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Curbing Noise Pollution

News Introduction: 
The axe of Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, LASEPA, falls on seven churches for violating the state’s environmental law. - By ’Tunde Babalola

For authorities of Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, LASEPA, it is always good to bite. Last February, the agency shut down seven churches for violating the law on environmental pollution. The churches, which fell by LASEPA axe, include the Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Ministry; Bible Church, FESTAC; the branch of Christ Church, Oregun; Assemblies of God Church, Ikeja; Golden Gate Church, Ifako-Ijaiye and Seek and Save Ministry, Abule Egba.
LASEPA general manager, Rasheed Shabi said the action became imperative after several abatement notices issued to them were disregarded. He enjoined worship centres in the state to comply with the state’s standard on noise and suggested the use of sound proof equipment in these centres to reduce noise during their services.
The Lagos government had in June 2009 come out with a law banning religious organisations from using external loudspeakers during worship. Music shops were also told to reduce the noise of music from their shops. Shabi had met with religious bodies and music shops operating in the state and impressed it on them to obey the new order, which he said was creating nuisance to other residents of the state. 
The order was however not obeyed, forcing the state government to sign a memorandum of understanding, MoU with the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Lagos State branch in July 2010. The agreement allows religious organisations to control the noise emanating from their worship centres to nationally acceptable limit of 55 decibels, db during the day and 45 db at night. Following this, churches and mosques in the state were directed to immediately remove all external speakers from their worship centres. The churches shutdown were the ones which refused to obey the order.
Logaosians are divided on the imperatives of government action. A lady who simply identified herself as Christabel accused government of bias. “Did the Lagos State government shut churches down because of noise or because those in the authorities are Muslim.” Christabel insisted that there are many mosques that produce more noise pollution than churches, especially in the early hours of the day. Another resident, Jessica Osurere said the Muslims’ call to prayer is enough disturbances. “Streets (and) roads are covered with mats during their jumat services even right inside Oshodi Market; so why must government’s hammer descend on only churches?” She queried. 
But Rev. Olawale Aina of the Methodist Church Sogunle supported government’s action on noise pollution. Aina stated that there is no need to imply sentiment to the order. “I am a minister, but to say the truth, more Christians are culprits. It is as if we are competing to make noise.” An Islamic group, Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, also condemned the use of external loud speakers during religious worship. The president of the group, Dr Ishaq Akintola said the use of public address system had been grossly abused in churches and mosques particularly in the past 10 years. According to him, Lagos used to be a sane society where people slept peacefully and researched without let or hindrance but regretted that religious overzealousness has gripped Lagosians. While noting that no civilised country in the world allows such confusion in its society, Dr Akintola said the MURIC was in total support of the Lagos State action on the ban of the use of loud speakers and musical instruments during religious services. 
Scientific evidence indicates that continuous exposure to noise level above 85 db in the day can lead to hearing impairment and other health problems. Experts say it can raise blood pressure, increase heart beat rates, result in headaches, loss of concentration and reduce quality of work and service.
Nigerians are daily exposed to different type of noise. There is noise arising from generating sets, grinding machines, rickety vehicles and indiscriminate blaring of horns. Noise also emanate from music shops and from worship centres.  
Lagos State is however the only state with a law to control noise pollution. But this is only limited to worship centres and music shops. The government is yet to come out a law on other noise pollution such as from generating machines, now mostly used by Nigerians because of the epileptic power supply from the public energy source.

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