After siesta, Lagos goes tough on noisemakers
AKIN’S trauma seems to be spilling overboard this morning. Walking through the busy Awolowo way in Ikeja, Lagos, he felt like a sole survivor of a bombed city. His vision is not helping matters either.
At some point he saw only rubbles and wanton destruction around him, and soon, real human beings in commercial activities for the day.
Persistent honks of motorists were like needles pricking his brain. In another moment, the blares were like sounds from a distant city. He was almost crushed by an oncoming train, crossing the rail track on Ikeja-Along a while ago.
This time, Akin was completely dead to the deafening locomotive honk and screams directed at him. He was thought to be on a suicide mission.
Actually, he was in crisis and his thoughts in disarray. Arriving at his workplace (a popular manufacturing company in Ogba) in one piece, a medical cross-examination at the staff clinic revealed a common trend that is not unconnected with chronic stress and attendant malfunctioning of the brain. “How was your sleep last night?” the head doctor inquired.
Akin had barely slept a wink all night. Having retired early after the day’s work, Akin had desired sleep that wouldn’t come. About two hours of tossing and turning in bed, power outage gave way to ruckus roar of various sizes of generating sets in the neighborhood. The cacophony reverberated all night to keep Akin on vigil.
As if his unruly neighbours had conspired, the generating sets started going off at 4a.m. As he was dozing off the morning, a mega phone crackled from the street.
Then the voice of a preacher: “Praise da Lord! Brothers and Sisters, If you love da Lord, south Halleluya.” Now directed at his window, the blare grew louder. “I say good morning to ya all… I bring you good news from the Lord our God…”
Akin’s head and heart pounded simultaneously. His bedside digital clock beamed 05:05. “…I want you to rise up and begin confessing ya sins…”
At 5:30, it was time to get up; otherwise he would be late for work. “It was like a nightmare,” Akin told the doctor. “And that has been the routine for sometime,” the doctor asked, and Akin reckoned.
According to experts, Akin is one of many Nigeria’s having psychosomatic condition on account of the persistently noisy environment around here.
Be it in workplaces, market corridors, bus stops or residential settings, noise can cause hearing loss, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, annoyance, worsen schizophrenia, anxiety disorder and sleep disturbance.
Experts agreed that the effects are worst of in developing countries, particularly in chaotic cities like Lagos; where over 65 per cent of residents were estimated to be traumatized due to daily exposure to injurious sounds that are high up in volume.
Public health physician, Dr. Olujimi Sodipo noted that the effect of noise pollution is far-reaching among both young and old. Among the young, noise affects sleep pattern and ultimately the growth and general well being.
Changes in the immune system and birth defects have been attributed to noise exposure in some climes. “It is a big challenge to public health because several of the chronic medical problems we are seeing now in Nigeria are either traced to noise-related stress, or worsened by it.
Already affected are our morbidity and mortality rate,” Sodipo said. He said we only needed to imagine an Akin (mentioned above) getting crushed by the train, a child sleeping during school hours and a fellow that dozed off behind the wheels — to understand the immediate effects.
As a practitioner at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, Sodipo has seen many elderly with complaints of high blood pressure. “Their environment is noisy and they cannot just rest well. Most of them are having hearing loss that requires specialized treatment that is not readily available in this country,” Sodipo said.
The state government has never pretended to be unaware of the challenges of noise pollution, among other environmental offences due to flagrant abuse of the public space.
The Lagos State Environmental Protection Law and its enforcement agency, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) were products of state government’s efforts to curb abuses for the sake of public health.
The environmental protection regulations though forbids use of high-density speakers and megaphones in the open spaces, the lawmakers appears unprepared for the strict enforcement of this law due to religious sensitivity of the state.
This was self-evident at a recent plenary of the Lagos State House of Assembly where the House was to move a motion to silent noise-related environmental abuses, especially from the religious centres.
Though unanimous on the problem at hand, the lawmakers could not agree on a simple logical solution to completely outlaw the deafening amplified speakers.
While some lawmakers saw no sense in deafening a host community in the name of worship, others said the nuisance value of these worshipers had to be tolerated because the churches and mosques alike would still be central to their re-election bid a few years from now.
The executive arm of government that enforces laws has been more proactive until a recent lull. The Lagos No-Horn Day last October was an eye-opener that the noise could actually go down in volume, with improved sensitisation and strict enforcement of the law in recalcitrant cases.
Apparently waking up from their siesta since last October, LASEPA last week shut several religious houses, industries and clubhouses for contravening the State guidelines on noise, air and other environmental pollutions.
General Manager of LASEPA, Ademola Shabi, said the clampdown was a renewed effort to sanitise the public sphere, in response to several complaints received from residents in the state. Shabi said that the enforcement exercise, still on going, was not to witch-hunt any religious sect, but for strict compliance to environmental rules and regulations for better health in the state.
In total were 30 religious houses shut; two industries, one television house (MITV), hotels and club houses for various environmental offences.
As at yesterday, about 80 per cent of them had been re-opened after meeting certain conditions that includes fines. According to Shabi, “When one is exposed to noise level of about 150 decibel for six hours, such person could have deafness. “In industrial areas, noise level is meant to be at 90 decibel in the day and 80 decibel at night.
In areas where we called mixed (residents and industry), during the day, the noise pollution is expected to be at 65 decibel and at night 55 decibel. “In the last four years, we have been receiving lots of complains from the residents of Lagos complaining over the increase in the level of noise pollution in the state especially from religious house and club houses,” he said.
While some residents gave kudos to the state government and LASEPA for being alive to their responsibilities, a lot others felt the enforcement were really far in between.
Ademola Akande, resident in Ijesha, Amuwo-Odofin area of the State said the regulatory authority appeared to be selective in its enforcement, with reference to a popular church in his neighborhood.
According to Akande, “Until the state government really come down hard on the so-called big religious centres, nobody will take them seriously. This church around here (Ijesha) is notorious for making noise both day and night.
Does it mean that LASEPA is unaware of that? Why have they not been sanctioned? Or stop their members that are often going into neighbours very early in the morning to wake people up? That is why I said the authorities were being selective in enforcing the rules.”
Another resident, Mathias Ogu, was of the view that the state government has to come clear on the rules and regulations, with improved sensitisation.
Ogu added that law enforcement would be more meaningful, if the state begins with public places, “to regulate all manner of road shows, sales outlets, religious rallies, street DJs, street evangelists and the use of heavy duty generating sets in residential areas among others.”
Sodipo also reckoned that it was high time the government had come up with a strong policy that would go down all communities and streets to measure noise level per time, and ensure a control measure.
But the state environmental protection agency (LASEPA) is not without its own challenges too, in enforcing the laws. Shabi stressed that enforcement had to be gradual, but steady, considering the sensitivity of the stakeholders involved and wide scope for coverage. In the aftermath of last week clampdown, Shabi spiritual attack on some of his staffers after the agency shut down some religious places.
The engineer, however, said that as a scientist, he would not be deterred in his resolve to ensure a safe and serene environment for Nigerians and other residents of the State.
According to him, “Some of these places that call themselves religious houses; to me, only God knows who is worshipping him. Like the enforcement we did last week, I tell you, it affected some of my staff; one of them now has eye problem. “But for me as a scientist, I don’t believe in all those things, even though they exist, I have to do my job.
My job is to see that Lagosians live in peace and show love to the environment. You can be herbalist or be anything else, that is your fundamental right,” he said. He said further that the next port of call for the enforcement train is the popular computer village in Ikeja and major bus stops across the state.