Lagos Saves N4.5bn from Non-sponsorship of Religious Pilgrims

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  • Registers 13,000 religious bodies, urges residents to report noise pollution

Gboyega Akinsanmi

The Lagos State Government has saved N4.5 billion in the last three years as a result of the decision of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to stop the sponsorship of people for religious pilgrimages to Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dr. Abdulhakeem Abdullateef, has revealed.

Speaking Monday at the annual ministerial press briefing to mark the third year in office of the administration, Abdullateef said the funds saved had been deployed in the construction of roads and other amenities to make life easier for residents.

“Before the present administration came on board, the state government spent an average of N1.5 billion to sponsor people on pilgrimage free. But since Governor Ambode decided to stop the sponsorship of pilgrimage, we have saved N4.5 billion in the last three years and the governor has not changed his mind with regard to sponsorship of pilgrimages.

“What the governor has said and we have been implementing is that the state government will provide for the welfare of the pilgrims; support them with medical tips; support them with clerics who would guide them to ensure that they are focused on the spiritual objectives of the pilgrimage and not something else.

“So far, the funds saved from this have been deployed for the construction of roads and other amenities to make life easier for residents,” Abdullateef said.

Also expressing concern over the fact that some property owners were converting their residential buildings to religious centres in order to avoid paying the land use charge, the commissioner warned those indulging in such activities to desist, saying that it was important for all to operate within the ambit of the law.

He said: “Do not convert your residential premises to religious premises. Many do that for the sake of being protected from paying their land use charge and that will not be tolerated. Whatever we want to do, let us keep ourselves within the ambit of the law.

“As for those who are combining their residences with mosques or churches, we are not going to demolish them, but what we have said is that all residential premises are subject to the land use charge and so when officials of government come, don’t claim there is a mosque on the ground floor.

“Always know that as soon as your property is declared a residential block, you will pay the land use charge.”

The commissioner noted that the state government, through the Ministries of Home Affairs and Physical Planning, had also commenced moves to address the conversion of residential buildings to religious centres via engagement.

“It is a violation of the state regulations for residential buildings to be converted to religious centres. When a building is approved for a purpose, it is an aberration for you to now convert it into something else without the approval of the Ministry of Physical Planning.

“Recently, the commissioner in the ministry came to our ministry and met with Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) to devise new means of engaging religious leaders so that they will not unnecessarily violate the state building regulations,” Abdullateef said.

On noise pollution, he said his ministry had been working in concert with the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) to address the menace, especially through engagement with religious leaders.

“LASEPA is in charge of pollution generally but because we are very close to religious organisations, we work closely with LASEPA and so whenever there is any report of noise pollution by any religious body, just let us know in the Ministry of Home Affairs and we will deploy NIREC to address the situation immediately.

“What the governor has done with NIREC is that it is not only about enforcement but engagement. When we engage them, we are able to sit down with them and through that we get a lot of results than just charging them to court or sealing their premises.

“We have worked effectively through NIREC to ensure that those ones who are constituting a nuisance in their environment are called to order and so whenever we have such cases, residents are enjoined to let us know in the ministry,” the commissioner said.

While reeling out the achievements of the ministry in the last one year, Abdullateef said through deliberate policies, the government was able to record unprecedented peace and harmonious relationship amongst diverse groups, while 13,000 religious institutions were registered in the period under review, just as he urged others to register with government at no cost to them.