This is the second time in three months that the issue of noise pollution will engage my attention in this column. The first time was when I reacted to the clampdown on agents of noise pollution in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by the officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB).
As early as April, this year, the board’s management led by its acting Head of Environmental Monitoring and Enforcement, Mrs. Rebecca Mamven, had a cause to warn churches and mosques in the FCT to abide by the extant laws against noise pollution to avoid sanction.
Mrs. Mamven must have been worried by the gradual Lagosification of the FCT, as you will find out in due course.
She was quoted as saying, “We are appealing to religious houses, like mosques and churches in the FCT with speakers outside to please bring those speakers down, because it is noise pollution and is against the law.”
Mamven insisted that the level of noise for residential areas is pegged at 45 decibel during night time and 65 decibel in the daytime. For commercial areas, 70 decibel is permitted during the day, while 50 decibel is for night time. Since our economy is powered by generators, only those fitted with sound proof are allowed in the residential areas.
She hit the bull’s eye when she said that in other civilised countries of the world, religious houses are not involved in noise pollution, adding that most of them have sound proof facilities in their buildings. Mamven stated that it is not the level of noise that would make God hear the prayers of His people… as though He is a hard hearer!
During the regime of Barr. Raji Fashola as governor of Lagos where noise had held the entire city captive, his special adviser on religious matters, Rev. Sam Ogedengbe, had a huge problem of tackling noise pollutants in the state. Among the most troublesome sources of noise pollution are worship centres. Woe betide you if you live close to a (Pentecostal) church or a mosque, like I do now in Kubwa, which is one of the sprawling satellite towns in the FCT.
When the menace was getting out of hand, the state government created the Lagos State Environment Protection Agency (LASEPA) and saddled it with the responsibility of dealing with issues associated with noise pollution and allied matters relating to the environment.
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 centres 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. At some point, the agency 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.
I am not disputing the fact that nature has ordained human beings to be noisy. Imagine a world where everyone is dumb. In fact, the world has no place for the dumb which is the main reason why a child that refuses to utter any form of noise on delivery is spanked all over the place and turned upside down until he/she lets out a noise or even a whimper. Any sound would just be okay.
I was born into an orthodox church, precisely the Baptist denomination. The missionaries that shipped the system to Africa were peaceful in their modes of worship. So also were the other systems like the Roman Catholic Mission, the Methodists and Anglicans. Till date, they still sing from hymn books. You could share the same fence with an orthodox church and still enjoy your peace while their programmes are ongoing. And their supplications do not bounce back, neither are they lost in the clouds. For, as the Holy Book itself says, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
But the times have changed. The time-changers were the late Arch-Bishop Benson Idahosa, who rode on the wings of the Church of God Mission (CGM) and Pastor William Kumuyi of the Deeper Life Bible Church (DLBC) fame. The duo introduced what is popularly called Pentecostal system into the Nigerian Christian space in the early 70s. Owing to the mode of worship of the new generation church system, and the flamboyance it came with, the younger generations of Christians were instantly sucked in.
Pastor Kumuyi initially had problem swallowing the modernity hook, line and sinker. He introduced some caveat such as plaiting of hair with rubber threads, moderate dress code, no jewelry of any kind and covering of hair with berets. In fact, you could easily identify a DeeperLifer by those features. Kumuyi did not stop at the moderate appearances of his converts. He also decreed that all electronics in their homes should be destroyed because they were passports to hell! Many of them obeyed him.
What informed today’s piece was the health-threatening experience I had this week. I had returned home from work at about 10 pm on Sunday when I ran into a programme going on in one of the churches around my estate in Kubwa. The neighbourhood was already charged and I could feel the impact in my ears as the drums vibrated. Upon enquiring, I was told that the noise had been going on for some time, and that the church might be re-enacting the 72 hours of praise it had some months ago.
But what soon turned out to be public disturbance continued beyond 72 hours! By Tuesday morning, I woke as usual and attempted to get up from bed only to discover that everything around me was spinning. At first, I thought there was an earthquake! I quickly sat on the bed and tried to steady my eyes. But the more I tried to do that, the faster the objects in my bedroom, like the wardrobe, ceiling fan, shoe rack, etc., encircled me. The spinning turned out to be a symptom of malaria. I spent the Sallah break indoors, treating the attack and unable to go to work.
The programme ought to have ended on Wednesday night by our calculation but they added 24 hours as if to punish us the more in their quest for miracles. All through the programme, I kept wondering why the law against noise pollution in the FCT could not be enforced. Majority of those who turned the church into a hunting ground for miracles for 96 hours left their own neighbourhoods in peace only to come and kill our own sleep. Would they compensate me if and when they grab their miracles?
I am not against the way and manner my fellow Christians enlist to praise God. But in doing so, they should not endanger the health of those neighbouring their worship centres. The AEPB should grow the teeth to enforce the law on noise pollution without any further delay. For instance, Kubwa, like Jerusalem, is surrounded by mountains. They should be made to scout for locations on mountain tops (nearer to God?) where they can camp and hymn their praises to God for as long as they want… not because they so much love Him but mainly for the miracles they desperately seek. For those of you out there who pride yourselves in killing your sleep for whatever purpose, this may be of interest to you: the Medical News Today Magazine based in the United Kingdom strongly advises between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, especially for adults. Failure to achieve this target regularly could lead to memory issues. You would not be able to make new memory or retain information. According to the magazine, during deep sleep, the body restores various functions including memory and energy. Lack of good sleep for a long time which is common among those who have condemned themselves to eternal or frequent vigils comes with serious health challenges like high blood pressure, stress, obesity, diabetes, heart ailment, Alzheimer’s disease, mental issues, among others.
I have spoken!