The recent earth tremor that threatened some areas in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, should be seen as a warning signal that the country is not far away from a possible earthquake. And the warning by the Presidential Committee which investigated the earth tremor that Nigeria is now prone to earth tremor should be treated with utmost concern.
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As a result of the tremor that occurred in Mpape and Maitama Districts of Abuja, mining and blasting activities around the affected areas were suspended by the government. Preliminary reports on the incident by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and the Nigeria Geological Survey Agency ruled out the possibility of an earthquake in the country because Nigeria is not in an earthquake zone.
Also, the Director General of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NARSDA), Prof. Seidu Mohammed, disclosed that preliminary investigations by the agency revealed that the incident was minor and below 3.0 magnitude. However, the FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) attributed the cause of the tremor to seismic movement within the earth crust. FEMA Director-General, Abbas G. Idriss, said the tremor was caused by sudden breaks along a fault line in the earth, which results in a sudden release of energy that makes the ground to shake. He also disclosed that rock blasting, mining activities and borehole drilling in the affected area could make the underground rocks to experience stress. We recall that a similar incident occurred in Kwoi area in Southern Kaduna about two years ago. Nigeria had experienced earth tremors in 1933, 1939, 1964 and 1984 among others.
However, the Presidential Committee that investigated the incident revealed that Nigeria is now prone to earth tremor. The Chairman of the Committee and Director-General of NARSDA, Prof. Seidu Mohammed, who submitted the report to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said Nigeria is now prone to seismic hazards due to the recent tremor occurrence in Kwoi, Kaduna State; Saki, Oyo State; and Igbogene in Bayelsa State in 2016.
The NARSDA boss pointed out that the latest earth tremor occurred in Mpape, Abuja on September 7, 2018. He reiterated that water extraction and recharge imbalance from aquifer were responsible for hydrological instability along the fractures. His warning that the existence of 110,000 boreholes within Abuja metropolis with about 330,000 metric tonnes of water drilled daily was not suitable, should not be ignored.
Also, a report by Julius Berger on the incident identified Mpape as a shear zone that was weak with several fractures and faults system. It is commendable that those charged with the investigation of the Abuja earth tremor have submitted their far-reaching findings to the government. The committee, among others, recommended that government should conduct a detailed Seismotectonic study of the area and the entire country using state-of-the-art equipment.
In view of the seriousness of the matter, we urge the government not to ignore the findings and recommendations of the Committee. The government, as the committee recommended, must procure and install more seismometers and GPS sensors/equipment for the enlargement and networking of the Nigeria National Network of Seismographic Stations.
We agree with Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu that the Federal Government should conduct further research and monitor earthquake-prone areas in Abuja and other parts of the country in order to forestall any tragic consequences of earth tremors. In addition, government should also regulate the drilling of boreholes, mining and other human activities that may have been responsible for earth tremors in some parts of the country.
Therefore, a more detailed study of the recent Abuja earth tremors can reveal what caused them and proffer measures to prevent such tremors in future. Besides, there is the need to prepare the citizens on how to respond in the case of emergency caused by earth tremors. People are advised not to be indoors when such tremors occur. Government should equally enlighten the members of the public on what to do during such emergencies.