Monday, April 29, 2013

Community battle Lagos church over noise pollution

The Church

There seems to be no end in sight to the feud between residents of Mojisola Street, Ifako-Ijaiye, Lagos State and Evangelical Apostolic Church.
The residents are accusing the church, owned by Prophet Olatunji Talabi, aka Lesekese, of causing noise pollution in the area anytime it holds its services.
They said the noise emanating from speakers at the church, which was under construction, was “deafening”.
It was learnt that a number of petitions had been sent to the state government over the issue.
In one of the petitions signed by Olusegun Olomofe, and sent to Governor Babatunde Fashola, the residents stated that government agency in charge of controlling such excesses was incapable of performing its statutory function..
The petition reads in part, “Since Evangelical Apostolic Church moved into the neighbourhood, its activities have been inimical to the general well-being of the residents and the noise level unbearable.
“Many elderly residents are not able to sleep whenever their service is in session.”
The Chairman, MEGA Community Development Association, Mr. A.A. Bilesanmi, also showed our correspondent some letters of complaint written by the association to the police, Lagos State Environment Protection Agency and the Lagos State Government.
The MEGA CDA is made up of upper and lower Mojisola Street; Emmanuel Olorunfemi Street; Alimi Ogunyemi Street; Prince Ajenifuja Street and Gbagba Crescent.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the government initially replied the residents of the street.
The environmental protection agency wrote to the Chairman of the Mojisola Street Residents Association, Mr. Oye Balogun, saying the church had agreed to stop using external speakers; loud musical instruments, microphones and drums except on Sundays.
The letter by LASEPA said, “Sunday services should hold between 8am and 1pm. Evening services, including Sundays, should not exceed 8pm. Vigils should be reduced to once a month and must be without loudspeakers and musical instruments. The church is to ensure good neighbourliness with residents in the area.”
However residents complained that nothing had changed.
Balogun, an 81-year-old retiree, said, “I am a retiree and I am old; all I want to do at this age is to eat and rest since I am not working anymore; but the level of the noise makes that difficult.
“We can’t say that they shouldn’t worship because freedom of worship is entrenched in the constitution of this country but the freedom to make noise is not allowed. We have been to the Ministry of the Environment but no action was taken. There was a time that LASEPA locked up the church but it was only for a few hours.”
There was a service going on when PUNCH Metro visited the church on Wednesday morning and observed that, indeed, the noise from the church was deafening.
One of the church’s pastors, Ilesanmi Oluwasakin, who spoke with our correspondent, said the church was being antagonised by the some Muslims in the executive of the CDA.
He said, “It is because three out of the executive members are Muslims, that’s why they want the church shut down. After they reported, LASEPA came to investigate and closed the church. But when they realised that there was no problem, they allowed us to reopen.
“We have reduced the number of speakers we use. And after the residents started deflating the tires of vehicles belonging to our congregants, we bought a space for parking. We only have vigils once a month.”
The General Manager of LASEPA, Mr. Rashees Shabi, said the noise pollution made by EAC ahd been reported to his office.
He said, “After the complaints were made, we shut down the church twice. The last time we closed it down was in May 2012. For us to open it again, an agreement was reached between all parties, including LASEPA.
“We decided that there shouldn’t be external loud speakers and no vigil until the church building is completed. That agreement was signed by the complainants and the church.
“So when the executive members of Mojisola Street saw that EAC had breached the terms of the agreement, why didn’t they report to LASEPA?
“If the residents report and we found that the church still pollutes the environment with noise, LASEPA would shut down the church indefinitely.”

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