Four residents of Akweteman in the Okaikwei North municipality near Accra have sued two churches situated in the area over what they describe as “excessive noise-making”.
The churches are the Akweteman branches of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana and the Holy Trinity International Church.
The residents who initiated the court action are Mr Joseph Boakye Danquah, Alhaji Yusif Mahama, Mr Robert Kwesi Haywood and Mr Stephen Armah Tetteh.
The plaintiffs have also accused the Okaikwei North Municipal Assembly of failing to take action against the two churches and have consequently joined the assembly to the suit as the third defendant.
In their writ, filed at the Human Rights Division of the Accra High Court on December 24, 2019, the plaintiffs aver that the two churches had resorted to excessive noise-making, a situation which they claimed was affecting their health.
It is also their case that the two churches did not have the requisite permit to establish places of worship in the area.
“The incessant nuisance that emanates from the 1st and 2nd defendants’ unauthorised auditoriums of worship during their church services, particularly on Sundays and weekday nights, does not afford the plaintiffs any peace and quiet and has a debilitating effect on the plaintiffs’ health”.
“The 1st and 2nd defendant churches have built their auditoriums in a residential neighbourhood, which is not designated by the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority for building churches,” the plaintiff’s statement of claim stated.Noise assessment
Per their statement of claim, in November 2018, their lawyers wrote to the Okaikwei North Municipal Assembly to complain about the noise level of the two churches.
That, they said, led to a meeting organised by the assembly during which the two churches promised to do something about the complaint, but that did not yield any fruit.
The residents further said in view of the development, they wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 21, 2019 and requested the agency to measure the noise level emanating from both churches.
“The noise level measurement carried out by the EPA at the environs of the plaintiffs during the worship activities of the 1st and 2nd defendants’ auditoriums were above 55 decibel units (dB) (A) and thus was not in compliance with the recommended Ghana standard for daytime noise levels for residential areas,” the statement of claim added.
The sound level meter measures the intensity of noise in decibel units (dB).Reliefs
The four residents want the court to declare the activities of the two churches as a fundamental breach of their right to property.
They also want a perpetual injunction restraining the two churches or any of their agents from engaging in any activity that would interfere in their “quiet enjoyment of their properties.”
Also, the plaintiffs are seeking an order directed at the Okaikwei North Municipal Assembly to perform its statutory duty by “demolishing or causing to be demolished the auditoriums of the two churches.”
In the alternative, they want an order directed at both churches to soundproof their church buildings to bring the noise level in conformity with the required noise level as stipulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).Precedence
This is not the first time residents of a community have sued a church over noise-making.
Last year, the Accra High Court ordered the Haatso branches of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) and the Cross Road Community Church Ministries (CRCCM) to pay damages of GH¢20,000 each to two residents of the area for excessive noise-making and for being a nuisance.
The court, presided over by Justice Novisi Afua Aryene, held that the two churches breached building regulations by using a property situated in a residential area for worship without authorisation and that their noise level was excessive and violated the regulations of the EPA.