Nigeria’s Looming Earthquakes As The Frequency Of Tremors Increase

The Oasis Reporters

January 3, 2019


By Mike Odeh James

Within 60 days in 2018, seismic activities associated with volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occurred in two areas of the
Federal Capital city of Nigeria, Abuja.

Residents of Mpape, a suburb of Abuja, were subjected to some kind of terror as the earth around them shook for three consecutive days before stopping abruptly, sending chills down the spines of the inhabitants.

According to Fred Idugboe, a resident of Johnson street, Mpape, “the earth started shaking on the evening of September 8 and did not stop till 10 September, 2018,”
And just when he thought that it was now safe and the trembling of the earth had subsided, the same occurrence was experienced on the 13th of the same month. pulling down a couple of houses in the area.
This time, Fred Idugboe had to flee from his house .

Mrs Helen Akan of Police line, Mpape, also corroborated Mr Idugboe’s Story, ” I was about cooking at about 6pm on that Friday evening when, I noticed that my kitchen and plates were shaking and the earth was vibrating. I had to run out for fear of the unknown only to see many people running helter skelter on the streets.”

Helen Akpan added too, that the earth vibrated twice at different times in the months of September and that several buildings collapsed as a result of these vibrations .

Less than a month, when residents of Mpape had gotten over the shocking earth movement, another form of seismic movement occurred in the neighboring suburb of Katampe.
This time not only did the earth experience vibrations, there was a spew of molten magma or volcanic material unto the earth surface . The government would later disprove it, saying that no volcanic eruption took place, but residents interviewed insisted that indeed the earth spewed out liquids which later hardened into what looked like crusts.

Earthquakes affect roads, making travel unsafe.

I was taken to the scene, and I discovered that the residents were actually more truthful than the government officials .

Government Reactions

Initially , the National Emergency Management Agency, (NEMA) sought to allay fears of residents in Abuja by saying that Nigeria is not prone to earthquakes ,that what happened were not earthquakes but earth tremors.
Officials also denied the reports of the volcanic eruption at Katampe, as Emergency Management Agency officials told residents not to worry.
However, another government agency – the National Space Research Development Agency, which runs the
Centre for Geodesy and Geodynamics – announced that the tremor was 3.0 in local magnitude and 2.6 in moment magnitude.

Incidences Of Quakes, Eruptions In Nigeria

The first reported case of earthquake reported in the country was in 1933. Then it occurred again in 1939, 1964,1984, 1990,1994, 1997, 2000, 2015, 2016, 2017 and in 2018.

It is on records that Nigeria has recorded earth movement or earth tremors more than 33 times.

Places Where Earth Tremors, Volcanic Eruptions Have Occurred

Earth tremors or movement of the earth surface as seen in Nigeria are small and short-lived vibrations and they are usually a prelude to bigger quakes.
Earthquakes are violent shaking of the earth crust which reverberates to the earth surface while volcanic eruption is the outpouring of ejection of liquid, gaseous objects from the earth crust on to the earth surface.
Available records indicate occurrences in the following places:

1-Abeokuta, Ogun State in 2009

2-Mbiama and Akinima in Bayelsa State – 2009

3- Kwande , Benue state, 1984

4- Shaki in Oyo state, August 2016

5- Jaba, Kwoi in Kaduna State, 2016

6- Kwande, Benue State volcanic eruption in November 2016

7- Mpape, Abuja (FCT), September 2018

8- Katampe volcanic eruption, Abuja, October 2018

9- Akko, Gombe State, September 1987

10- Ibadan, Oyo State, 1990

Chances Of Earthquakes, Volcanic Eruptions Occurring In Nigeria

In all cases or places where earth tremors cum volcanic outflows occurred in Nigeria, there were minimal casualties or minimal loss of properties, and in all cases the Federal Government had always reassured the residents of the places not to panic, saying that the country is not under the threat of earthquake or volcanic eruption. In effect, what the government of Nigeria is saying is that there are no possibilities of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions in the country.

However, in 2012, scientists from the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), predicted that Nigeria would experience
earthquakes citing the series of earth tremors in the country.

According to Dr. Abraham Adekunle Adepetunmi of the Geology Department, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile – Ife, Nigeria is prone to earthquakes and that the South west stands the highest risk in the country. He also posited that the South South is also not immune from the risk of earthquake due to the drilling of oil going on in the region.

Similarly, Dr Shakirudeen Odunuga of Geology Department, University of Lagos stated that Nigeria being close to the Atlantic Ocean could witness earthquakes due to the fact that earthquakes occur on the floor of the ocean .

To add to this, Mr. Chris King, a British geologist in 2010 predicted that the country would experience Earthquakes and Tsunamis. King said that a major earthquake has happened in the geological past and there are potentials for major earthquakes. He also said that Nigeria would experience at least a Tsunami.

With all the postulations and earth tremors it is likely that Nigeria would witness a major earthquake soon.
The pertinent question to ponder over is the level of preparedness that the most populous African country is in.

Nigeria In The Throes Of Tremors And Eruptions

Basically, there are many causes of earth movements and volcanic eruptions in Nigeria, according to geomorphologists and other earth observation experts.

Many scientist have posited that Nigeria sits atop mountains and plateaus which have experienced major quakes and eruptions before, so there is every possibility of earthquakes and eruptions occurring in the country.

Another major reason scientists gave for for the frequent occurrences of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Nigeria is the proximity of the country to the Atlantic Ocean.

Dr Chris King disclosed that one of the islands in the Atlantic Ocean could produce a Tsunami which could sweep across the entire South Atlantic coastal areas of the Niger Delta resulting in earth tremors or major earthquakes.
The same Tsunami could cause a ripping of the of the ocean floor, triggering an earthquake.

Human activities such as sinking of boreholes and drilling of land for oil prospecting, could also be another cause of seismic activities in the country, including Abuja .

A committee set up by the Presidency in response to the constant seismic activities in Abuja said about 110,000 boreholes had been sunk in Abuja, a city of some 8,000 square kilometres. These pumped “about 330,000 metric tonnes of water” out of the earth every day, causing an underground void that put the region at risk of tremors.

Another probable cause of quakes in Nigeria is oil and gas operations, Ross Stein told Africa Check. Stein is an adjunct professor of geophysics at
Stanford University and scientist emeritus at the US Geological Survey. He runs Temblor Inc, a tech company that helps people estimate their seismic hazard and lower their earthquake risks.( quote from Africa Check)

“Some of the recorded quakes are associated with the oil and gas fields of the Niger delta,” he said. “This suggests that there could be induced earthquakes.”

Stein said the US state of Oklahoma had experienced shocks of up to magnitude 5.8, triggered by oil and gas drilling, and this could be the case in southern Nigeria. Such shocks can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings.

Effects Of Volcanic Eruptions, Quakes On Climate Change In Nigeria

If there is a major volcanic eruption in Nigeria today it would release carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and hydrogen fluoride which reacts with other particles in the atmosphere to form
another dangerous chemical called aerosols.
This aerosols help in degrading the ozone layer which further allows ultraviolet rays to permeate down to the earth. This would cause more harm in Nigeria .

Secondly, when carbon dioxides are released by the emission of
volcano into the atmosphere, it helps in getting the temperature of the country hot .Nigeria is already hotter than most countries around it due to climate change. The release of carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas will compound global warming in Nigeria.

In the year 1785, Lake Lakis in Iceland emitted gaseous substances which poisoned the atmosphere , destroyed trees and plants and as a result, there was massive starvation in Iceland as well as atmospheric pollution.

The destruction of vegetation in Nigeria like in the case of lake Lakis would also allow carbon dioxide to flow to the atmosphere and help in warming climate and like it happened in Kwande, Benue state in Nigeria’s North Central region.

An emission can also cause the death of many Nigerians .
When volcanoes emit gases into the atmosphere, it mixes with other gases in the atmosphere to produce acidic rainfall which is another dangerous aspect of climate change.

A new research has shown that earthquakes could lead to the release of methane that is held in pockets in the earth. Methane is also classified as a greenhouse gas and it is 25 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a period of hundred years. Numerous earthquakes as seen in Nigeria in recent times have the capacity of releasing methane gas into the atmosphere which portends danger to the climate in the country .

The violent shaking of the earth surface in Nigeria can lead to the rupture of the numerous oil pipelines straddled across the country which can lead to both soil and atmospheric pollution.

Mitigating The Effects Of Earthquakes, Tremors Or Volcanic Eruptions

The government should first and foremost look for an alternative to oil exploration in the Niger Delta,Chad Basin and the Benue Niger trough .The exploration of these basins for oil tend to upset the earth crust and this may trigger a volcanic release or earth movement .

Alternative to oil energy could be solar energy and wind energy which are clean and do not disturb the internal structure of the earth .

Secondly , there is the need to regulate the indiscriminate blasting of rocks and hills in the Northern parts of Nigeria .

In most cases, rocks are blown to pieces to construct roads in Jos , Kaduna , Makurdi and Lafia .

Instead of destroying rocks for road construction, the government could partner with investors to build long bridges ( which would bypass the rocks ) such as the Abuja/Loko/Oweto bridge .

Nigerians could also build homes on sites with difficult access, and remove a lot of boulders without using heavy equipment. Is there a way to break the boulders into smaller chunks without having to deal with dynamite and the associated permitting .

The technology is there , it is just for the country to seek for it.

Mike Odeh James is an Environmental Rights activist and writer.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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