Complaints by some residents in Gwarimpa about intolerable noise from nightclubs in their neighbourhoods have made the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to move against the clubs’ operations.
Aso Chronicle gathered that residents are also worried that clubs and lounges harbour criminals who oftentimes unleashed terror on the residents.
The coordinator, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Umar Shuaibu, said the government would move to curb noise pollution in the territory.
He said the concerns of residents about noise polusion within residential areas were recognised and the council was taking steps to tackle the challenge.
The steps included the demolition of such business premises, which was, however, halted by the House Committee on FCT. The committee, headed by Sergius Ogun, urged the government to resolve the issue amicably considering that it could lead to loss of jobs and resources.
“There is a misconception that FCTA gave them license to operate in the first place, which is not true. We have never given them license to operate,” Shuaibu said.
He explained that when a plot was being allocated, the purpose of the allocation is written in the certificate of occupancy, adding that one cannot even develop a plot without building plan approval.
“When a person intends to develop a plot he will first come to development control and we will give approval based on whatever is around the area that your land is located. All these night clubs in operation in residential areas, the allocation is residential and the building approval is residential, so they are operating illegally. If in the past they had been condoned where you have impunity, we cannot condone impunity now moreso there are people that are complaining against their operation. People cannot sleep in the night and they have rights. In fact, one of the night clubs’ operators is presently operating in a plot that was given approval for a hospital,” he said.
When asked if the FCTA will go ahead with the demolition, now that the National Assembly has intervened in the matter, Shuaibu said: “What the house committee said was that the status quo should be maintained because a night club operator took the complaint to them that we have clamped down on them and that was how they came in to hear our own side of the matter and they asked us to submit our report which is ready.
“This is so that they also can see from our own point of view, because we have the law backing us and we have all the requirements and also all the reports.”
The coordinator said there were provisions in the Abuja Master plan for whatever activity.
As the demolition was deferred, residents, night club owners and other government agencies have continued to express mixed feelings about noise pollution in the territory.
The secretary of Gwarinpa Community Safety Forum, Moses Kolawole, said there had been some concerns about the activities of night clubs and gardens due to noise and indiscriminate parking of vehicles by the roadside.
He, however, said the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) just needed to be clear on what it wanted from the business owners. “They cannot be talking from both sides of the mouth, if they want to follow a particular pattern they must be seen to be serious with it.”
He said the night clubs should be better managed to allow for a symbiotic relationship, adding that shutting them down could not be the best thing to do because they could spur commerce in the city.
“However, the noise should be regulated. The business owners must know the extent they are supposed to go so that they don’t park indiscriminately on the road and play loud music all through the night. I believe they can be better regulated without being shut down. Shutting them down has an implication on Gwarinpa development,” he said.
However, the Concerned Residents/Parents Association said the night clubs in residential areas of the city have become a source of concern to them, adding that most of the clubs harboured questionable characters, sold illicit drugs and pollute the neighbourhood with very loud music.
Leader of the group, Oluwale Ibrahim, who made the group’s position known in an interview with journalists, said the night clubs had exposed their children to immorality.
“You will not believe that in some of these night clubs, you see strip dancers and women of free virtue who hang around the night clubs and lounges.
“That is why we are appealing to the National Assembly not to endorse the illegality that the club owners are asking it to allow. We learnt that they went to the National Assembly in order to prevent the FCT officials from stopping the immoral business.”
Ibrahim said “members of the National Assembly should consider the future our young generation who would be leaders of tomorrow”, adding that the lawmakers should not lay a foundation that will breed leaders who are drug addicts, alcoholics and people without any sense of morality.
The Head, Information and Outreach Programme Unit of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), Mukhtar Ibrahim, said regardless of the demolition of the premises, the board would not relent in ensuring that residents complied with necessary laws.
“We will continue to monitor the noise level and sanction those who contravene the law even if we don’t physically remove the structure where the noise emanates,” he said.
He said the board would continue to discharge its responsibilities “because we have a duty to control noise pollution so whether the building is demolished or not, it doesn’t really change that fact.”
He said the pernuted noise levels for residential areas are 50 decibel at daytime and 40 decibel in the night while commercial places are not expected to exceed 45 decibel at night.
He described situating night clubs in residential areas as an anomaly. “When you have night clubs in residential areas it is a misnomer and aberration and it is not expected to happen at all. If we have such, the operators should be sanctioned properly.
“In AEPB, one of our mandates is to disallow the use of residential houses as night clubs and vice versa; even operating night clubs or anything as such in unauthorised places. So all of these issues are complex but it doesn’t deter us from following the law according to the dictates of the AEPB Act,” he also said.
He said the board had sanctioned erring business owners and there were court cases but he could not furnish our reporters with the number but promised to get it from the environmental monitoring department of the board.
One of the night club owners, Chief Emeka Ezerioha, said the government, instead of demolishing night clubs should rather fashion out means whereby the business owners and residents can co-habit peacefully.
“I had few neighbours that complained when I first started and I looked into their plight: it is not all about closing down my business because some people want to sleep,” he said.
He said abating noise pollution and nuisances of night clubs calls for collaboration between all parties involved, adding that business owners should be able to do their businesses without necessarily stopping residents from sleeping in their houses.
He said the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) responsible for approving buildings in Gwarimpa had written to him to abate noise from his business after an approval was given. He alleged that some influential individuals have been using government as machinery to inflict untold hardship on night club owners in the area.
While referring to a night club around Charly Boy bus stop that was shut for about five months, he said the residents association in the area had not made any complaint about their operations.
“It is just one person that is complaining around me because he has people in government and he is trying to use what he has to suppress me,” he alleged.
He said since the FHA wrote to him, he stopped playing music by 10pm adding that that had led to reduction in patronage.
“FHA gave me permit to operate this type of business and I was surprised that they came back to tell me that the noise was too much. Almost one year now, we have had problems of low patronage.
“All we are asking for is a level playing ground whereby the residents and the business owners would be at peace. The residents and the business owners have to survive through one way or the other,” he said.