Is Cremation Against Nigerian Culture?


Cremation involves reducing a dead body to ashes by burning it. It is a common practice in many Western and Asian countries; where commercial crematoriums operate.

However, this is not the case in Nigeria which has a triple heritage of Christianity, traditional religious practices and Islam. 


Nigeria is also a multi-ethnic society. Although these ethnic groups have their own unique traditional practices, they all share a sense of the sacredness of life. 

The Lagos Law Controversy

In recent years, the Lagos State Government signed a bill which allows for the voluntary cremation of claimed and unclaimed corpses in the state.

The decision was made with regards to a number of factors including:

  • Scarcity of land

  • Population growth

  • Decomposing and unclaimed bodies at mortuaries

  • Refusal of communities to provide land for burying unclaimed corpses

This law generated a lot of raging controversies.

To many, the above-mentioned factors do not erase the fact that cremation is ‘unAfrican’, ‘unbiblical’ and ‘unislamic’. 

Religious And Cultural Barriers

Every event in Nigeria undergoes some form of religious or cultural scrutiny. 

This is why recognizing cremation of the dead in the face of die hard traditions became problematic.

There are certain beliefs which are absolutely responsible for the disquiet over cremation:

  • Without a proper funeral, the deceased may come back to haunt the living

  • An unbefitting burial is a thing of shame to the family

  • The deceased person becomes an ancestor after death

  • Communities derive social and spiritual satisfaction from performing funeral rites

  • The body of the dead must be treated with respect, so the deceased person can arrive at the land of the dead ‘complete’.

  • In some cultures, the dead body is exhumed and redressed after a particular period of time. 

  • The Islamic tradition is to embalm the dead before burying them, hence this cremation idea may not fly in the northern and western parts of the country.


Change is inevitable. Cremation is a foreign culture, but so was the English language and religions currently practiced in Nigeria.

It is believed that these barriers against cremation may begin to fall as the current generations translate to a new one. 

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