Nigeria Megacity Lagos Shuts 70 Churches and 20 Mosques to Dim the Noise

Churchgoers in Nigeria
Churchgoers wave flags at a service held by preacher TB Joshua in Lagos, Nigeria, December 31, 2014. The Lagos state authorities are trying to reduce noise in the city by closing down churches and mosques. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

A buzzing, hustling metropolis, the city of Lagos in southwest Nigeria proudly holds the moniker of Africa's biggest city by population.

But the city's estimated 21 million inhabitants also have the effect of making Lagos one of Africa's noisiest places.

To that end, the state government has vowed to make Lagos noise-free by 2020. And to achieve that aim, they have started targeting churches and mosques, which contribute to the din in the uber-religious West African country.

The Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) has closed down 70 churches and 20 mosques, in addition to more than ten hotels, pubs and clubs, Vanguard reported. The head of LASEPA, Bola Shabi, said that makeshift buildings and tents could no longer be used as places of worship. "What I mean by makeshift, using tents and uncompleted building[s], we are not going to allow that any further in the state," said Shabi, who added that the level of compliance with the noise reduction measures was better among mosques than churches.

Shabi added that noise levels had been reduced by about 35 percent so far, and that the authorities were aiming for a target of 70-80 percent. "Enforcement is a continuous exercise and we have set a target for ourselves," said Shabi. "With our status as a mega city, by year 2020 we will be free of noise."

Nigeria is one of the world's most religious countries, with 88 percent of the country's estimated 180 million population saying that religion is "very important" to them, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study. The country is roughly equally split between Muslims and Christians, with Muslims tending to coalesce in the north while Christians are more populous in the south.

The closure of makeshift churches is likely to be welcomed following a 2014 tragedy in which a church guesthouse belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations—a megachurch run by wealthy Nigerian pastor TB Joshua—collapsed, killing at least 115 people.