The federal government has directed the suspension of all blasting activities in and around the areas affected by the recent earth tremor reported in parts of Abuja.

A statement issued yesterday by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) said the suspension would last until  ongoing investigations into the incident were concluded.

The statement reads in part: “The attention of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has been drawn to the widely reported earth tremor within Abuja, specifically in and around Mpape, Jabi, Gwarinpa and other parts of Maitama District of the Federal Capital Territory.

“Following this development, the Nigeria Geological Survey Agency (NGSA) responsible for monitoring these activities has commenced investigation by sending a team of experts to the affected sites for on-the-spot assessment.

“Initial findings indicate a mild earth tremor.  Consequently, the general public is hereby assured of safety of life and property since initial findings show little or no threat to lives.”

In a related development, the ministry received a report of spontaneous burning of a coal seam in Otolo, Nnewi, in Anambra State.  A team of experts was dispatched to the site with a view to bringing the situation under control.

However, Nigerians living in the Mpape neighbourhood and other residential areas in Abuja have been told not be apprehensive about their safety.

The director-general of the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency, Alex Nwegbu, explained at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja that the tremors that residents of the nation’s capital experienced from Wednesday were not significant enough to be worried about, and not enough reason to resident to relocate from the affected areas.

“There is absolutely no cause for alarm,” Mr Nwegbu said. “When tremor occurs, people may temporarily leave their homes, but should return shortly after it ends.”

The official also said the agency was working to install newly purchased equipment to monitor seismic activities across the country.

He added that his agency had not been able to establish the cause of the latest tremors in Abuja, but that its officials were currently on the field investigating all immediately and remote causes.

“We are also partnering with foreign organisations with advanced technical capabilities to help us understand what happened,” Mr Nwegbu said.

The United States Geological Survey and similar authorities in France, China and other counties are amongst those providing assistance, he added.

Nwegbu asserted that there cannot be an earthquake in Nigeria based on scientific information available to experts, saying the country is not situated in regions susceptible to earthquake or where earthquake could be expected to occur occasionally.

A similar tremor was felt in 1984 in Ijeno-Ode, southwest Nigeria, and the latest recorded incident occurred in Kaduna State a few years ago, Mr Nwegbu said.

The Federal Capital Territory Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has offered an explanation for the earth tremor that caused panic in Mpape, Bwari area council, and parts of Maitama District.

A statement signed by the director-general of FEMA, Abbas G. Idriss, which was made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday, stated that the shaking resulted from seismic movement within the earth, caused by sudden breaks along fault lines which result in sudden release of energy that caused the ground to shake.

Idriss attributed it to stress in underground rocks due to rock blasting and mining activities in an area, even as advised residents of the affected areas not to panic but to stay calm, adding that there is no likelihood of any earthquake in Nigeria as the country is not situated in the earthquake zone.

Idris gave out tips on how to respond in the event of such tremor.

“If you stay in a building, locate a safe room. Drop down and take cover under desk or tables and hold on tight to it. You should stay away from windows and objects that may fall. If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees and power lines. If you are in the car, slow down and drive to a clear place, stay in the car until the shaking stops,” he said.

Idris, therefore, told residents of the capital city to rest assured that the abnormal situation would soon stop, adding EMA is on top of the situation

Experts Call For Planning To Prevent Earth Tremor

Meanwhile, experts and stakeholders in the environment sector yesterday urged the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCT) to be ready to prevent and manage earth tremors and natural disasters that may likely occur in FCT.

The experts gave the advice following the earth tremor which occurred in Mpape and Maitama districts in Abuja on Thursday.

The National Coordinator of Global Environmental Facility Small Grant Programme (GEF-SGP), Mrs Ibironke Olubamise, said the Abuja earth tremor could be a warning to the country.

Olubamise underscored the need for government to plan ahead for such natural disaster to prevent it from happening, where possible or minimise damage that might occur.

“What happened yesterday evening and this morning may be due to few factors. It could be a natural occurrence due to movement under the surface of the earth,” she said.

The national coordinator noted that human activities, including indiscriminate blasting of rocks, might be responsible for the tremor.

“This could also be the result of human activities that have been happening for long. This is why planning is imperative. Nigeria has to get ready for disaster whether we like it or not. As far as we have not experienced it, it doesn’t mean that we will not experience it,” she added.

Also speaking, an ecologist, Mr David Michael, called for an end to indiscriminate blasting of rocks by individuals and mining companies to prevent earth tremors in the FCT.

Michael, who is the executive director of Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation, an NGO, said that blasting of rocks might shake the underground structures and lead to earth tremors.

He noted: “I will say that movement of the earth, at a particular location known for stone blasting and extraction of rocks could be a factor. There is need to check the indiscriminate blasting of rocks by companies or individuals without any guidance and regulations.

“These human activities might shake the ground and result in earth tremor. Government needs to check indiscriminate blasting of rocks in these areas”.

On his part, the director, Centre for Atmospheric Research, National Space Research and Development Agency CAR-NASRDA), Babatunde Rabiu, urged government to enforce existing laws against illegal mining and arbitrary drilling of boreholes to avert incidences of earth tremors, which endanger lives of citizens.

He said, “Earth tremors are seismic (technical, relating to or caused by earthquakes) waves propagated underground which can cause the earth to shake. They are natural phenomenon that is often aggravated by careless digging of ground for mining or water boreholes.

“It is important that our government implements laws that are against illegal mining and drilling of boreholes. Government should also put in place seismological measurements to be monitored from time to time”.

The scientist further said Nigeria needed to introduce safety into the educational curriculum at all levels.

According to him, such training on how to respond in emergencies like earth tremors, earthquakes, bomb explosion and fire disaster, among others is very necessary.

Rabiu said that earth tremors could lead to physical disasters like collapse of buildings and loss of lives and properties.

He added that the country should not wait until such incidents occur before sensitising the public on what to do, hence the need for safety tips at all levels of education.

The director cautioned that the public should be calm in such occurrences, lie flat on the floor, hide under strong objects like tables, bed that are well footed.

“There should be a muster place in every big compound where people can run to and gather for safety,” he added.

On his part, the coordinator of Space Environment Research Lab, CAR-NASRDA, Dr Daniel Oko, said that earth tremors were signs of seismic movement within the earth.

Oko explained that such happens when rocks under the earth surface are stressed and the force exerted on the rock mass exceeds its strength, even as he pointed out that the causes of earth tremors may not be clear, but tectonic forces were however responsible.

He stated: “Tectonic is relating to plate tectonics which are the study of the movement of the large sheets of rock that form the surface of the earth. Some activities that directly or indirectly put the underground rocks under stress and cause tremors are mining activities, drilling and rock blasting activities.

“In the case of FCT earth tremor, it is an indication that the rock beneath the surface is stressed”.

He, however, said that earth tremors did not pose serious problems as earthquakes but could lead to building collapse for buildings already under threat.

Oko advised that the public should avoid putting heavy loads on shelves, as they could fall out and cause injury, adding that people should make fire extinguishers handy in case of fire outbreaks that may result from the tremors.