finally rest. The number one choice of a befitting final resting place is the Vaults and Gardens in Ikoyi, regarded as the foremost rest haven for the departed souls. Though sited on almost four acres of land, spaces at the Vaults and Gardens are almost sold out, writes Lanre Alfred.

Nobody makes a lovely corpse, but Nigeria’s super-rich would have none of that. The recent funeral culture among Nigeria’s high society sees them bury their dead in ways that emphasise the deceased’s earthly comfort and elegance. Current realities within the funeral economy point to the fact that death is not the ultimate leveller after all. The rich-poor dichotomy in life is reflected in funeral rites. It is little wonder that undertakers exploit the opportunities to provide exclusive resting places for those with the wherewithal.
By all indices, General T. Y Danjuma (retd), former Minister of Defence, is one of Nigeria’s redoubtable billionaire businessmen interested in different lucrative sectors of the economy, including telecommunications, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and maritime. He also sits on the board of many blue-chip companies. Thanks to his vast wealth, he lives in choice homes in Nigeria, Marbella, Spain, and other exotic and idyllic capitals.

As has become the tradition of fellow billionaires, royals, and the ‘privilegentsia,’ Danjuma, married to the dainty Daisy, a former senator, is also preparing for life after death. At the age of 82, he should. He has bought a marble mausoleum inside the Vaults and Gardens, Ikoyi, regarded as the most elitist cemetery in Nigeria. His prospective final resting place is beside that of his wife, and it is as elegant as their enviable life. Danjuma is, however, not the only one prepared for the hereafter.

Like Boyscouts, Wealthy Nigerians Are Prepared
People no longer wait family members to choose where will be buried when die, they are acquiring vaults and mausoleums and basically planning ahead. Those who opine that the rich and influential ways are different from those of mere mortals are not mistaken. From the ways they live in opulence and style to places where they can be seen, the moneyed class never wavers in the tiniest of details that have to do with their well-being. It is why many of them are splurging on preparations for the afterlife.

Many top Nigerians have bought mausoleums and fitted them out to taste in preparation when the Grim Reaper calls.
Some privileged Nigerians that are so prepared, sources said, include the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola; former Governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Tunde Fowler, the former Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services. It was in the same cemetery that Fashola buried his father in August 2013. Likewise, Abibat Mogaji, Tinubu’s mother and former Iyaloja-General of Nigeria, was buried there in 2013.

In the bowels of the Vaults and Gardens are the remains of the Rolls Royce-loving businessman, Akin Olugbade, who died recently, Wale Aboderin, former Chairman of Punch Nigeria Limited, Esther Osunsade, the eldest sibling of Dr. Mike Adenuga, and Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas.
The list also includes TPastor Eskor Mfon, Chief Odunewu, Chief Awelenje, Pa Okome, Tayo Aderinokun, Angela Onyeador, Otunba Gadaffi, GbegiOjora, Connie Madubuko, Prof Adetokunbo Sofoluwe, Akin Temple, Nike Shonibare, Titi Adenug’s mother, Susanna Okome, Punch Chairman, Wale Aboderin, Tunji Okusanya, Pa Remi Olowude, Funke Adedoyin, Tajudeen Disu, and Funmi Suinner.

About The Vaults And Gardens, Ikoyi
Everything about the private cemetery belies luxury. From its well-manicured lawns and gardens, the walkways and driveways, to the serene scenery and splendid landscape that exude a peaceful memorial park, Vaults and Gardens bears a striking semblance to the home of the wealthy and aristocrat. But it is the final resting place for those who can afford its dollar-priced facilities for their deceased loved ones.

Patrons enjoy the right to erect structures on their vaults, although the cemetery’s management takes great care to monitor and set a benchmark for the kinds of structure they could construct. The measure is geared to protect its original layout and design from being abused or over-run by over-ambitious patrons. The Vaults and Gardens’ walkways are paved and well-laid out with an overhanging cloud of celestial serenity. There is no apprehension that corpses would be buried atop each or accessible to ritualists searching for body parts as is customary with public cemeteries.

Commissioned by former Governor Tinubu in 2006, the Vaults and Gardens, regarded as the foremost haven for dead loved ones, is arguably the most exquisite and aesthetically-pleasant private cemetery in West Africa.
“Vaults and Gardens provides your departed loved ones with a beseem cemetery ground with state-of-the-art facilities. We provide you with a dignified, caring, and memorable funeral reflecting the lifestyle of your loved ones.
“We grant adequate information to help facilitate your funeral services, memorial services, etc. Vaults and Gardens has a dynamic, innovative and dependable team-oriented Management, which is made up of qualified and seasoned professionals with foresight and imagination,” a statement on its website said.

Divided into different sections, the High-Density Vaults section, as the name implies, has the highest number of vaults and a uniform cross-sectional area. The Muslim High-Density Vaults, a section where burials are done according to Muslim rites, are designed to suit the Muslim faithful. In contrast, Medium Density Vaults, which layout is more spacious than the HDV section, can accommodate single or double vaults depending on clients’ preference.

Other sections are the Alley Signatures and the Special Low-Density Vaults (Mausoleum) SLDV, available on special application.
“The perimeter of land applied for is designed and built to the desired taste of the client,” outfit stated.

The mausoleum or SLDV is the most expensive because it is built to the owner’s taste and can contain up to four corpses depending on the client. A Certificate of Occupancy is issued on each of the vaults and handed over to the deceased’s family. This C of O is usually tenable for 25 years or more, after which the family will have to renew such.
There is also a hall for funeral services. Other services include an up-to-date information archive and website that give access to write tributes to loved ones; online ‘Plan Ahead’ for booking hall, choir and musical band, caterers, undertakers, decorations, wreaths, etc.
There is also a provision of the headstone, tombstone monument and customised mausoleum crypt.

Why The Super-rich Are Splurging Fortune On Vaults And Gardens
There is a morbid fear for public cemeteries because they are over-stretched, badly-managed, and no new state facilities are built. There have been cases of corpses being buried atop other corpses in some of the old cemeteries, while flood reportedly uproots those in shallow graves. There is also the fear of ritualists who comb cemeteries for corpses.

A few years ago, the police in Lagos paraded a middle-aged man with seven human skulls hidden in a sack. During interrogation, he told the police that he got the skulls from the Atan Cemetery in Yaba, revealing that he scaled the cemetery’s fence at night to exhume corpses and sever their heads. In Ibadan, a member of a vigilance group was caught with human skulls. So, stories of people getting caught with human skulls or fresh human heads dug from public cemeteries are commonplace.

Therefore, a worker at the Vaults and Gardens said, “It is understandable that those who can afford it will buy spaces dignifying their existence for their burial or that of their loved ones.”

A mortician who preferred to be anonymous told ThisDay that vanity is a common thread that binds Nigerians, whether rich or poor, Yoruba or Igbo, Muslim or Christian. He added that because of Nigerians’ craze for everything luxurious and to show that they are superior to the next person, Vaults and Gardens has nearly sold out all its spaces.
“Yet, the space occupied by dead people is not even half of what those that are alive have bought. The truth is that many rich people are conscious and concerned about where they would be buried, which accounts for the rush to own a space,” he said.

Space Is Running Out
With a total land estimated at 3.7 hectares, Vaults and Gardens accommodates about 4,500 vaults, a sharp contrast to what happens in public cemeteries. The COVID-19 pandemic has also shored up the weekly number of internment there. That is where the problem lies. Despite being forced by the demand for spaces to increase their fees, Vaults and Gardens has virtually sold out all its spaces. The mortician added that several property owners nearby are offering their properties for sale because of the juicy offer from the Vaults and Gardens management desirous of expansion because there is increasing demands for spaces.

At the moment, the cheapest space is about N25 million, while the premium spaces go for as high as N150 million to N250 million. Well, for those who cannot afford the Ikoyi flagship cemetery, O’la Kleen Holdings, the brains behind the Vaults and Gardens, have opened two other outlets in Ibeju-Lekki and another in Port Harcourt.