Nigeria’s Environmental Protection Agency has dictated the time, period and frequency of worship services in churches.
Christians in the Nigerian state of Lagos have called for a relaxing of noise pollution laws, saying they infringe on their freedom to worship.
"By dictating the time, period and frequency of worship services to religious worship centres, this policy infringes on the rights of citizens to freedom of thought, conscience and religion guaranteed by the constitution of the country," the Lagos state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria said in a letter to the state assembly made available to ENInews.
Based on the noise policy, the association said the state Environmental Protection Agency has closed down more than seven churches which were reopened on the payment of a 10,000 naira (US$66) and a written agreement to curb noise levels.
The worship sessions of the churches were said to be too loud following complaints by residents of the area where they were located. The Ondo state government, also in the southern part of the country, has indicated its intention to penalize religious organizations for indiscriminate use of public address systems.
Of Nigeria’s 152 million people, Christians and Muslims each make up about half, with more Christians living in the south and the north predominantly Islamic.
Pastor Barnabas Otoibhi, the spokesperson for the Christian association, said the noise policy will not be acceptable unless the government removes regulations concerning the time and frequency of worship services.
"Much as we do not condone excessive noise to the detriment of other citizens, we find it difficult to accept any law which seems to be targeted at churches, while other religious groups which are also guilty, are not penalised," Otoibhi told ENInews.
He urged the state assembly to call the environmental agency to order and avoid creating religious tension in the state.
The head of the assembly committee on environment, John Ogunkoya, promised at a meeting with the Christian association leaders held in June that the house will consider amendments to the noise pollution statute.
He explained that the noise policy applies to all religious groups and organizations in the state but admitted that time and frequency of worship should not be dictated by government agencies.
"Since our last meeting, we have been waiting for the assembly to act on our request but nothing has happened. We are eagerly awaiting the amendment of this policy which is being exploited by environmental officials," Otoibhi stated.