Overture: Ssh in the City
The Lagos State Government has proscribed performances by live bands in pubs, joints and restaurants in the state, in what could be regarded as a renewed crusade against noise pollution in the state. The General Manager of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, Adebola Shabi, pointed out that this decision was necessitated by the increasing rate of complaints by residents. This is not its first time of cracking down on bodies for not complying with the extant laws on noise pollution in Lagos state. In June 2016, 70 churches, 20 mosques and 11 hotels, beer parlours and clubs were shut down for contravening the law.
Interlude: State Form Fool
Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria, prides itself as the country’s ‘Centre of Excellence’. In recent years, the state government has been relentless in uplifting the face of its territory to keep up with its ‘excellence’ tag and to meet the standard of other great cities and regions of the world. The government’s effort to transform Lagos into a mega city has been felt in transportation, housing, commerce, security and the infrastructures being put in place to make their lofty ambition a reality. One aspect of the ‘Lagos life’ that is yet to bear the mark of the transformative agenda of the state is the noise pollution that its inhabitants are grappling with.
Though a state bursting with excellence as its slogan constantly reminds people, the state has underwhelmed in its efforts to tame the beast that is noise pollution. Lagos is by far the noisiest city and state in the entire Nigerian federation and probably one of the noisiest places to live in Africa and in the world. Automobiles are disturbing by the sounds produced by their nagging engines and the hooting of horns by impatient commuters. Music record and movie hawkers go about with huge speakers booming out loud music and commercials in their attempts to attract prospective customers. The irresponsible and uncalled-for use of sirens by our political leaders and security personnel contributes to the noise. Loud noises blaring from churches and mosques are some of the pollutants that Lagosians contend with. Sometimes the noise is produced from elaborate parties. It is at sunsets that beer parlours, pubs, joints, restaurants and club houses come to life with live bands performing to the delight of people lusting after the entertainment pledged by the performers. A stranger to Lagos would most probably regard the scenario before him as a sort of riot or any other chaotic condition.
With the above near chaotic state picture of Lagos matched against its mega city ambition and the health danger that noise pollution poses, one cannot help but to justify the decision of the government. Be that as it may, it is just one way of looking at this issue. There is a side that the Lagos State Government should have looked at that was neglected. Perhaps if they had done so they would not have arrived at the decision they have taken.
Scherzo: No high notes, no high notes!
With Nigeria’s unemployment rate at an estimated 4.5 million, one would think that any masses-oriented government would seek to reduce the number and not to add to it. The action of the Ambode led Lagos State Government seems to have no qualms with adding to the number. He may not intend that but that is what his action is saying. Relaxation, hospitality and entertainment business is a long chain that includes the proprietors of the places, employees of the ventures, DJs, marketers, petty-traders, people in business relation with the enterprises and people who want to have some fun and take their minds off the problems of this country. Banning live bands will put off some people from work; affect economic activities and livelihoods of some people. This will add to the unemployed population of the country that if underemployed people are factored in, the figure will soar far above the estimated 4.5 million.
It is at these proscribed places that upcoming musical arts hone their skills. The renowned Highlife maestro Prince Nico Mbarga, whose ‘Sweet Mother’ is regarded as Africa’s anthem and a song that was voted as Africa’s favourite by BBC readers and listeners in 2004, started his career with a hotel band in the eastern part of Nigeria called The Melody Orchestra in 1970. His Rocafil Jazz reeled out their tunes from hotels around the country. We can go on and name several musical arts that started from the hotels, beer parlours and club houses. To most of this young people, music is what keeps them occupied, provides their daily bread and keep them at bay from crimes and the temptations to engage in them. We must heed to that ageless warning that says; na pesin whey no ghet work devil dey take do spanner for hin workshop.
Forget the complaints about disturbances from the live bands. This hospitality places and the good music they entertain us is the lifeline of Lagos. It is hard to conceive a Lagos without this side attractions or distractions; it depends on how you want to look at it. They are all over the state. They help Lagosians to unwind after a long working day or week. The ban on live bands is a severance of the people from what gives them joy and helps them relax from the stress of the hustle and bustle of Lagos life.
Intermission: All noise is equal, but some noise is more equal
In Nigeria, there has been a long standing mistrust between the government and the governed. It is no longer news that Nigerians regard those in power as irredeemably corrupt. They also regard all the regimes that have governed the country as only after the aggrandizement of their families and close pals. Any legislation that tends to put off the masses from their sources of livelihood is usually regarded as an attempt to damn them and make them over-reliant on the high class. If matters come to a head, be sure that those who feel undone may resort to arms to topple the regime and make themselves masters of their fate. The outcome of this action is usually devastating. The story of the Jacobins in France is an ample example.
Why did the government single out places of hospitality for their war against noise pollution and only sound out warning to places of worship? If we banish our religious sentiments for a while, we would admit that religious houses are a great source of noise pollution in Nigeria. In this latest move of the government, they only sounded out warning to them without allowing the law to apply on them on this issue. It is a blatant case of some animals being ‘more equal’. This selective approach to the execution of a law is not just the right way of clamping down on a perceived anomaly in the society. As a matter of fact, it is a negation of the doctrine of the Rule of Law that advocates every person to be regarded as equals before the law.
Noise is a large part of us in Nigeria. It surprises me that some are complaining of noise. I cannot help but to wonder about the quarters that the complaints are coming from amidst us the people of the street. Perhaps it is a cover-up by the government to achieve their usual selfish aims, unknowingly to us. It is hard to understand their selection of noise pollution by the environmental agency of the state when worse situations are in need of attention. With the apocalyptic threat posed by environmental degradation and pollution of the air by industrial fumes, one would think that this issue is at the forefront of the government’s war on pollution of all forms. But no, it is noise pollution – a lesser evil, so to say. It is not hard to comprehend why the government continues to pay little attention to that aspect. They own all the big factories in Lagos and they are behind the plundering of our natural environment.
Finale: It’s senseless to kill a mosquito with a cannon!
One thick man, after too much thinking, said ‘no use cannon to kill a mosquito’ (I think it was Confucius that said it). It suffices to say (with what been pointed out above) that the government’s approach at combating noise pollution in Lagos by proscribing live bands at hospitality places is the wrong move. It can be likened to attempting to kill a mosquito with a cannon or to crack a peanut with a sledge hammer – it does more harm without actually getting rid of the ill. On behalf of the poor people of the state, we would like to see the government reconsider their actions and reach a decision beneficial to all parties.
Elisha Gwanzwang Godswill is a Nigerian obsessed with knowledge and has a wide variety of academic interests. He hopes to research Conflicts, especially as it relates to Africa