LAGOS AND NOISE POLLUTION IN THE NAME OF RELIGION

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Justin Akpovi-Esade PixThe day Ifa priests, Hare Krishna and adherents of other religions decide to team up with supposed Christian and Muslim faithful to start preaching early in the mornings as well as holding night vigils, that will be the beginning of chaos in Lagos and perhaps some parts of the country…and to think there are laws enacted in Lagos to safe guard citizens from this growing noise pollution and fanatical religious attacks! Pity.

I had an appointment for 7.30am on Friday, June 6, 2014, so I woke up very early to set out because of Lagos’ notorious traffic. I am a stickler for time, my bad luck, because I am supposed to be a Nigerian who should be familiar with ‘African time’. As I groped in the dark (of course the generator was put off by 12 midnight when I went to bed) looking for the torchlight positioned strategically on the centre table, the sound came like a cackle at first, very incoherent and faded away. It was a familiar sound anyway, so I went about the business of getting ready for my appointment. Like a mother hen giving signs to its little chicks, the Alfa probably woke his fellow Alfas up with that cackle from an obviously faulty Public Address system. But his ‘brothers’ PAs were not as faulty. Some minutes to 5am, the cacophony of sound booming from about four mosques in my neighborhood gave the impression that the area is under attack from God knows what. I am supposed to be use to that already having lived in Lagos for almost two decades, but am I?

I thought that would be enough for the morning dose but alas, I was wrong, so wrong. As if beaten to the mark, two voices from nowhere emerged to join the fray and add to residents’ misery. They were the Christian counterparts of the Muslim Alfas. The male voice spoke in Yoruba while the female voice did the interpretation in English. From the female, one could pick a fragment of what the preacher was saying, of course, it was about going to heaven, e pass dat one?  Well, I was happy that at least I could contend with four Alfas and two Christian preachers. It turned out to be a mere wishful thinking. Minutes later, a thick, guttural voice jolted me back to reality that the ordeal was just starting for those still asleep in that area of Surulere. This Christian preacher was so vociferous and aggressive in his style of preaching that I was afraid he may start breaking down doors in his effort to preach Christ. From my living room, I could picture how he was marching back and forth on the street, nodding and perhaps kicking the air with the microphone clutched tightly in his fist. From his voice texture, I believe he must be a tall, huge man in his middle age. I may be wrong because years of preaching violently like that could have torn up the fragile throat ligaments, thereby permanently making him sound coarse. Funny enough, I was anxious to see how this new attacker looked. I could not go downstairs at that time of the morning and I knew he would be long gone before I would get to my car. I missed a golden opportunity of proving my theories right or wrong.

I have a question, a very important one for that matter; who actually listens to these early morning preaching? In a country where church programs hold from Monday through Sunday at all times, who listens to these itinerant preachers, Muslims or Christians?  Are they aware of the environmental nuisance they are turning themselves into? Has anybody reminded the Christians especially, that Jesus said in the Bible that only Pharisees and Sadducees pray and preach in the open to display their piousness? And even if you must win souls for your faith, must you disturb the entire neighborhood while doing that? When the Jehovah’s Witnesses quietly go from door to door preaching the word of God, no matter how widely despised they are, do they attempt to bust your ear drums and put in God’s words? Oh, some will argue that they invade people’s privacies, but there has not been a recorded incident of you denying a Jehovah’s Witness entry to your house and he/she insists on coming in by force. Can’t other religions’ preachers take a cue from that instead of depriving us early morning sleep which is considered the best part of sleep?

As I drove out of my premises I couldn’t help but wonder again what has become of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola and his state assembly’s law announced with a flourish some time ago that no religious centre should disturb others in the course of their worship! What happened to the order that all Public Address systems perched on walls of mosques and churches be retrieved and placed inside for only worshippers to enjoy the noise? Who are the enforcers of this law?

The Abia State government recently cautioned religious centers on this noise pollution issue. I do not know if Abians are enjoying relative peace at the moment after the caution but in Lagos, the road to having some form of peace is a long one. It is only in Lagos that you have to contend with noises from churches, mosques, music record sellers and your neighbor’s loud music set.

It is only in Lagos that commercial bus drivers popularly called ‘danfos’ deliberately install horns made for heavy duty vehicles in their buses and use it to blast other motorists and other road users off the road with all pleasure. A commercial motorcyclist and tricycles (keke Marwa) are in competition with their danfo counterparts; they have in their machines, car horns which they blare in childish excitement and nothing more.

As long as government continues to pay lip service to noise pollution especially as it concerns religious worship centers (because of its perceived sensitive nature), residents of cities like Lagos would continue to bear the brunt of their insensitive actions. How sad…some of my friends have long advised me to get used to it, after all, they say “this is Lagos!”

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