•Religious houses, preachers, bar owners, others shun govt warning over menace
By Cosmas Omegoh
Every day as dawn approaches, residents of a part of Ijeshatedo in Surulere, Lagos, are brutally woken from their slumber. Usually, at that time of the day, most people, young and old, are still in bed enjoying their sleep and conserving their energies to face the challenges the new day will bring. But about that time also, some people are already awake. Perhaps, they have been busy with other businesses while the rest of men sleep. On account of this group of people, some people insist that Lagos never sleeps.
Once it is past the hour of five o’clock, a croaky voice usually rings out from a building on one of the streets in the neighbourhood, amplified by a public address system. The voice belongs to a Muslim cleric, calling people to prayers. His rendition thunders out from a private mosque in the building. In no time, it grows in intensity and gradually climbs to a high decibel. The caller’s message is usually delivered in both Yoruba and Arabic languages. And as it thunders through, it forcefully shatters what is left of the stillness of the night, doing so in a most vexing manner. However, some residents may have adopted it as their wake up call.
Also, about the same time, a cacophony of calls keeps wafting through the waves, coming from a couple of mosques located around the area. They are also amplified by some address systems mounted on private places of worship calling Muslim faithful to dawn prayers.
It’s not only the Muslims that make the early-morning calls, though theirs might be the loudest. Some Christian evangelists also choose the period to announce, over public address systems, that there are grave consequences for those that have not given their lives to Christ.
One of those fateful mornings, this correspondent ventured out to see how some religious persons seem to violate the privacy of others, thereby contributing to the mosaic of noise pollution at dawn. Just as the Muslim call to prayer was on, two men and a woman stood preaching at a junction on a street off Adeshina Street in Ijeshatedo area. They approached every passer-by at that hour, thrusting some religious tracts into their hands. The lead man had a microphone in his hand as he preached, doing so forcefully. His words escaped like missiles and seemed to hit the neighbourhood like a thunderbolt. They were being blared by a public address system mounted on a metal stand with two speakers sitting on it, each one facing a different direction. The loudness of the message forcefully unsettled the peace of the neighbourhood in its brutality. The noise could be heard a long way off.
Further down the road and in adjoining streets, some pockets of preachers – men and women – held sway in twos. Some were solo. They were members of a popular church in Ijeshatedo now making waves. A couple of them had their megaphones slung to their shoulders. They were unrelenting.
Meanwhile, some residents of the area off Adeshina Street in Ijeshatedo have been lamenting that since a certain Islamic cleric became their neighbour about a year ago, they have not known peace. According to Daily Sun investigation, beginning from mid-morning every Friday, the cleric fixes two special public address systems, which blare recorded messages that serve as precursor to the Friday Islamic prayers.
“We have never had it this way since that alfa moved into our street last year,” a landlord, Mr. Olakunle, told the correspondent. “I have been living here since 1983; I know what I’m talking about.” He regretted that noise pollution had become the order of the day in the neighbourhood.
“In the mid-morning of every Friday, that man mounts a loud speaker, which blasts some pre-recorded preaching. From that time till people gather for prayers at about 1.30pm, no one here knows any breather. It is noise, noise and noise all the way. Even after the afternoon prayers, they keep preaching for hours.
“At some point, we the landlords and other concerned tenants went to meet with him in protest. We told him that he was disturbing the peace of the area, particularly about those hours every Friday. Since then, he had mellowed down a bit but we are still being disturbed all the same.”
According to Daily Sun investigation, the mosque in question conducts daily Islamic prayers, blaring it with its loudspeakers. This is the challenge residents of the community have had to deal with over the months. And as it seems, the story is the same in some other parts of Lagos.
Also within the same Ijeshatedo and some other parts of Lagos metropolis, there are uncountable number of Christian worship centres competing for space and attention. On Sundays and during their weekdays and vigil sessions, they are a pain in the neck. Some of them have loud speakers mounted on their house roofs, which spew loud messages that can be heard miles off. Their drumming during their worship sessions put their neighbours on edge. Even at wee hours of the night, they sustain high-tempo noises that leave many in their neighbourhood awake and seething all night with anger.
“Anytime I’m looking for a new accommodation, I’m always careful not to rent any apartment close to a place of worship,” a man, Ikechukwu Onyeka, told Daily Sun. “In Itire area where I once lived, a church literally chased me away. It was located a house away from ours. It seemed people were living right inside the church. There was no time of the day they didn’t have activities. There was no night they didn’t organise loud vigils, drumming and dancing. Every Friday night we hardly slept; they rudely kept us all awake. You can understand what that means to our health.
“All entreaties to them to scale down their night-time activities were rebuffed. They carried on as if we didn’t matter. It was terrible,” he stated, shrugging.
Even in some residential areas, some relaxation centres, hotels and eateries have over the years sprung up. Many hitherto inhabiting such spaces have been displaced. The disturbing aspect is the loud music played by live bands, which entertained numerous fun seekers, who flock to such spots. This is a handful for many, as activities at such entertainment centres sometimes never cease until dawn. The loud musical renditions keep many awake all night most days. Many endure this unending even without raising even a whimper.
A first-time visitor might have to conclude that Lagos is a noisy city after witnessing loud street parties during the just concluded Eid-el-Kabir celebrations. In most neighbourhoods across the city, many were celebrating. Some families paid live bands that played for hours in the day and night. As they partied, they sacrificed the peace and comfort of their neighbours. The situation is the same when most residents are organising their weddings, birthdays, funerals and naming ceremonies.
Just as you are leaving a party scene, you are bound to be richly entertained at every turn by roadside music vendors, who in themselves, are agents of noise pollution in Lagos. At the popular Ijesha Bus Stop for instance, they are always on top of their game. Their loud speakers blast the music at very high decibels, even as the noise from two makeshift shops adjacent to one another is deafening. On some days the shop operators seem to be fighting to outdo one another by drawing attention to their collections of the works of popular musical artistes occupying top spots on the chart. Everyone is unfazed at this development. People, particularly petty traders and artisans, who have their businesses in the area carry on as though nothing is at stake. When they need to talk to their neighbours they do so loudly or even by gesticulating because they are hamstrung by the loudness of the music.
All around the city too, there are scores of motorised vendors selling films, work of music and other products. There are also companies whose agents gather at popular street corners and junctions to organise product promos. Each one is blaring their music loudly trying to attract the attention of customers. This scenario often subsists for as long as their event lasts. Even in the days when the schools are about to reopen, scores of private secondary and nursery schools organise road shows seeking to woo parents to register their children. In doing these, the peace of the neighbourhood is violated.
There are also bus conductors, soliciting passengers at the popular bus stops, doing so at the top of their voices. They are everywhere at Yaba, Ojuelegba, Ojota CMS, Mile 2, Obalende and other bus stations across the city. Over the decades, their actions have been legendary. Once at such public places, they cannot be mistaken. A blend of their vocals is a study in chaos; only a market place resembles anything near it. Some of the drivers’ union members add to the growing calamity by deploying public address systems, which announce various destinations to passengers, thus contributing to the already noisy environment.
In a bid to tackle this menace, the state government created the Lagos State Environment Protection Agency, LASEPA, and charged it with the responsibility of dealing with issues associated with noise pollution and allied matters relating to the environment.
Its mandate is to “safeguard environmental quality that is consistent with the social and economic needs of the state, so as to protect health, welfare, property and quality of life.”
As part of efforts to fight noise pollution, LASEPA’s General Manager, Mr Adebola Shabi said that the agency had had to forbid live band music at restaurants, entertainment centre and allied joints in the state. He said the decision was taken following rising complaints against such spots that they were clear sources of noise pollution.
He recalled that the state government at some point had to close down 70 churches, 20 mosques and about 11 hotels, clubhouses and beer parlours with a view to scaling down the level of noise being generated by such centres. “As at today, we have been able to reduce the noise level to only about 35 per cent. That is not a pass mark. So, until we reach that target of 70 to 80 per cent, we will continue the enforcement. We want to ensure that Lagos is noise-free by the year 2020.”
Mr Shabi, while lamenting the dangers posed by the growing level of noise pollution in the state, had warned: “Nobody is allowed to make noise above 55 decibel during the day in the residential area and only 45 decibel is allowed in such area at night. In the industrial areas, 90 decibel noise is allowed during the day while noise rate must not exceed 80 decibel at night in such areas.”
He viewed the flagrant violation of the environment through noise pollution as an abuse of the law, warning Lagos residents to desist from the action.
As it is, such warnings have not yielded the expected fruits, as the perpetrators have continued.
A report by Andrea Lewis in Holistic Health and Living, and published in September 18, 2016 affirmed that noise pollution could shorten one’s lifespan.
The report partly noted: “A multitude of studies have established that IHD (ischemic heart disease), hypertension, anxiety and stress can be triggered or exacerbated, by noise pollution. Stress and anxiety alone can worsen both hypertension and IHD, as well as other cardiovascular disease. And it’s worth noting that IHD (specifically) has been the number one cause of death worldwide for many years now. None can doubt that IHD, and other cardiovascular diseases, lead to a shorter lifespan.”