When the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) was given the mandate to fight noise pollution in Lagos State, we reported it here. Well, its over a year later, and it appears that they are finding it very difficult to even make a dent in this widespread problem. It is so unfortunate that even in our worship, we are an undisciplined and irresponsible people. Why would anyone take a loudspeaker and point it towards a sleeping neighborhood in the name of worship? What type of evil is that? How are people expected to function without being able to sleep? Even GOD rejects that kind of worship.
Amos 5: 21-24:
“I hate, I despise your feast days,
And I do not savor your sacred assemblies.
22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them,
Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.
23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs,
For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
24 But let justice run down like water,
And righteousness like a mighty stream.
What type of worship are we engaging in, when we are a menace to our surroundings? When we treat the people around us with no consideration? Look at the word, GOD is not interested. He is interested in justice, righteousness, empathy, not noise! How do we get our people to understand this? I sincerely hope that LASEPA will begin to do what they were set up to do, and I also hope that other states will adopt this law. We must begin to have sanity. This is crazy! I love this article below – excellent written:
It is as if the disorder that usually characterises public life at the Pen Cinema area of Agege, Lagos, is not enough. What with the way people jostle for space on the crowded roads, even as they try to make way for drivers who maintain high speed as if they were on the highway.
The entire situation is made worse by the deafening, high-decibel music that blares endlessly from some shops along the busy road; not to mention the advertisers who ply their trade from some moving vehicles equipped with loudspeakers that reel out the assortments of products on offer.
Other retailers who don’t have enough money to sell their goods from vehicles move up and down the busy road with colourful loudspeakers hanging from their shoulders. Holding weather-beaten microphones to their mouths, they announce what they sell. These range from local Viagra to herbs for the treatment of pile and other curious ailments, as well as religious books and compact discs.
Even those in houses nearby don’t have to strain their ears to hear audibly what is being sold.
As you walk down the road, high-decibel loudspeakers mounted on vehicle hoods or strung to electricity poles announce in deafening tones the various destinations available to intending passengers entering the motor park nearby.
This free public service announcement is the norm in virtually all the motor parks in Lagos State, with the attendant disturbance that residents and road users are already accustomed to.
Meanwhile, drivers of all shades and categories contribute their own quota to the din by pestering their horns to either warn careless pedestrians to look well before crossing the road, or to scare other drivers who may want to overtake them. In all, it’s maddening noise all the way.
Enter worship houses
And if you thought that escaping from the cacophony in public place was the antidote to noise pollution for which certain parts of the Centre of Excellence is notorious, residents of Iba Housing Estate in Iba Local Council Development Area would tell you it is not so.
Here, the noise pollution emanates from two worship centres. Residents of this housing estate are unfortunate, as it were, to be saddled with two different churches in their domain. One of the churches is located right in front of Block 173 Zone B, while the second one is adjacent to Block 174.
Before now, residents say, they enjoyed a serene environment and they looked forward to going home after a hard day’s pursuit. That hope has gone with the winds, as they are now treated to daily noise from their new “neighbours.”
Residents say hell was let loose after the yet-to-be-named prayer houses commenced worship services.
Apart from the unceremonious location of the worship centres, issues relating to the lands on which they were built have pitted residents against one another over the manner the lands were allotted.
Worse still, as if the disturbance is not enough, the few residents who volunteered to talk about the issue refused to have their names in print, expressing concern about possible backlash from those they also refused to name.
But if the residents of Iba Housing Estate are afraid to speak out, 79-year-old Mrs. Esther Ogunsalu is not. After enduring an alleged 13 years of traumatic noise pollution from the Redeemed Christian Church of God, located on 4, Sogunle Street, Abule Onigbagbo Estate, Ikeja, she sued the church in 2012.
At the hearing, the hypertensive retired matron had told an Ikeja High Court, presided over by Justice Aishat Opesanwo, that the worshippers’ noise not only prevented her from sleeping whenever she wanted, it also triggered off her hypertension. She says she spent N200,000 on the case.
The court advised her and the defendant to agree on some terms of settlement to be decided by the two of them. They did, and Opesanwo based her judgment on that.
In reaction, the parish pastor, Mr. Dapo Morawo, denies the allegation that the church disturbed the peace of the community. Nevertheless, he says, the parish has since complied with the judgment.
“We have continued to maintain zero-noise pollution in accordance with the Lagos State regulations,” Morawo enthuses.
At another location — Mojisola Street, Ifako-Ijaiye — residents were up in arms against another source of noise pollution. Again, it’s a church — The Evangelical Apostolic Church, which is being presided over by Prophet Olatunji Talabi, whose appellation is Lesekese.
In a letter addressed to Governor Babatunde Fashola and signed by Mr. Olusegun Olomofe, the residents accused the Lagos State Environment Protection Agency of failing to check noise pollution in their area.
The letter reads in part, “Since the Evangelical Apostolic Church moved into the neighbourhood, its activities have been inimical to the general well-being of the residents and the noise level unbearable. And many elderly residents are not able to sleep whenever their (church) service is in session…”
In its reply to the residents through their 81-year-old chairman, Mr. Oye Balogun, LASEPA said the church had agreed to stop using external loudspeakers and other appurtenances of worship on weekdays, and that they would only use them on Sundays.
LASEPA’s reply reads, “Sunday services should hold between 8am and 1pm. Evening services, including Sundays, should not exceed 8pm. Vigils should be reduced to once a month and must be without loudspeakers and musical instruments. The church is to ensure good neighbourliness with residents in the area.”
While residents say nothing much has changed, the church’s authorities say they have made necessary amends as advised by LASEPA. A pastor who spoke on behalf of the church, Mr. Ilesanmi Oluwasakin, claimed that the issue revolved around religious persecution.
Oluwasakin said, “It is because three out of the CDA executive members are Muslims; that’s why they want the church shut down. After they made their report, LASEPA came to investigate and sealed off the church. But when they (LASEPA) realised that there was no problem, they allowed us to reopen.”
In the interim, Oluwasakin says, the church has reduced the number of loudspeakers in use, and that when residents resorted to deflating the tyres of worshippers’ vehicles, the church purchased a parking space. He also informs that they now hold vigil once a month.
That is not to say only churches are guilty of noise pollution, a resident of Idi-Oro, Mushin, Mrs. Taiwo Afijabi, says.
She complains that though muezzins are known to call Muslim faithful to prayer five times a day, what she calls “competition” among the faiths seems to be driving mosques to also adopt certain habits normally associated with churches, including holding vigils.
Afijabi adds, “Throughout the just-concluded Ramadan, it was as if all of us were involved. Once it was around 2am, the mosque’s public address system would roar into life and you would hear the imam clear his throat and then the ordeal would commence and eat into the rest of the early morning when he would make the final call for dawn prayer at 5a.m.
Friday afternoons are as challenging, Afijabi notes. According to her, the entire streets are jammed with the mass of vehicles and worshippers who throng the central mosque located in her area, shattering the peace of the day until about two hours later when the worshippers disperse.
“Residents are then saddled with the irritating task of cleaning all sorts of litter they leave behind, such as sachet and bottled water containers, food wrappers, and the like.”
Our correspondents also observed that zealots who “received the call” but who had yet to set up formal houses of worship attend to their calling by preaching on the waysides.
As wayfarers that they are, they move from one place to the other in search of converts, using loudspeakers powered by vehicle batteries which they log around in large bags that are placed on the ground whenever they reach densely populated areas where they suppose the ripened harvests are waiting to be reaped.
In reaction to the waves of complaints from aggrieved residents who regularly pile the government with letters detailing their horror, the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, threatened to deal with offenders by “sending the Ministry of Physical Planning and LASEPA” after them.
Confirming the magnitude of the problem, Bello notes, “There is a street in Agege where there are four mosques and eight churches. Most of them are actually illegal because it is not proper to convert residential premises to religious centres. We will send the Ministry of Physical Planning and the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency after you.”
Despite this threat, worship houses of all shades and hues have continued to spring up in unconventional places, worsening the plight of residents who bear the brunt of the loud drumming, prayers and preaching, among others.
And though the government recommends that religious houses noise-proof their worship centres as is the norm in developed countries, our correspondents note that virtually all the worship centres they visited have no facility to reduce the noise emanating from their domains.
Indeed, their loudspeakers are still displayed openly on their roofs, and you don’t have to enter any place of worship to hear the imam or pastor dispense his message. The powerful loudspeakers already save you the efforts.
Bad business for estate agents
An estate agent, Mr. Kunle Adesanya, claims that the situation is already affecting those engaged in the business. He says his experience on the job has shown that prospective tenants detest renting apartments close to worship centres, especially churches.
He argues that the idea of religious organisations building places of worship in residential areas has, in recent times, made the rent for property in such locations to fall below the prevailing prices.
He says, “There was a property in Festac Town, which was put in my care to let out. But, I found it extremely difficult to let it out because a Pentecostal church shared a fence with it. It took me ages to get a tenant for the apartments.”
Though LASEPA, which prides itself as the “environment police,” admits that worship centres contribute the highest form of noise pollution in the state, many residents say nothing much has changed about the scenario.
They hinge their claims on the grounds that it has been difficult for the agency to enforce certain aspects of the law on noise pollution because members of various religious organisations are also top government functionaries.
No sacred place
Workers and patients at the General Hospital, Ifako-Ijaiye, seem to have reconciled themselves to the implications of having a mosque sited inside the already choked hospital compound. On the other side of the hospital fence and right behind the mosque is a new sports stadium being constructed by the Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government Council.
When asked about the likely implications of having two structures that could pull crowds and contribute to disturbing the peace of hospital users, the Principal Officer 1 in the GHII, Dr. Mercy Kuti, refused to comment on the twin issues.
About the mosque, she says it’s a sensitive issue because it concerns religion. As for the stadium, she notes that the authorities knew the hospital was there before approving the project.