Lagos Gas and Noise War!

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

Dan Omerhi, 38-year old laboratory technician got married to his American heartthrob, Amanda a couple of weeks ago. His plan was to relocate with his wife to the states right away there were many hurdles he had to clear, particularly with the new ‘open door secure borders’ policy of the American government after 9/11. Omerhi lives in Festac Town, very close to Mile 2 and he says that whenever there is power outage in that estate of his, nearly all the power-generators in every home come alive like some howling monsters. He compares living in that estate to living in a giant power-generating factory. Another resident of the Lagos State Property Development Corporation in Ebutte Meta, LSDPC, Richie Aniekan concurs. He considers his estate a dangerous place to live because there is no end to the use of power generating sets. ‘’You need to be here at night to feel the way the estate vibrates when everyone runs their generators’’, he says.

Yet, if noise from power-generators and the fumes they emit appear restricted to residential areas, you need to drive around some major streets of Lagos to also discover that the threat of pollution from power generators is not restricted to residential estates and locations. At the Ikeja roundabout and at Ojuelegba where a horde of okada bike riders jostle for passengers, they rev their bikes in such a manner that leaves the whole of the environment in smog. In addition, as the many bus conductors close to the Ikeja roundabout shout at the top of their voices to attract passengers, owners of kiosks who sell music videos and movies in compact discs, CDs, display their wares by playing these CDs at extremely high volumes. Yamaha 950 power-generating sets are to be seen by about 80 per cent of all the kiosks in that vicinity. Take for instance the antics of Osita Ike, 25, who manages a musical sales outfit in Ikeja. With two large amplifiers and three speakers mounted atop the roof of his store, he says he plays his ‘soft’ music for his own ‘injoyment ‘rather than make a noise or pollute the environment. According to him, ‘my neighbours insist that I raise the volume of the songs I play because they want to listen in as well’’. If you were there, you would tell him to tell that to the birds, because Ike is involved in a commercial battle with nearly all of those at that roundabout trying really hard to attract a customer or two to take a look-see to their wares.

To determine at what level this entire scenario constitutes a problem, I sought the views of some experts. Anthony Anyaemeluna is an ear, nose and throat, ENT, physician who was a consultant to Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC on health and environment safety and has a clinic at Isolo, Lagos. He says that several factors such as duration of exposure to sounds and the pitch of the sound determine the impact on the eardrums. ‘Before sounds such as these can cause any damage to the ears and risk your health, they have to be at least 90 decibels on a consistency of eight hours’’, Anyaemeluna says. He insists that this may result in permanent damage to the eardrums, probably the reason some people have to shout and be shouted at before they hear what is said to them. According to the physician, ‘’a lot of businesses have guidelines and regulations on health and safety but there is no formal law in place in the wider society, to prosecute offenders. What subsists is the rule of the thumb’’. Bamisayo Oluwagbemi is a corporate occupational hygienist. In a book he has written, Themes and Issues in Occupational Health and Safety, and the contents of which he confirmed in a telephone interview, Oluwagbemi put it forward that noise as a risk to health is a double-edged sword that puts pressure on bodily functions such as blood pressure, changes in heart rate, hormonal levels and blood cholesterol. The biggest problems, according to Oluwagbemi, is what he describes as ‘acoustic trauma’ and ‘noise induced hearing loss’, NIHL, produced through ‘physical generating mechanisms’. He said that what was responsible for the unusually strong intensity of the sun, due in part to the depletion of the ozone layer, and recently observed inconsistencies of weather. Perhaps this is why Akinbode Oluwafemi of Environmental Rights Action, ERA, believes that the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, should do something very fast concerning the kind of horns that vehicles in Nigeria are allowed to use. According to him, Nigeria is quickly assuming the toga of the ‘noisiest street in the world’. Another, Peter Udoh, a businessman who describes himself as a ‘concerned Nigerian’ said that he just came back from Togo on a business trip. According to him, what he saw in the two weeks he spent in the capital city, Lome was far different compared to what obtains in Lagos. He said that, ‘cars above five years are never allowed into Lome under any circumstances’’. This is why, according to him, you may never get the kind of emissions from cars as is the case in Lagos. He avers too that Accra, Ghana is another capital where the regulatory bodies execute the strict policies of the kind in Lome, Togo. He berates the Nigeria government and its regulatory bodies and says he holds them responsible for the problem of noise in Lagos.

What I visited Ikoyi, supposedly an exclusive area for the nouveau rich, an acrid stench pervades, and particularly at the Keffi and Awolowo Roads. My investigations revealed that the canals from the Obalende Bridge are blocked with a mishmash of debris ranging from pure water bags, human waste and old tyres. The amusement park at the heart of the Obalende bus stop is abandoned, apparently from the theatre of noise and foul smell that has taken over the place. There is a mountain of filth at the foot of the entrance to the third mainland bridge and commuters are to be seen clutching their nostrils as they wait for buses. Even though some residents like Omorontionwan Friday say that he has lived in the Obalende police barracks for years, he said he could barely notice the filth and ‘feel’ the stench.

Experts like Anyaemeluna say they agree with Oluwafemi of ERA, that the appropriate regulatory bodies should move in quickly. ‘’If they don’t do something now, Lagosians may face a situation in the near future where they will be completely overwhelmed by noise and filth’’, he says.

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1 comment

Tokunbo October 30, 2008 - 4:57 pm

I can relate to your article, On my last visit to Nigeria, I was woken up each morning by Muslims blaring Allahu Akbar from their loudspeakers in the very early hours of the morning and at night I was kept up by Christians blasting Christian music and singing loudly into their own loudspeakers, it appeared to be a competition of who can outdo the other.


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