The dictionary meaning of earth tremor is a quivering or vibration caused by slippage of the earth’s crust at a fault, especially before or after a major earthquake. There has not been any major earthquake in Nigeria yet, but the reports of earth tremors in parts of the country recently is sign enough that Nigeria is not immune to that natural disaster. It is a phenomenon that no one prays for. When it happened in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines, among other places, the reverberation of the devastation and the resultant tsunami it caused is still being felt even today. A most recent one is in Italy, a country with a history of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Even with all that experience, a whole community was virtually wiped out resulting in hundreds dead and injured.
It is from this background that we urge Nigerians and, especially, the governments at all levels, to take the earth tremor warnings in parts of the country seriously and begin to take proactive measures to educate the populace on what to expect and how to react when it occurs. Scientists posit that although Nigeria is not located within the major seismic zones of the world; over the years, several minor earthquakes have been experienced in some parts of the country. The first widely reported occurrence of an earth tremor in Nigeria was in 1933. Other events were reported in 1939, 1964, 1984, 1990, 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2006. Following the tremor that occurred on September 11, 2009, which affected western parts of the country, and this year, again, in Oyo, Bayelsa and Kaduna States, researchers have said that the incidences were signs that Nigeria was no longer safe as far as earthquake is concerned. The Nigerian Association of Water-Well Drilling Rig Owners and Practitioners (AWDROP) has called on the federal government to take measures that could reduce the effects of earthquake as six states exist at the risk of possible earthquake. It lamented that lack of underground water abstraction regulation in Nigeria could easily induce earthquake and sea water intrusion, hence the need for government to ensure strict compliance in the implementation of code of practice in borehole drilling in the country.
Meanwhile Pastor Enoch Adeboye and Catholic Archbishop of Lagos emeritus, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, at different times, urged Nigerians to pray to avert any such occurrence here. It is very good to pray, but the authorities must find time and urgently too, to listen to the fact-based wise counsel of scientists and other experts.
Nigeria is not adept at managing crises. Floods, in our context, are serious challenges but when compared to tsunamis and impact of earthquakes, pale in intensity. Our experience in handling the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) further confirms the assertion that we still have a lot to learn as far as managing disasters are concerned. Without putting the nation down, it is our opinion that any dispassionate observer will accept that we, as a people, lack the discipline needed in such situations. Already the suspected earth tremors are beginning to cause fear and panic among the residents of the affected areas resulting in frantic relocations. What this means is that the local communities are trying to help themselves the much they can. Encouraging but not enough. We suggest that what is required at this early stage is a coordinated approach to assuage the anxieties of the people, not just in those areas said to be exposed to the lurking danger, but all Nigerians as to what to do if and when it happens.
This, in our view, is where the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and the security agencies come in. They must be advised to move in immediately and through public enlightenment and drills prepare the people against any eventuality. The resources required at this stage will be minimal and the preventive measures, if taken, will be beneficial to the nation in the long run