Abuja earth tremors and matters arising – Thisday

There is need for proper monitoring of all earthquake-prone zones in the country

The recent outbreak of multiple earth tremors in some parts of Abuja jolted the city and caused many residents agony and discomfort. For three days, the tremors spanked fears in the communities of Mpape, Katampe District, part of Maitama and some rural communities within the Federal Capital Territory. The intense trembling of the ground made many to even ponder the option of relocation as they imagined the vibration was a sign of earthquake.

Although the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency and other emergency agencies have downplayed the likelihood of earthquake in Nigeria, the findings of the Presidential Committee set up by the federal government to assess the incidents are more revealing of the dangers we face, especially from human activities. The committee headed by the Director-General, National Space Research and Development Agency (NARSDA), Prof. Seidu Mohammed declared that Nigeria is now prone to seismic hazards while the possibility of an earthquake occurrence is elevated.

Therefore, the Mpape experiment is a wake-up call that there is need for a proper monitoring of all earthquake -prone zones in the country after previous incidents in Kwoi, Kaduna State; Saki, Oyo State and Igbogene in Bayelsa State in 2016. The geological, hydrological and geotechnical report for Abuja identified the underneath rock layers of Mpape to be already shifted, weak and bearing several fractures and faults system. This is not unexpected.

For over three decades, the upland area has been exposed to unregulated drilling and blasting of rocks by quarrying companies and artisanal miners. The shift in the tectonic plates, which leads to the sudden release of energy that causes the trembling on the ground, is a probable cause aside other human activities. Besides, according to the presidential committee, “there is the need to regulate the exploitation of ground water resources of Abuja via indiscriminate sinking of boreholes because this has been the primary reason for the stress build up leading to the Abuja tremors”.

It is unfortunate that before the report of the presidential committee, we had basked in the illusion that Nigeria is not at risk of earthquake as the country is not in a region prone to earthquake or where such disaster could be expected to occur. Without putting in place the necessary measures, the safety of lives and resources will be imperilled if we continued to deny that tremors are insignificant natural phenomena that do not deserve to be worried about.

Earthquake is a disaster that inflicts substantial human, material and economic losses, which many affected countries rarely recover from. A case in point is when Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, an impoverished Caribbean country, was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January 2010. Besides killing more than 200,000 people, the massive earthquake destroyed the country and caused estimated $14 billion damage to private assets and public utilities.

It is in this regard that we warn of the consequences from the lack of action to uphold the findings of the presidential or any related committee. To avert earthquake, the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency should implement the laws criminalising indiscriminate mining, rock blasting and digging of bore holes across the country. We insist that the unrestricted activities mentioned above could have damaging effects on the underground rocks and by extension the earth layers. In addition, the appropriate authorities should install equipment that will gauge and monitor geological surveying methods across the country.

The federal and state emergency agencies should also organise safety trainings in the communities prone to tremors and earthquakes on how to respond in the event of emergency given that earthquakes result in collapse of buildings, fire outbreak and motor accidents.

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To avert earthquake, the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency should implement the laws criminalising indiscriminate mining, rock blasting and digging of bore holes across the country

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