On Friday, September 7, this year, residents of Mpampe, a suburb of the Abuja City Centre, went into a panic mode following the earth tremors that occurred in their locality. The earth shaking was also felt in the adjacent Maitama District. Many inhabitants were frightened away from their homes as the earth murmured under their feet.
According to eyewitnesses, the tremors were initially thought to be the groundswells of the normal explosives used by quarry operators and miners in the community. But as the murmurs lasted intermittently for over an hour, the frightened residents thought an earthquake had struck the axis.
Reactions from experts in and around the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) followed the unusual phenomenon in the nation’s seat of power. The episode was attributed to the escalation of quarry and illegal mining activities in the area in recent times. Fortunately, no fatalities or damages were recorded during the incident. Not long after, a milder tremor followed, prompting the authorities to install monitoring equipment.
Owing to the high level of construction in and around the FCT, indiscriminate quarry operations have been going on in various parts of Abuja. For instance, in Kubwa, a sprawling city also in the Bwari Area Council as Mpampe, hardly does any day pass by without powerful explosions from the suburbs rocking buildings, especially those along the Kubwa Expressway, to their foundations. So rampant were the activities of quarry and road construction companies in the early years of the Boko Haram suicide attacks that residents were often rattled to their teeth or were made to jump out of their skin, unsure of the situations.
Consequently, the federal government directed that all quarry activities should be suspended, both legitimate and otherwise until further notice.
It would be recalled that in September 2016, a similar incident occurred at the Jaba Local Government Area of Kaduna state. It was the second episode in the same year. Earlier, the Hayin Magani community in Ikara Local Government Area of the state was rocked by tremors which saw many buildings destroyed. Several people were also injured.
Although the incidents in Kaduna took many people by surprise at the time because of their rarity, earth tremors are not totally new phenomena in this country. Prior to the recent quakes, some parts of Bayelsa, Oyo and Rivers states experienced earth tremors about three months before the Kaduna phenomena. Before the above-listed occurrences, Nigeria had been rocked by earth shakes nine times between 1933 and 1999. The 1999 tremor reverberated across many communities in the South-west which included mainly Ogun, Osun and Oyo states.
The National Geological Survey Agency (NGSA) swiftly stepped in to investigate the incidents to unravel their origin which has not been made public till date; there are indications that chances of devastating earthquakes could rise from 2.8 per cent to 91.1 per cent between 2009 and 2028 based on assessments of the incidents recorded in 2009.
However, a report made available by the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) at the time said that the tremors emanated from “passive sources.”
It is public knowledge, as revealed by geophysical and geological studies, that a fault zone exists in the country, connecting with the Atlantic fracture along Ife-wara in Osun and Zungeru in Niger state.
Nigeria has always been seen as a disaster-free zone regarding occurrences like devastating natural phenomena such as earthquakes, tornadoes and cyclones that torment some other parts of the globe. Nigerians only read about such tragedies with awe and gratitude that nature has been very kind to us, save the ravaging floods that are witnessed.
In our editorial of March 21, 2016 entitled “Beckoning at earthquake”, we had noted that Nigeria has been fortunate to be spared this natural disaster but warned that human activities could set off the phenomenon. We also echoed the alarm raised by a water engineering expert, Mr. Olalekan Omojowa, who cautioned the federal, state and local governments on the possible occurrences of earthquakes in most parts of the country as a result of the proliferation of borehole drilling.
The hydrologist had said that “the earth crust is what the people are puncturing when they drill boreholes in their various homes”, explaining that when the earth is punctured more than necessary, all that is needed for an earthquake to happen is just a shake from any source.
It is disheartening to note that indiscriminate quarry and drilling activities have resumed in earnest in and around the FCT. It is a miracle that buildings have not been collapsing from these dangerous operations. However, we are worried that with constant shaking of these buildings, their foundations would become weak over time and the consequences would be better imagined than experienced. Some natural disasters may not be preventable, but government owes its citizens a duty to ensure that they are not brought in harm’s way through the operations of these elements and organisations all over the country that place value on their businesses at the expense of the safety of the masses.