“People Ask Me For Body Parts” – A Week In The Life Of A Mortician

September 15, 2020

“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.

The subject for today is Mr A, a mortician. He talks about his first day on the job, people asking him for human parts, and why he lives intentionally.


The sound of my phone ringing is the first thing that wakes me up today. Mid-sleep, I hear my boss shouting at the other end: “What do you know about the body that’s smelling in the department?” “Come to work now!” Before I can explain myself, she cuts the call.

I jump up from bed, have my bath and quickly rush down to work.

From the gate, I see people covering their nose. The source of the odour is a three-day-old body in the morgue. When the body got to the mortuary, the relatives couldn’t pay for embalming, so my boss didn’t release the necessary ingredients even after I pleaded for the go-ahead while the family members were out raising money. But now, because of the escalated smell, everyone is suddenly feeling charitable. 

At the office, my boss is shouting, so I remind her of her role in our current situation. This calms her down. I then state my case: We can’t embalm the body until late at night because there’s no protective gear and I don’t want house flies from the body to lay eggs on me. I don’t want to carry a disease that’s not my own before people say I got an infection from being promiscuous. The government doesn’t care about our safety, so we must protect ourselves. Before I’m even done talking, the ingredients for embalming have appeared out of nowhere – she just wants the smell gone by this time tomorrow.

I tell her that all we can do is wait until midnight.


I like working at night because there’s no disturbance. I work faster because I have complete focus. Embalming is meant for social gathering, for people to pay last respects to the body in open caskets. In some cases, it’s used to “beautify” bodies that have been deformed through accidents – it helps hold the body together for a befitting burial. 

The embalming ingredients we use are sodium chloride, water, eosine and hydro formalin. Contrary to what people think, we don’t remove the organs when we embalm bodies. We mix the ingredients in a keg and set a line [in the femoral artery or humerus] for the body so that the fluid enters into the body. However, before doing anything, we first wash the body. [Editor’s note: Morticians don’t worry about smell after a while because it becomes part of the job]

I can tell that it’s going to be a long night ahead. 


It’s funny that I started working with dead people because of the living. My old job didn’t allow me to spend time with my family and that’s why I chose this job. 

One day, my friend asked if I was open to any other work and I said why not? As long as they pay me a salary and it doesn’t disturb family time, I’m ready. That’s how I started this work. 

I’ll never forget my first day here because they put me on night duty. I sat down outside and my head doubled in size. I couldn’t sleep because someone on night duty shouldn’t be sleeping. I was just consoling myself that shebi day will break, today is today. That’s how I did the first night, then I did the second night too. 

Then I now learned how to bath dead bodies.

I was so scared to hold their hand because I was worried that any small touch would disconnect the shoulder. I used to think that embalming made the skin parboiled, therefore any small touch would break the body. It wasn’t until one day when my senior colleague shouted at me to hold the hand that I got over myself. That’s how I used confidence to scrub the back of the corpse. Since then, I’ve become an expert. I can now bathe a body at any time of the day without help. 

Today, I’m just thinking that with all my skill, someone should just come and tell me: “Let’s be going to America.”


Something happened at work today that made me happy. A man with a jeep came to the mortuary asking for “small human meat,” and my colleagues and I handled it well. I was glad to know that we haven’t allowed evil people to mix with us in this department.

I’m still wondering why someone would ask me for the flesh of a human being that I can’t create. So that curses will come to me? Or my children? God forbid. 

He offered me ₦5 million and even houses. Little does he know that the bible has chained my hand and money can’t confuse me. My colleagues and I told him to check back in some days because when you pursue them away like that, they’ll be targeting you. They feel that you now know their face and what they do. The plan is that after some days, we’ll say that there are no fresh bodies because we embalm them immediately they come in. We’ll also say that if we cut out anything, we have no way to preserve it, so it’ll start smelling. That’s the story we are going with because even the bible says that bless thy child that uses wisdom to do things. 

I remember another case where a woman came asking for cotton wool from the mouth of a dead person. She said she needed it to cure her daughter. I know that it’s used as a commanding tone when mixed with juju: if they tell you to stop, they don’t born you well not to stop. She even offered me money, but I told her that since it’s “healing,” there’s no need for money. I told her that I wished I could help, but we had no corpse with an open mouth. I then advised her with a sad face to try another mortuary.

Another time, a man came for that same cotton wool because his wife was wayward. This one even offered to soak it in the mouth of the corpse himself. So, I asked him if he’d bring any of his family members so he could soak it by himself for as long as he wants. For his family member, he can do whatever he likes because it’s unfair to ask me to do that to another person. I think that’s the first person I lost my temper for.

The problem with many people is that they don’t wait for God’s time. I know that if I’d been allowing such people, I would have built an estate by now. I’m not rich and I’m not poor, but I’m okay with my life.


This work has opened my eyes to many things especially how the world works. The wahala on a dead body is far more than the one on a living person and if you have eyes, it’s a lesson for how you live your life.

I heard of a case where the husband brought the wife to the hospital and she died. Then the woman’s family now claimed that the man divorced her, so he can’t bury her. To prevent a fight, the management told them to settle the matter in court. It has been almost five years and the woman’s family has refused to show up in court. Not even once. The body has been in the morgue since then. I heard that every Friday, the man still goes to the mortuary to check on his wife. He can’t even give her a proper burial, he can’t do anything. In this job, I have seen many cases like that.

I thank God for this understanding because it has made me focus on my family. I am the same age my father was when he died. His death meant that I couldn’t further my education, but I thank God for mum. She tried with what she had and I’m sad she didn’t get to enjoy more. I tell myself that if God can spare my life this long, there’s no reason why I should not spend all my money making sure my children go farther than I did. 

Today, I’m thanking God for his mercies in my life. I can proudly say that I have one daughter who’s a university graduate, and another child about to enter the university. What more can I ask for? 


I was telling someone today that money is not everything. If you give me a hundred million on one hand, and you put 10 minutes of advice, on the other hand, I’ll drop the money.

Advice will take me farther than money will or can. If I start with a hundred million, I’ll misbehave because money is a spirit. It’ll push me to talk to people that I should be avoiding. I know that I’m not a saint, so I know that I’ll offend many people.

I like this work because it reminds me to caution myself against the distraction of life. Life is simple, and you shouldn’t take anything hard. You should be humble. If you’re in a post, remember that one day, you’ll return to the soil. If you have that constant reminder, nothing will be too much to dash out. 

See them here [dead bodies in the morgue], they can’t raise their hands, they can’t bathe themselves, they can’t do anything. See the morgue [opens vaults to show dead bodies], this is where we all end. 

Editor’s note: Name changed to protect the identity of the subject.

Check back every Tuesday by 9 am for more “A Week In The Life ” goodness, and if you would like to be featured or you know anyone who fits the profile, fill this form.

You'll like this

August 12, 2020

Cold Eba gets a lot of slander, and if it was human I’m sure it would have taken “legal steps”. But when I still used to go to Church, I remember the Pastor once saying that the foolish things of this world will be used to confound the wise. So yes, cast not away that […]

Hassan Yahaya

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.


Now on Zikoko

October 22, 2020

Let’s start here: On the 20th of October, 2020, armed men of the Nigerian army allegedly shot at peaceful protesters in the recent #EndSars movement. It is estimated that at least twelve people were killed in Lagos, and hundred more were injured around Nigeria. In light of this unfortunate and avoidable incident, we decided to […]

October 22, 2020

This article contains updates on occurrences related to the general national unrest outside Lagos that you might have missed. We’ll keep updating it. Seyi Makinde addressing protesters in Ibadan The Oyo State Governor took to the streets of Ibadan yesterday to address protesters and the general public and to tell them that peace would return […]

October 22, 2020

Yesterday, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu addressed the state following the massacre of innocent civilians at the Lekki toll-gate the previous night. Here’s the speech. After watching him struggle for over seven minutes to deliver his speech, we were able to pick out some of the stuff we couldn’t just stand. See: 1. The lies […]

October 22, 2020

Recently, there has been an increasing occurrence of social media accounts broadcasting and spreading fake news. In one instance, a Twitter user posted a photo of Aisha Yesufu, a prominent activist purportedly showing her relaxing in her living room with her husband while #EndSARS protesters are on the streets. The photo was actually of her […]

October 21, 2020

The Nigerian military has a well-documented history of killing unarmed civilians. Listed below are five times the Nigerian military has killed unarmed civilians. 1. Baga Massacre, 2013 On 16 April 2013, 200 civilians were killed and over 2,000 houses were destroyed, with many other people injured in the village of Baga, Borno State, Nigeria. Refugees, […]

Recommended Quizzes

November 1, 2019

Twitter is buzzing right now, bringing a new conversation to the concept of cool vs not-so-cool, especially in relationships. If you’ve been thinking about how much of a red flag you are, why don’t you let this quiz help you decide once and for all?

October 10, 2019

2019 is certainly Burna Boy’s year, but, if we are being honest, so was 2018. Since his transcendent mixtape, Outside, the afro-fusion star has refused to get his foot of our necks — dropping a string of fantastic singles and then capping it all off with his career-best album, African Giant.  So, in a bid […]

November 11, 2019

Today, we are going to be using your taste in music to determine how good you actually are in bed. All you need to do is create the ultimate Nigerian hit — from the lead artist to the producer — and we’ll tell you if all your partners leave satisfied, or if you are just […]

October 30, 2019

Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys movie got a lot of things right, especially casting, so yes, it was a monster hit. Now, we know you may not have put much thought to this, but the personalities of some of the characters closely match yours, and we would like to help you find the perfect match. […]

April 9, 2020

At some point in life, we all learnt that someone can be very intelligent and still lack common sense. That’s the difference between being book smart and being street smart. If you’re not sure where on the spectrum you fall, well, that’s what this quiz is here to tell you. Take it:

More from Hustle


Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.
February 6, 2020
Who doesn't want to find love? In our bid to help, we paired up a bunch of single Nigerians, sending them on an all-expense paid date, and interviewing them before and after they met.
January 27, 2020
Nigerians Talk is what happened when a motley crew of young Nigerians were put in front of a camera and asked a bunch of apparently random questions about life, love, money and more.
September 24, 2019
A group of Zikoko staff go on a road trip to every mainland country in ECOWAS West Africa

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.