The usual hustling and bustling in Mpape, a suburb of Abuja, was paused for a while last week following strange sounds and vibrations that shook the ground and the buildings on it. CALEB ONWE reports
Last Wednesday, residents of Mpape, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory( FCT) witnessed an unusual occurrence in their community. They were used to the heavy sounds and instant vibrations that usually accompanied the blasting of rocks by construction companies, who run quarries around vicinity but they had never experienced an earth tremor.
This time around, the sound and vibrations were so terrifying that some of the residents thought the world had come to an end. The incident which happened thrice in one week and sent cold shivers down people’s spines.
Mpape, a densely populated settlement is home to thousands of civil servants, construction workers, artisans and other low income earners. It is attractive to the low and middle class people because it provides relatively cheap accommodation and transportation due to its closeness to the city.
Mpape also plays host to a number of quarry sites run by different construction companies. It is from the rocks surrounding Mpape that these companies mine stones and granites used in the construction of roads, bridges and buildings.
One would have thought that the residents of Mpape would become accustomed to the sound associated with the blasting of rocks, since they have lived with these quarry companies for years, but this time around, it turned out to be more than they had bargained for in every ramification.
The fears that followed were so palpable and widespread that many people who live very far away from Mpape now live in fears that the earth tremor might herald an earthquake in Abuja.
Some residents claimed that the impact of the unusual occurrence was not only felt in Mpape and environs, but as far as in Maitama, Kubwa, Gwarrimpa, Dutse and other parts of the city.
Inside Abuja visited the community on a fact finding mission and discovered that that though normalcy had returned after the incident, residents were still living in fear.
A community leader in Mpape, Chief Nnamdi Okeugo, said he has lived in the community for 35 years. He noted that residents of the area were not novices to such sound but became afraid at the intensity of the vibration produced by the sound with serious impact on their buildings.
Okeugo said that the sound, which was later described by experts as earth tremor, occurred thrice within a period of one week, stressing that the tremor is similar to what he described as “chamber blasting”.
“I have stayed in Mpape for 35 years now but we have not experienced such earth shaking event. It only happened during the blasting of stones by construction firms. My bed was shaking, even in this sitting room. It has happened three times in this week.
“The first one was more terrifying. It was similar to a chamber blasting. The good news is that no property was affected. Government should suspend blasting of rocks, or reduce the intensity of blasting”, Okeugu said.
Another resident, a lady, who identified herself as Ama, and operates a grocery shop close to the Berger Quarry Yard, said that around 9.00pm on that Wednesday, the sound that lasted for up to two minutes, shook everywhere, including the bed she was lying on.
She stated that though Nigerians are very resilient and could absorb shocks so easily, relevant government agencies should step up actions to ensure that the incident does not create an emergency situation that could lead to loss of lives.
“This thing happened around 9.00am on Wednesday when I was at home and when I heard the sound, I was terribly afraid. It also happened again around 5.00pm on Friday. The tremor had happened up to three times and in close succession. There have been mixed reactions since then. I think the occurrence is natural, because even Julius Berger had not blasted rocks for some time now.
“We are panicking but as Nigerians, we are still here. Government should help to douse tension here because if we all die here, who will vote for them? Relevant government agencies that have the responsibility of checking issues like this should step up action. They should have been more proactive in disseminating information that would have helped in resolving this tension,” she said.
Meanwhile, the allegation that some buildings collapsed as a result of the vibration while it created some deadly cracks on some buildings were debunked by Grace Bassey and Abdulmalik Busari, both residents of Mpape.
In apparent move to douse tension already created by the occurrence, the FCT Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA) had issued a statement, saying that the possible cause of the incident might be an earth tremor.
“It is a sign of seismic movement within the earth. This is caused by sudden breaks along a fault line which results in sudden release of energy that makes the ground shake. It is caused by stress in underground rocks and may be due to rock blasting and mining activities in an area,” it said. The Minister of the FCTA , Mallam Mohammed Bello has taken some steps to restore the people’s sense of security and safety in the affected areas. Permanent Secretary, FCTA , Christian Ohaa, who visited Mpape on behalf of the Minister, urged residents of the affected areas to remain calm as there was no cause for alarm, noting that geological experts have counselled that Abuja was not on the line of any major seismic danger. Bello asked residents to go about their businesses without fears as the Administration was engaging both local and international geological experts, in order to unravel the root causes of the earth tremor. According to him, preliminary reports, “indicate that the activities of rock blasting from quarrying, mining activities, as well as proliferation of borehole drilling were likely causes of these tremors.” Consequently, he stressed, it became necessary to suspend all quarrying activities in various sites of Abuja, especially Mpape, Garki, Gwarimpa and contiguous areas. Inside Abuja also learnt that the Minister had suspended all blasting activities and illegal drilling of borehole in the affected areas. “Bello has directed the suspension of further quarrying and mining activities and borehole drilling in the affected areas of Mpape, Gwarimpa and Garki districts of Abuja, pending the outcome of investigations on the root causes of the incidents”. The chairman of Abuja En-
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