Highlight: Vibration of the Earth and Cracks in Buildings confirmed by community folks

Location: Communities in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State and Yenagoa LGA,Bayelsa State.

GPS Coordinate: Elev 26m N 05°04.841’ E 006°27.821 [taken at Oroama community where a building  allegedly cracked as a result of the Earth Tremor].

Date of Visit: Wednesday 13-07-16

Report by: Akpotu Monday Ziworitin and Alagoa Morris

INTRODUCTION:

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria [ERA/FoEN] can reasonably say that earth tremors would become another environmental challenge the peoples of the Niger Delta region will contend with aside oil pollutions and coastal erosion.

In June 2014 ERA/FoEN had reported an earth tremor in Ikarama [Okordia clan] Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State. Also, during a field trip to Oboburu on 25th October, 2014 [in Egiland] in Rivers State, community folks informed ERA/FoEN they experienced earth tremor not long before ERA/FoEN visit.

When ERA/FoEN received information again on 11th July, 2016 that some communities in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State and Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State experienced earth tremor in the night of Sunday [10th July,2016], preliminary steps to confirm the incident were taken, reaching out via telephone to contacts in the communities mentioned to ERA/FoEN. On the 13th, July, 2016 our field monitors in the company of Alambo Fred Datonye a correspondent of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria [FRCN] embarked on a field trip to obtain testimonies from locals in the affected areas. It was interesting to note that testimonies obtained from witnesses 14.5 kilometers apart concerning the current earth tremor were similar. The 14.5 Kilometers covers the distance between Akinima and Igbogene [Rivers and Bayelsa State communities].

The investigation started from Akinima community and was concluded at Igbogene community. Akinima is one of the communities in Engenni clan of Ahoada West local government area in Rivers State. Igbogene is also one of the communities which made up Epie clan in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State.

Testimonies

Mike Ogbakusi from Akinima

My house is just after the Shell road leading to an oil facility or location before the Akinima market. Three days ago there was an earth tremor at about 11:15pm [Sunday night]. The whole place was shaking, though it didn’t last long. It just shook and everybody was shouting. The tremor even extended up to Mbiama and Igbogene. People at Igbogene also noticed that there was an earth tremor. We don’t know the cause, but people are afraid. It has happened in the past and, I think this is about the fourth tremor we have experienced here. And Akinima community has written to the Ministry of Environment, Rivers State. But up till this moment nobody has come from the Ministry to ask the people what is actually happening; whether there was tremor or no tremor; nobody has come, not even Agip or Shell. So, that is the situation we are in in Akinima now; we are living in fear’’.

When asked as to what he thought should be done, he replied thus:

What I think should be done, firstly, we are not geologists, we don’t know anything. We want experts to come and tell us what actually happened and precautionary measures to be taken. So that we will be guided, we don’t know when; maybe the earth will open and all of us will go in; we don’t know. We are not experts, we don’t know what is actually happening so we need experts to come and educate us on what has actually happened.  There is a lot of exploration going on in our environment and people are shooting dynamites here and there; and we don’t know what is happening, buildings are cracking.

When asked whether there was a sound before the tremor was experienced, Mike responded thus [pointing in the direction of seismic workers],…’’ Like as you are seeing now, they are entering [the bush], they will be shooting and, running their lines. If you go inside our community now you will see  their seismic operation related lines running in between buildings. They explore in the day, but the tremor was experienced at night.  When we experienced the tremor; it was like something shifting; not necessarily hearing the sound of an explosive. But you can feel that the earth moved, shook. People ran out from their houses when it occurred; to find out what was happening. This is the fourth time such a thing is happening in this environment. If you go to the home of the paramount ruler, the Secretary of the community will tell you the date of the letter the community wrote to the Rivers State Ministry of Environment. The other one happened about two years or one and half year ago; now this one has happened again.  I witnessed the tremor which just occurred two days ago and the previous ones.  I cannot say which company is responsible for the seismic activities going on around us presently; what I know is that this area is covered by Shell and Agip…’’

Animasum Emeka Mark from Akinima, Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State

 Between 11:00pm and Mid-night on Sunday, there was a sound and at that same moment; the building shook heavily. Although the shaking or tremor didn’t last long [few seconds], there was an accompanying sound.

When asked if she had experienced such before, she said: Yes, I have experienced it in the past. But I was shocked by this one; I thought it was an earthquake. I even tried to run to my husband to ask him what was going on but because he just returned for the weekend and was tired I decided not to bother him; pending whether it will repeat again [the shaking]. But, my mind ran amok; thinking of possible causes and also whether the world was coming to an end.

Nwakam Paul from Akinima community

 Very recently we experience earth tremor; about three or four days ago. But this isn’t the first time; it is about the third time since I returned from the North that I have observed it. This one was a little mild than the rest. It normally happen like an accident, within the twinkling of an eye it is gone. But we just noticed it; that something strange had happened.  I don’t know if we can attribute the cracking of buildings in the community to these earth tremors. The other time it happened even electric poles and wire were obviously seen shaking, moving.  People ran to the street when it happened in the past because it was a strange phenomenon. We are neither geographers nor geologists and we have never subjected the incident to serious scrutiny and reach logical conclusions and so; even though there are exploration activities going on around us; we don’t know what to attribute the cause of the earth tremors to right now. We cannot say it occurs annually, maybe bi-annually. And, I didn’t hear any accompanying sound when it happened few days ago and; it happens quickly, like lightening. Within the space of one to five seconds; it is done.  I was wide awake with it happened…’’

Paul E. Peters from Akinowiso; formerly called Oruama

When we experienced the movement or shaking of the earth last time, it led to cracks in my building [pointing at the cracks]. I managed to patch some of the cracked spots because I had little cement in the house but no money for major repairs. Then, with this very recent tremor the cracks have widened in the building. I am confused, but I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the government to investigate the phenomenon and take appropriate steps to prevent it from happening again. I am saying so because I am not the only victim. If you move around this community you will discover others who suffered the same fate; whose houses have cracked as a result of the earth tremors. And, we are afraid, not knowing what might happen the next day. So, the government should listen to us and take proactive steps before more damage is done. We are yet to see any government official since we are experiencing this earth tremor in our environment.

When asked as to actual time the recent incident happened, Paul E. Peters said…It happened around 11:00pm Sunday night and I was sitting right here in front of my house [pointing].  I almost fell off from the chair I was sitting when the tremor occurred. Then I just got up, asking myself what was happening. I noticed a lot of fellow community folks running and enquiring from neighbors to know if their neighbours also experienced the tremor. That was how I got to know that it didn’t just happen in my house but covered everywhere in the community. There was a sound and shaking; which almost threw me off my chair. A hanger inside my house even fell to the ground…

Paul Harrison from Delta State residing in Oroama/Akinowiso community in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State

 The truth is that this shaking of the land has happened other times but this one of last Sunday was very serious. And anywhere such incidents are being experienced and the people have no channel available to express themselves; such could be very disturbing. That is why I was pleasantly surprised that you have come this morning to inquire about the matter. Well, the thing is that I am a stranger and if the earth tremor continues I can take my wife and children and relocate. Such relocation of strangers can affect the place in terms of commercial activities and development. I have spent about seven years in this community and this earth tremor has happened up to four times. I am really delighted that you came to confirm from us this morning; as to whether this earth tremor is happening in this environment. I experienced it physically.

When he was asked to narrate what happened last Sunday in respect of the above, he said: ‘The day before yesterday [being Sunday], around 11:00pm some of us had already retired to bed. And suddenly everywhere shook. I thought somebody was knocking on my door and, when I went out I saw people running out from their houses towards the roads. They later said it was a vibration from the ground; just like an earthquake, very seriously. So, we had to check around the house whether it had cracks as a result of the quake. But we didn’t discover any crack. The shaking happened twice and it was brief; lasted just about five seconds. We even heard a loud sound; as if someone used dynamite; very serious.

IGBOGENE COMMUNITY, YENAGOA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF BAYELSA STATE:

At Igbogene, ERA/FoEN obtained testimonies from some residents who confirmed they personally experienced the earth tremor.

Victor Idiedo, resident of Igbogene

It was two days ago [Sunday], at exactly 11:22pm. There was a kind of quake that was very serious. It lasted for almost one minute. To me, the first thought that came to my mind was whether armed robbers have come to invade my compound, de-roofing my building so I started shouting armed robbers, armed robbers. My elder brother who lived behind me also came out. When we came outside we saw people trooping out and asking ‘what is happening that the earth is moving, quaking everywhere?’ A neighbor recorded crack in his house. And, since we didn’t hear or read about the incident in any of the local media houses, I decided to reach out to ERA/FoEN. Meanwhile, I read from one of these online news on 29th June, 2016 that about six states are likely to be affected by earthquake. This raised my fears on the spur of the moment, because Bayelsa State was named among the six. I was scared and, that was why I got in touch with ERA/FoEN. When I made further inquiries, I received information that some communities in Ahoada West local government area of Rivers State were also affected; even Akenfa, though mildly felt in Akenfa [in Yenagoa LGA,Bayelsa State].

When asked as to whether he has experienced such quakes in Igbogene before, he replied thus: ‘’No, no, no [shaking his head from left to right and back], I have lived in this community for over ten years and this is the first time I am experiencing such a thing…

As to whether there was some sort of explosive sound before the earth tremor, he said…No, there was no such sound, just that the building was shaking. I was fully awake and; I have never experienced such in my life before. A minor crack occurred as a direct result of the earth tremor in the neighbourhood.  Plates and other things in my cousin’s house fell down from where they were kept as a result of the quake. Some of the breakable ones got broken…’’

 

Chief Etekpe Friday, a retired Principal

On Sunday, after 11:00 [that is in the night]; we were about going to bed when I heard a very high vibration. My window shook heavily; even the ground vibrated. I thought immediately of what the cause could possibly be; thinking if rodents around could be responsible. I had to resort to prayers. So, I had the vibration experienced in my house.

When asked if he was an indigene of the community,how old he was and if he has had such experiences in the past, Chief Etekpe replied…’’Apart from thunderstorm whose vibration is not as much as this earth tremor; this quake is much. I am from Okordia, Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State. Since 15th August, 2007, I have been a tenant landlord here in Igbogene.  Apart from thunder vibration; this recent earth tremor is an experience of its kind. I am above sixty years and, I haven’t experienced this sort of tremor before. We use to hear that when seismic operations are being carried out such things happen, but here in Igbogene; this is the first time…’’

Emmanuel Eze from Okaka community in Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State

On Sunday night, around 11:15PM, I was at Igbogene in connection with a burial. And suddenly, the house we were in started shaking and, initially I thought it was a python moving on the roof of the house. I even jokingly asked our host when he started rearing python in his house. Then, a bigger sound was heard and, I even thought it was Niger Delta Avengers attacking oil facilities nearby. In fact, I never knew it was another thing; even up till now I don’t know what it was.

When he was asked to explain more about the sound and quake, Emmanuel said:

Yes, there was a loud sound after the initial shaking I talked about. The building itself was visible shaking and I felt it physically. Other persons also came out and said even their beds were shaking inside their houses. I never knew it was an earth tremor which you just mentioned; I never knew then. It was strange to me; I have never witnessed such a thing before. Our minds also went spiritual; attributing the shaking to the deceased lady coming to take some of her belongings. Yes, we never thought about the phenomenon called earth tremor; we thought it was spiritual manifestation.

As per the possible cause of earth tremor, now that he has heard from ERA/FoEN, this is what Emmanuel said…Well, according to some people such things can result from oil exploration/exploitation activities. If that is the case, we know that when the crude oil and gas is removed from the ground there would be some vacuum which even water cannot adequately replace. In that sense, I am suggesting to the government that, instead of such incidents to wipe away Niger Deltans, they should leave the oil/gas in the soil. If actually there was a real earthquake and the ground opened that night; we would have all gone. About two years ago it happened at Ikarama, same earth tremor. I also heard it happened in Egiland in Rivers State sometime ago. So, if this is happening only in Niger Delta in this country then it can be rightly attributed to what they are taking from our soil, under the ground. I have not heard of this sort of thing happening in the North or other part of the country. If this happened in places like Kano, I am sure the National Assembly would be debating it right now. There would have been a state of emergency, to tackle it. But because such happened here in a marginalized section of the country, it has not even been reported in the media up till now

 

PICTURES FROM THE COMMUNITIES

A crack in one of the houses visited

Pointing to a crack in his house

 

OBSERVATION/CONCLUSION:

From testimonies taken from the locals in the course of the field trip there is sufficient reason to demand investigation of the alleged tremors. While it is understandable that some said they did not hear any accompanying loud sound [like use of explosive] and others said they did, most of those interviewed reported experiencing the incidents at the same time of the night the incident is said to have occurred and the duration. This is so even when those who testified were 14.5 kilometers apart from each other. The distance between Igbogene and Akinima was recorded during this field monitoring trip as 14.5 Kilometers. And, between Akinima and Igbogene, a stop was made at Oruama where residents also confirmed the incident; tallying with statements made at Igbogene and Akinima.

Although the immediate or remote cause of the tremor cannot be ascertained at the time of this report, experts need to step in and explain to the general public what is going on. However, ERA/FoEN is very much aware of renewed and heightened search for oil and gas within the identified environment in Yenagoa and Ogbia LGAs of Bayelsa State and beyond as attested by one of those who spoke with the team at Akinima. This has been on for about three months or more now. It is also a common knowledge that explosives are often used during these seismic operations.

When a similar incident happened at Ikarama community in June, 2014; it attracted the attention of the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment. What is not clear is whether anything significant was made beyond the visit of officials of the Ministry then. Ordinarily, not just for the records; experts would have been invited to investigate and come up with reports for stakeholders to know what the prognosis is and allay the fears and concerns of the people/communities. Currently, the people in affected communities are apprehensive.

ERA/FoEN DEMANDS

  • The government at all levels rise up to the occasion and take appropriate steps to identify what actually happened and why.

 

  • The relevant agencies of Federal Government, including the Science Ministry, Environment, NDDC and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs bring in experts who will work effectively with the State governments, Local governments and communities affected to unravel the mystery around these sailing earth tremors in our communities and come up with practical solutions to, not only allaying the fears and concerns of the affected communities; but take steps to prevent real EARTHQUAKE from happening.

 

  • All stakeholders, including the media follow up on this with a view to alerting on the danger that lies ahead. Communities should be more alert, document and keep accurate records of happenings around them. They should also report such strange occurrences to relevant NGOs, media and the government.