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Smart move against noise in Lagos

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The move against noise pollution by the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) cannot come too soon and it receives our full approval. If the state is to deserve its appellation as a centre of excellence, if the city of Lagos is to earn its much sought-after tag as a modern megalopolis, if Lagosians are to deserve priding themselves as the most sophisticated of the almost 200 million Nigerians, noise should not be tolerated in the environment. It is against all that is appropriate to a civilised community. From Agege and Ketu, through Yaba to Lekki, officials of the agency have woken up to their duty to make a few examples of the price of polluting the environment with noise in defiance of a series of warnings and notices earlier issued by the authorities.

Noise is any unwanted sound that therefore disturbs and causes discomfort. A LASEPA document describes it further as ‘‘an unwanted, unpleasant, annoying and excessive sound produced from natural or anthropogenic sources, (humans or animals) which are capable of harming the environment and other organisms.’’  Noise causes physical, emotional and psychological harm that include, as LASEPA rightly states, auditory defect, health impact, occupational hazard and accident.  The technology driven realities of modern living come, inescapably with associated negative values one of which is noise. Thus, the numerous sources of noise that Lagosians and modern man generally must live with include industrial noise, generators, vehicular, air and rail traffic. Other noise generators are religious groups and their itinerant evangelists, advertisers using public address systems, road shows and public entertainers for myriad reasons.

Whereas a measure of noise attends these facts of life, it is well known that the noise levels can be controlled to a level tolerable to human convenience and comfort. It is done elsewhere and it can be done in this clime.  This informs the National Environmental (Noise Standards and Control) Regulations 2009, (NER, 2009) which is the noise control component of the extant National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act, 2007.

NER 2009 is a reasonably detailed document that, faithfully enforced by the relevant agency, will instill sanity to the noisy Nigerian environment. It specifies in decibels, subject to exemption permit by NESREA, the ‘‘maximum permissible noise levels’’ in different areas – residential, industrial, places of worship, places of entertainment, even in ‘‘accelerating vehicles including two-stroke engines.’’

Part II Section 5(1) of NER, 2009 states that ‘‘No person shall emit or cause to be emitted, or permit the emission of noise resulting from any action or activity specified in sub-regulation 2…if that noise is a disturbance to the receptor or in the neighbourhood for more than two minutes or is within the prohibited time in a residential area or Noise Control zone…’’.  Indeed, this provision covers such human generated noise as ‘‘ringing of bells or gongs and the blowing of horns or sirens or whistle…, ‘playing of musical instrument or any electronic device …incorporating one or more loudspeakers… (for the) reproduction or amplification of sound’ S5 (2) (e-f).

This is to say that such acts as irresponsible blaring of vehicular horns by inconsiderate drivers, the use of sirens to clear the road by unauthorised persons or for unjustifiable reason and the blaring music from electronic shops and records shops  are punishable under this law.

Part IV (10)(1) allows that ‘‘any person may complain to the agency in writing if such a person considers that the noise levels being emitted, or likely to be emitted, may be higher than the permissible noise level…’’ Furthermore, ‘‘…it is not necessary for the complainant to show or prove personal loss or injury or discomfort caused by the emission of the alleged noise.’’  Again, this is to say – since NESREA agents cannot be everywhere – that every citizen who values his peace and quiet and sanity too, has both the duty and the authorisation to help to enforce the provisions of this regulation.

Having domesticated the federal law to create and empower LASEPA since 2014, to regulate on ‘‘acceptable standards or criteria to control the pollution level of water, air, noise and land…’’ it is regrettable to say that the agency has not at all lived up to its mandate.  The city of Lagos is as noise-polluted as it can get: every street is infested with one noisemaking house of worship or another; every street corner with blaring loudspeakers assaulting the ears and sensibility of passersby. At Ojuelegba, Ojota, Yaba, Oshodi and Ketu among other venues, transporters advertise their routes with as much loudspeaker-assisted noise as they can manage. This is needless because the routes are already on clear display in written signage on top of the next vehicle on queue.  At Jibowu and other locations, individuals always set up public address systems, arrange plastic chairs and begin to preach to whomsoever cares to listen. On the road, private and passenger vehicles that are absolutely not roadworthy move about emitting intolerable levels of noise.  This is not how to build a megacity.

Besides, LASEPA must not only sustain its new-found momentum, it must expand its enforcement effort to cover the public spaces in the state. Second, it needs the maximum cooperation of members of the public to reduce noise pollution in the environment. So, the agency must step up its public enlightenment that, as provided in the law, people have the right to complain and receive prompt attention from the regulatory body.

Third, the point must be made that LASEPA alone cannot enforce its regulations effectively.  Since members of the public suffer the inconvenient effect of noise pollution, they owe themselves the obligation to do their part assisting the agency to fulfill its mandate by reporting breaches of the law in their vicinity, or indeed, wherever it occurs. On its part, LASEPA may consider a simplified reporting procedure including dedicated telephone lines for that purpose. We believe that laws do work where and when the operators so will. This we urge LASEPA to prove right in its commendable move against noise pollution in Lagos.

Meanwhile, most state governors across the country should borrow a leaf from Lagos by protecting their citizens from the toxic effects of noise pollution. No one should hide under the cloak of religion to make Nigeria a nation of noisemakers.


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