Lagos Horn-Free Day In Post-Modernist Era


By Olumuyiwa Wahab Jimoh

Environmental pollution is one of the most dangerous factors that have turned our cities into living hell affecting adversely the lives of millions of city dwellers the world over. Our cities have become dangerous places to live in because of the effluents that are generated from diverse human activities within the urban areas.

Quality of life and living has steadily declined in our cities because of declining levels of water quality; increasing rate of deterioration of air quality; accelerated reduction in living spaces; overwhelming levels of stench from all manner of sewage which assail nostrils and much more heightened decibels of noise that have gone way ahead of healthy and international standards.

As the cities expand and the population explodes, these factors burgeon and the overall danger to city life becomes deeply exacerbated. Health risks associated with these are on the rise as our cities are beginning to experience rising cases of cancer of various kinds, mental illnesses of all kinds; respiratory systems blockage and atrophy with an alarming level of psychological and emotional trauma amongst the citizenry.

One of the deadliest killers amongst these effluents is that generated by vehicular traffic on daily basis. It is more deadly because it transcends all boundaries and very difficult to be shut out. And not just because of its virulent nature but because it is considered one of the subtle or soft pollutants that creeps in on its victims surreptitiously holding them in its thralls as it wreaks havoc on them. Unlike the stench which oozes out of filth and dump sites; unlike the water that changes in taste and colour as a result of the presence of effluents and are thus very noticeable, noise creeps in on us and our ears gradually gets adjusted to them unconsciously increasing the level of stress without our immediate explicit adverse response. It builds up to a level where without warning our lives begin to respond abnormally impacting both our behavioural patterns and physical health of the individuals. It is indeed a huge health risk factor for urban dwellers.

The world health organisation has recommended that the ear should not be exposed to more than certain levels of internationally agreed standard decibels of noise. Beyond this level, the ear loses its tolerance for such noise and stands the risk of losing its functions. The ear is just like any other organ of the body that has elastic limits and when any fabric is pulled beyond its elasticity, it becomes difficult for it to go back to its original state. This causes tear and sometimes irreparable damage to that organ. This is what happens when our ear is exposed to the unwholesome noise that currently permeates our large cities especially our beloved Lagos State. Many of us in Lagos State have become partially deaf or suffer other forms of hearing impairment as a result of the high decibels of noise our ears are forcefully exposed to everyday as we commute and sometimes even stay in our homes and offices daily.

Almost 90% of the city’s din is created by vehicular traffic and amongst this, the worst culprit is that created by the reckless and irresponsible use of the car horn and other warning devices in our vehicles as we move around the city. Our drivers make use of their horns mostly for the wrong reasons and sometimes deploy them as instrument for creating excitement. Some have mastered the art of pressing down the horn to harass and intimidate other road users while still others use it to vent and exercise their frustration with the system. This is why you see some users investing huge sums to acquire the noisiest horn and the ones capable of generating the biggest blare.

We believe that it has become most urgent that we do something to reduce drastically the present noise level if we are to reduce the level of emotional and psychological stress including hearing impairments being experienced by the people of the state. It has to be pointed out that certain behaviours which may be classified as social vices and crimes may have been conceived in the crucible of our noise pollution.

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A less noisy Lagos will give us a calm city and will ultimately breed a calmer citizenry. The multiplier or contagion effect of this will be so huge that as the people begin to experience less physical and psychological stress, this hot and emotionally charged city will begin to simmer down. As this happens, this bottled up and smouldering pressure cooker that is always exploding in smaller and tiny bits around us will eventually evaporate. This will reduce aggressive tendencies around the city; create the right ambience for more productive life amongst the populace leaving us with a city that all of us will continue to thrive in and enjoy better.

It requires a collective effort which means that we must not leave it alone for the government to handle. It requires that all of us take responsible action to ensure that noise especially that which comes from the way we use our vehicle horns are reduced to the barest minimum. We must all see it as a civic responsibility which thus requires civic action to combat. This becomes imperative when we understand that the consequences are universal and cannot be walled out or made specific to certain segments of the society. It is a collective problem that requires that we collectively act immediately.

That is why we welcome and commend the recent Lagos State Government’s initiative of Lagos – Horn-free day which was observed widely across the state despite its novelty. It is one of those steps that we believe will make all of us more conscious of the dangers we expose ourselves to by the continued reckless use of our horns. The success of this year’s event signposts the beginning of an understanding within the populace and the government of the importance of checking the increasing menace of noise in Lagos state.

As we become increasingly aware of this present danger by observing the horn-free days annually, a culture of responsible use of horn will be built across all spectrum of the society which will make our roads saner and safer for all of us who use it daily. However it is important to tell Lagosians that there still some segment of our society that you cannot apply horn whenever you are driving; this inter alia still retains in some of the laws of the state.  The cumulative impact will be a drastic reduction in road rage and other psychological conditions associated with traffic noise pollution. Our healthcare bill will come down as mental illnesses plummet including stress-induced ailments and hearing losses pointing downwards.

We therefore need everyone to be involved in this project to make it work and use it to combat the menace of reckless use of horn, deploying it as a spring board to preach the message to other cities in Nigeria. Lagos has always shone the light for other states to follow; we must show leadership here once again just as the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, has shown. He has not only pressed forward with the required policy but has since the assumption of office refused to use the siren, thus leading the way with his personal conduct. We must follow this worthy and exemplary footstep.

This is a mess we collectively generated, we must therefore turn it into a collective message for wellness and healthy living not only in Lagos but across Nigeria.

•Jimoh is a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Apapa II Constituency.

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