Following the anxiety over the recent tremors that rocked Abuja, the nation’s capital, there were warnings by the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) that the indiscriminate drilling of boreholes in the country, especially Abuja, where no fewer than 110,000 boreholes were discovered, could threaten the seismic stability of the country. The alarming discovery on the number of boreholes also points to the fact that the possibility of tremors and earthquakes is now beyond a wishful likelihood.
With a population of about 200 million, only less than 30 per cent of Nigerians can access potable water, while the remaining populace resort to underground water for drinking and domestic use. For some, their streams and ponds are still their water sources. The fallout of this horrifying statistics is what has led to indiscriminate drilling of boreholes that now serve as means of meeting the water needs of the people. Apart from the health hazards this estimated 330,000 metric tonnes of water drawn daily in Abuja, the drilling of these boreholes create gaping holes in the earth and compromise seismic stability. The Nigerian government is signatory to various international conventions that call for commitment to the provision of potable water for citizens, but no concrete efforts are embarked upon to ensure its realisation and implementation.
The recent earth tremors experienced in Abuja ought to have awoken the authorities and, indeed, the people to a possible occurrence of tremor and earthquakes in the future. Not a few are of the view that many boreholes that dot the FCT landscape and other parts of the country have contributed to destabilising the earth stability of the area. According to available seismic records, as disclosed by the director general of NASRDA, Professor Seidu Haruna Mohammed, from 1919 to 2018, Nigeria experienced (tremors) in the past in some areas hitherto known for relatively seismic stability. These areas include Kwoi in Kaduna State (2016), Saki in Oyo State (2016), and Igbogene in Bayelsa State (2016).
The latest of these tremors occurred in Abuja with Mpape as epicentre. There is the need to regulate the exploitation of ground water resources of Abuja via indiscriminate sinking of boreholes because this has been the primary reason for the stress build-up leading to the Abuja tremors. Experts are of the opinion that the government should release fund for the training of geophysicists, geologists, engineers, technologists and researchers to participate in earth science research in order to improve the understanding of Nigerian and West African geophysics and tectonics dynamism. It is pertinent to emphasise that this research has crucial societal value as it is evident in earthquake hazard readiness and mitigation.
Having identified the presence of borehole drilling, there is need to review measures aimed at exploiting alternative sources of water for not only Abuja, but also other parts of the country. Water For Life Project, a non- governmental organisation (NGO), in a recent report, lamented that government, despite its usual commitment to meeting to the water needs of the people, is yet to fulfil its own part of the bargain. Beyond the urgency to sign relevant international convention for providing potable water to the populace, not much has been realised.
To demonstrate government’s lacklustre disposition to the challenge of water needs, the Nigerian government in 2014 announced that it had so far spent the whopping sum of $5 million on studies to look into the possibility of transferring water from Congo to recharge the Lake Chad. Beyond the idea of sponsoring studies on means to realising water needs for the people, critical efforts aimed at realising the dream of potable water are always abandoned. With the collapse of state water boards, the role of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources has not helped matters, as the problem of water needs of the people is tackled without taking into cognisance the unique features relevant to achieving them.
To tackle the threat of tremors and possible earthquakes as a result of borehole drilling, there is the need for the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to classify the various parts of the country into water zones in order to identify effective means of water supply to the zone. This can be done in conjunction with the various state water boards. The various multi-billion dam projects established by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in various parts of the country could serve as reservoir for water and as water treatment plants. We are of the opinion that there should also be a strict regulation on further drilling of boreholes in all parts of Nigeria in order to preserve the stability of the environment and avoid future tremors.