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Will Lagos win the ‘war’ against noise from churches, mosques?

Over 100 churches and mosques had been shut down by officials of the Lagos State Government for contravening the law on environmental pollution. Will this…

Over 100 churches and mosques had been shut down by officials of the Lagos State Government for contravening the law on environmental pollution. Will this measure curb the noise from these religious houses? Our correspondents report.

Last weekend, the Lagos State government shut down another 23 churches in the state over the disturbing noise coming from their premises. The churches included the Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Renewal Church in Surulere and the Foursquare Gospel Church in Ogudu, Ojota. Also sealed off were, at least, nine club houses and hotels, following a series of complaints by their neighbours.
The exercise, carried out by the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), forced occupants out of the listed facilities which were then placed under lock and key. The agency has till date sealed over 100 churches and mosques across the state in line with the State Environmental Protection Agency Law 2012 (as amended) which disallows indiscriminate use of public address systems (PAS) by religious organisations, among others and provides for noise control in both residential and industrial areas.
General Manager of LASEPA, Mr Adebola Shabi, said that enforcement action was only taken against the violators after all efforts to ensure willful compliance to the environmental laws was resisted by the alleged offenders. He told our correspondent that the agency usually started with an invitation to the occupants, sensitisation on the noise level allowed by the law and guidance on how to ensure compliance, but these were of no effect to the violators.
“I am a Celestian and there is a Celestial Church that we sealed in Ojokoro. The Shepherd and Women Leader were in my office and I educated them. In my own church at Agege, we don’t disturb people around us. Why do you need to bring your services or night vigils openly to disturb your neighbours? You don’t need that and that is what we are out to enforce in good faith,” he said, adding that all the sealed facilities, including the churches and mosques, would only be re-opened after the occupants had presented action plan on compliance and the appropriate fines paid to the state’s coffers.
But how far can the government go in this task of ridding the state of noise from the churches and mosques, among others?
 Indeed, many believed that the present level of noise and environmental pollution in the state is threatening the global importance of the state as well as the health  of the residents. The noise and environment pollution is exacerbated by the increase in the number of makeshift mosques and churches, as well as the use of amplifiers and other noisy equipment to propagate faith in the state.
 From Lagos Island to Okokomaiko, Shomolu to Iyana Ipaja, Mushin to Ikorodu, and indeed everywhere in the state, the rate at which the ‘noise-inducing’ centres are springing up and perpetrating high level noise is alarming. Many residents complain that they no longer sleep at night due to the noise coming from these worship centres whose management, of course, see nothing bad in the ‘noise’ coming from their domains as they claim they are out to touch the heart of ‘unbelievers’ and attract more people to the holy path.
 But Shabi said some of the religious houses that his agency shut down were accused of converting residential apartments to places of worship, a situation that was nuisance to other residents.
 “We were inundated with complaints from residents and neighbours of the shut facilities; most of the petitions kept coming to us recently. It was as if we are not working at all. That was why we had to investigate and shut the facilities,” he said.
He added that some of the noise-making worship centres were usually makeshift structures. “You cannot have makeshift structures and say you want to be conducting services or vigils there. Definitely, you will be disturbing your neighbours. So, the government won’t allow the use of makeshift structures as a church or mosque.
 “Nobody is allowed to make a noise above 55 decibel during the day in residential areas and only 45 decibel is allowed in such areas at night. In industrial areas, 90 decibel of noise level is allowed during the day, while the noise rate must not exceed 80 decibel at night,” he noted.
 A Lagos businessman, Mr Tunji Adefemi, gave kudos to the government for shutting the over 100 churches and mosques for noise and environmental pollution, saying that the action was long overdue.
 He said the war against noise pollution from the religious houses must be won, adding that the only way to win it is by not bringing sentiments into the enforcement of the law against noise and environmental pollution in respect of the religious houses flouting the law.
 “Governor Akinwunmi Ambode should be commended for the bold step he has taken to reduce noise pollution in the state through the shutting down of the worship centres. I don think there is anything wrong with the action of the governor.
 “In fact, his action portends that religious extremism is not superior to the laws of the land. Rules must be strictly followed without exception from any quarters. Religious centres should obtain approval from relevant government agencies before erecting structures therein and must keep their noise level to the acceptable standard,” he said.
 Mr Christopher Anani, a resident of Shomolu, also said the action of the government was a right step in the right direction, adding that no interest group should dictate to the state how rules should be enforced.
 “We should see the government’s action as humanitarian rather than subterranean or attempt by government to stem religious activities. There must be sanity. Noise kills and is counterproductive to our health,” he stated.
 But Mr Peter Olaosebikan, a church elder, said Governor Ambode could incur the wrath of God if he continues to shut down religious houses.
 “There are more fundamental things for the governor to do to improve the lives of Lagosians rather  than wasting his efforts on shutting down worship centres in the state. Pursuing the cause would amount to fighting God. Governor Ambode and his cabinet should be very careful about things that affect the worship of God,” he said.
 The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), however, said that the closure of the churches and mosques, among others, over noise pollution by the Lagos State government was in order.
 Director of the group, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, said the clampdown was a further proof that the Lagos State government was ready to walk its talk as the action was a bold step to rid the state of environmental nuisance.
 According to him, the development also proved that the state government was committed to the improvement of health of its citizens as well as the maintenance of decorum, civilised living, law and order.
 He added: “We call on the owners of the affected religious houses, their pastors and Imams as well as Lagosians in general to take the action of LASEPA in good faith and to turn a new leaf. This is no case of victimisation or abuse of fundamental human rights. The fact is that Nigerians are fond of abusing religion. Nigeria is the only country in the world where people hide under the canopy of freedom of religion to infringe on Allah-given fundamental human rights of others.
“It is our contention that ignorance, arrogance, callousness, lack of respect for the rule of law as well as crass impunity are factors responsible for noisemaking in places of worship. We therefore invite LASEPA to lay more emphasis on educating Lagosians on the effects of noise pollution on residents.” 

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