Why Lagos government finds it difficult to handle noise pollution

Alexander Bamgbola

Determined to reduce the alarming level of noise pollution in the state, the Lagos State government, some years ago, took steps to tackle the menace. One of such was the prohibition of churches and mosques from using megaphones to summon the faithful, which many citizens noted was highly disturbing. However, some churches and mosques are yet to comply with this regulation. But don’t the holy books enjoin religious leaders and their followers to respect and obey constituted authorities? What really is their reason for this disobedience? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.

‘It’s A Very Complex Problem, But The Matter Is Being Handled’
(Apostle Alexander Bamgbola, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Lagos Chapter)
We have been discussing it; the government is going to be firm on it. You know it takes time to obey the law and being a religious matter, the government is being very cautious. But then, the body of Christ will have to do something about it and I assure you we are working on it. It will take a little time before people begin to obey the law.

There are so many churches in residential areas, where people live. We know the problem; we talk about it even with the government, but you know these are religious matters and religion is so sensitive in our nation. But as we progress, things will certainly be changing.

For example, Christian and Muslim leaders just had a meeting with the state governor and he was so happy and grateful to God for the peace and harmony that has existed between the two religions. Don’t forget that our nation is really at the crossroads. You have to look at the foundation: How did we get to where we are now? Look at how houses are built in the last 20 years with churches and mosques on the streets and people who built these churches and mosques where people live said they built them for God and so there is noise all over the place. So, it is a very complex problem, but the matter is being handled. There are people who are obeying the law, and those who refuse to obey it are doing things with impunity. Sooner or later, the arm of the law will catch up with them.

Now, if you are going to build churches in residential areas, you build them with soundproof materials, but it is very expensive to build a sound proofsanctuary. This is because anything that has to do with religion has to be carefully handled. That is the reality. Whenever required, CAN and Nigeria Interreligious Council (NIREC) step in to address such issues.

Few weeks ago, the government set up NIREC at the local government levels. This body that comprises Muslims and Christians in Lagos State is the only functioning NIREC in Nigeria. That is where we handle a lot of these problems. Where churches and mosques have become a nuisance to residents and neighbours complain about it, we tell the church or mosque that is concerned to pack up. So, it’s little by little and I want to tell you that government is depending on NIREC than taking drastic measures. Because once the church is closed down Christians will react, just like the Muslims will protest, when mosques are closed. So, we need to be very careful. We will get there by God’s Grace. NIREC at local government level is the most active and it’s solving a lot of problems for Lagos State. It brings Christian and Muslim leaders very close and we look at matters very objectively and God is using NIREC to solve a lot of problem. For instance, the body has handled cases concerning Muslims versus Muslims, land issues, and cases concerning Christians versus Christians. Many things are being done quietly in Lagos State by NIREC.

‘Religious Leaders Should Consider People’s Health’
(Ustaz Taofeek Yusuf Eniafe, Chief Imam of Anu Oluwapo, Orile, Oshodi, Lagos)
The fact still remains that government is not ready to implement it, because I believe nobody is above the law. For instance, if you go to Eko Hotels and Suites in Victoria Island, Lagos, there is a mosque there meant for both Nigerians and foreigners. The speakers are not outside but indoor, and once it is time for Muslims to worship their Creator, whether morning or afternoon prayer, those who lodge there already know when they are supposed to leave their hotel rooms for the mosque without anybody reminding them. That consciousness is right there in the hearts of Allah’s worshippers. There, they don’t make noise like what obtains on the streets of Lagos, because there is a law in place over there. What happens is that human beings need to be corrected or reminded before certain things are done perfectly, and that is the problem about noise pollution in Lagos.

For instance, workers, whether in public or private sectors, know that they must resume work at so and so time, nobody reminds them. They know the time for break and they work towards it. The same thing should apply to a Muslim whether speaker or no speaker to wake you up. You are supposed to know the time for morning or afternoon prayer without anybody reminding you. But the mentality of some people is that you must remind them what they are supposed to know. You don’t ring a bell or put loudspeaker out there to remind workers that they should go to work; they already know that in their sub-consciousness and as an agreement, which they signed with their employers.

The same way, we don’t need to remind a true Muslim that he/she should come to the mosque for prayer. If you want to help yourself, have an alarm clock, set the time and once it’s time it wakes you up. So, people should respect the time for prayer or time to worship their God, even without being reminded. What I discovered is that religious leaders are capitalising on lack of implementation to do anything they like. If government is serious about it, it will not take them time to implement and by the time law enforcement agents begin to go from street to street, nobody will tell a Muslim or Christian leader to obey the law on noise pollution. We want everything to be enforced on us before we obey. That is a wrong attitude. When government said no okada rider should ply the high ways, they followed it up and ensured that they complied. But as soon as they relaxed, people forgot there was a law in place. The law is not against one religion or the other; it is for sanity to reign. I have travelled out of the country and have seen the way things are done out there, so it is also possible here in Nigeria.

In the streets, or residential areas where these mosques and churches are built, there are people who are sick and their doctors have told them to steer clear of noise and things like that, but by the time you put these speakers out there, the blood pressure of such individuals will rise. You mentioned that sometime ago, government closed down some mosques and churches. What was the agreement reached before those churches and mosques were reopened? Find out. That agreement was not solid.

Another example. We have pedestrian bridges everywhere, yet Nigerians still cross the roads. But look at Oshodi where government stationed vehicles to arrest offenders. If those vehicles are removed from there, Nigerians will return to the old habit and start violating the rule again. Even in the Qur’an or Bible, it is not every law that we clerics obey. Correct a man today, and tomorrow he returns to that same mistake.

I know the noise issue was common with the mosques before because we needed to remind our members of the five times daily prayer. Today, churches have copied that from us and there is noise everywhere to the extent that people are not able to sleep. It is wrong and personally, I don’t support it because of people’s health.

‘Govt Should First Stop Noise Of Generators From Homes, Offices And Industries’
(Archbishop Joseph Ojo, Presiding Bishop of Calvary Kingdom Church, Lagos-Badagry Expressway)
It is with every sense of responsibility that I am responding to this issue of noise pollution by churches and mosques. The law prohibiting noise pollution was passed few years back, but to the surprise of every one it has not been effective because it was done out of bias. The government lacks the moral power to implement it because every one knows that it was not a priority. There were some anti-God; anti-church and anti-Christ elements that wanted to use it to score some political points.

The major source of noise pollution in Lagos and indeed Nigeria is not the speakers of religious houses. It is the noise of generators and plants from homes, offices and industries. The smoke from these generators has sent many to their early graves.

If they have the moral will, let them stop this national disgrace first. They should leave churches and mosques alone. But they can’t stop it until there is constant power supply. They use generators and plants in their homes, even Alausa in Lagos and Aso Rock in Abuja. Let them give us electricity; legislate against the importation of generators before talking about horn speaker pollution. A Nigerian pastor was arrested in Senegal because of the noise emanating from his generator. They considered it noise pollution. He just got to that country and his credit in the prepaid metre ran out, so he turned on his small generator set. Under five minutes, law enforcement agents came and arrested him for noise pollution. When he told them he was from Nigeria they said, ‘no wonder’ and he was let off the hook.

We should be ashamed that after all the billions of naira spent on power generation and distribution, we are yet to see any meaningful change. I suggest that government should arrest all generator vendors and all users because they are all also responsible for noise pollution.

Also, another source of noise pollution are horns and sirens. In civilised societies, only ambulances and fire trucks use siren. You can hardly hear the blaring of horn as we do here. But in Nigeria, even a bullion van carrying N5million can push you off the road. Please ‘…physician heal thyself.’ God bless Nigeria.

‘It’s Mandatory To Obey Law Of The Land’
(Arc. Taofeek Olawunmi Agbaje, President, Jama-at-ul Islamiyya of Nigeria / Overseas)
Obeying the law on noise pollution, to me, needs proper understanding by both religious leaders, especially as we know the God we are worshipping. As religious organisations, it is mandatory to obey the law of the land. In Islam, religious worship should not make the environment unconducive for people. Also, Islam forbids Muslims making noise, when praying because Allah said in the Holy Qur’an that He is close to us even more than the vein in our neck. Allah also commanded us in the Qur’an Surat Luqman Q32: 19, “And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the braying of the ass.”

‘Let Govt Enforce The Law’
(Prophet Samuel Kayode Abiara, former General Evangelist, Christ Apostolic Church, CAC, Worldwide)
Here in our church, we obey the law on noise pollution; we don’t breach the law. If others are not obeying the law on noise pollution, I don’t know why it is so. I cannot tell you why other churches are not obeying or adhering to the rule on noise pollution. But come to think of it, how about the Muslim brethren whose speakers/horn speakers are usually out there and you can hear them whenever they want to call their members to prayer?

I think government should also address that aspect. We are law-abiding citizens. If there is a law in place concerning noise pollution, then government should enforce it and those found culpable should answer for it. I think it is as simple as that.

‘I Am Woken Up Every Morning By Noise From Mosque, And I Don’t Complain’
(Superior Evangelist Samson O. Banjo, President, United Aladura Churches, UAC, Worldwide)
I am woken up every morning by the call to worship from mosques, but I am not complaining. So, why should anybody complain about churches making noise and what kind of noise are we talking about here? You only hear songs, hymns and prayers in churches. You don’t hear any other thing. Is that what people call noise from churches? If the songs, hymns and prayers from churches are seen as disturbance, then the person complaining must have an evil spirit worrying him or her. However, if they want to stop churches from making noise, then they must also stop all the mosques from making noise.

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