Nigeria is said to be one of the most religious countries in the world. Its population is put at par between its two main religions – Christianity and Islam. Though most of its practitioners hardly admit the religion publicly, there is a meagre population of traditional religion followers in the country.
The religiosity of the country is evident in Abuja as Blueprint has lately observed a proliferation of worship centres in every available space, including recreational parks and gardens, shopping plazas and street walkways in the city.
Before now the agency in charge of Recreation Parks and Gardens declared war on worship centres and effectively removed about 200 of them allegedly constructed illegally at recreation gardens.
The agency said such places of worship constitute nuisance and a violation of the approved development plans issued to garden operators for the development of leisure spots.
However, today, the worship places are back with their noisy loud-speakers, equipment and shouts of prayer warriors. Most of them have relocated to hotels, business plazas and uncompleted buildings all over the city.
The churches now hire or rent halls at N50,000 to N100,000 an hour, depending on the location of the hotel, or lease business premises, including club halls, for their activities.
What is more worrisome is the large quantities of dirt from used and abandoned cellophane materials dropped within their environment where the churches are located after every programme and the refusal of church leaders to control or caution their followers to maintain some attitude of cleanliness.
But the most frustrating aspect is the deliberate blocking of roads by worshipers with either their vehicles or barricades and inconveniencing others users by preventing free access through routes leading to and from their places of worship. Muslims are fond of doing this on Fridays and Sundays.
A number of residents who spoke with Blueprint over the menace bared their anger over the pollution of their districts by noisy loud-speakers, musical shops, shouts of prayer warriors engaged by the churches and mosques.
A resident who lives near a mosque in Wuse Zone 1, Sandra Adiyipe, said: “I love it when people are worshiping God but what worries me is the manner the new generation churches spring up all over the place and carry out their activities without any sense of decency.
“They are known to inconvenience others by blocking the highway and shouting prayers or turn their public address system so high in a way that disturbs the neighbourhood as if God is deaf. I am surprised that the FCDA has just decided to reduce their number now. I thought this would have happened some years back before they increased. They are just too many”.
Another resident, Hussaini Barde, who lives in Utako said: “I and my family have endured the deafening loud-speakers from these worshipers patiently because we thought that it was the FCTA that gave them the space.
“It is good that they have been cleared. What do you think will happen if Muslims also move their mosques into the gardens? There could be an explosion due to conflict. These churches were springing up like mushrooms every day, everywhere before our eyes and nobody said anything.
“I must however advise the minister or whoever is in charge of clearing them to tread carefully so that the evil ones among us do not misinterpret the action and turn it into a religious problem.”
For Mr Tajudeen Isa, a public affairs commentator, the FCTA needs to put an end to the menace by not allowing the establishment of worship centres illegally.
Isa said building worship centres in recreation parks is a nuisance to fun-seekers and should be banned, adding that a stiff penalty should be meted on anybody that refuses to heed.
According to him,”henceforth, before a licence is issued for the erection of a worship centre, opinions of the people that live in the environment should be sought. It is bad to put up a worship centre where the neighbours don’t want it; that amounts to nuisance and pollution.”
He added that for Abuja to maintain its order and sanity, it is not beggars, hawkers and prostitutes that should be banned; worship centres need to be regulated too or a particular area should be created for them.
“Go to the US, UK, Italy and even Mauritius, a section of the capital cities are dedicated for religious activities. That is not the case here. Now we need to learn from, especially with the volatility of religions in the country,” he noted.