Infrasound Fires in Babura, Nigeria
Nigeria: Babura - Where Mystery Fires Ravaged a Community
Taiwo Olawale for This Day
March 11, 2008
It was stranger than fiction. Samira, a 16-year-old teenage girl saw the first fire and she immediately became the 'eye' of the town of Babura, Jigawa State, in a mystery that has so far defied any rational explanation. It started at random across Babura, and for three days, the residents of the usually quiet town were harassed by the mystery fires. Taiwo Olawale writes.
The mystery started on the afternoon of the first Friday of the month of March. Around 2:30pm, shortly after the Friday congregational prayers, young Samira was running an errand within the vicinity of her Kofar Arewa home when she stopped suddenly. Shaking with fear, she screamed, "Ga wani ze sa wuta a gida" (someone is going to torch a house). Those who heard her screams ran towards her. But no one saw anybody with any that could ignite a fire.
"See, he is going to torch that house", she screamed again. As the crowd watched in awe, Mallam Babangida Kofar Arewa's house caught fire. It was simply unbelievable! There was wild confusion as the adults and children in the crowd took to their heels in fear. The confusion led to delays in getting water to fight the fire. Before many could recover from the paralysing amazement, the main room in Arewa's compound had been completely burnt down.
One of the men in the crowd remembered that it was Samira that drew their attention to the house even before the fire started. He reminded the other men around and they sent for Samira. The first old man asked her what she saw and she explained that it was a man. "But I could not see his face because he was holding a torch which was burning fiercely and the flame from the torch covered his face," she explained.
The girl also told them that she saw the man approach Arewa's house and torched the house. As she was explaining to the men, she suddenly broke off and screamed, "Ga shi nan" (here he comes again)! The crowd broke off in confusion as no one saw 'the man'. And, as if in a trance, Samira followed the apparition. The crowd followed her tentatively.
Nobody knew exactly what to expect. But they followed her and the apparition. As they followed in tow, many hoped there would be no more fires. But their worst fears were confirmed when the girl stopped abruptly and began to shout that 'he' was going to torch another property. And, Mallam Hussaini Babanta's barn went up in flames before their very eyes. This time around, the crowd was quicker and the fire was put out in no time.
After the second fire, the story spread quickly and the town became convinced that something strange was descending upon their homes. The people began to arm themselves with buckets of water to face the strange 'fireman.' Men returned home from the markets and the farms to defend their homes. Each household said prayers and hoped the 'fireman' would not visit their homes or property.
But the fires continued. In many cases, the preparedness of the households helped ensure the fires did not do too much damage in all the later cases. The ritual however continued till sunset, Friday. Samira was to be joined by two other teenage girls who could also see the apparition that was torching the homes and properties of the people of Babura. And so, the girls led crowds of men through the Arewa ward of the town. As the girls pointed; house after house, barn after barn and farm produce got torched and the crowd rushed to put out the fires.
In one of the most bizarre cases, the crowd followed Samira into one compound. She shouted that the 'fireman' was going to put fire inside a bucket. This time around, the crowd was skeptical. For, the bucket contained water! But, just as was the case in all the other compounds visited, the bucket of water caught fire! The crowd had to pour water into the bucket to stop the fire.
At sunset, the girls saw the apparition leave and the fires stopped. But so much damage had been done: about twenty households had been affected by the fires on that Friday alone. People became too scared to go into their houses. They feared that the apparition may return in the night and burn their homes while they were sleeping. So, some of them fled their homes. Most of the women and children went to the Hakimi (District Head)'s house while others went to the Dagaci (Ward Head)'s house. Most men did not sleep. Many stayed up to pray to the Almighty to protect the town and stop the plague.
The fires returned at noon on Saturday. But the prayers seemed to have worked as fewer houses were torched. The town was also better prepared as the fires were put out more quickly. And, while the fires were raging, the traditional leadership of the town began to look for a solution. Based on the reports received, the leadership simply concluded that the fires were a mystery which could only be attacked spiritually.
One of the victims, Hussaini Babanta explained that they arrived at their conclusion because of the way the fire spread. "Initially, we thought it was a normal outbreak; the type we normally witness during harmattan seasons. But from the frequent and simultaneous manner the fire occurred, it became clear to us that it was something mysterious which therefore required an urgent divine intervention," he said.
But some people in the town tried to explain the mystery. One person suggested that it was the wrath of God. As the story goes, ahead of the recently concluded council polls in the state, the opposition ANPP had invoked the Holy Qur'an against would-be riggers. The party said it would not challenge the results of the polls but would leave God to judge the outcome. Some people believed the fires were part of Allah's punishment for poll riggers.
Babaginda, one of the victims however disagreed with this line of thinking. According to him, the fires affected houses and properties of ordinary citizens who are not politicians. "No known politician in our area was affected. The fires only affected people like me and we are not politicians," he explained.
Speaking on the mysterious outbreaks, the District Head of Babura, Alhaji Hadi Mustapha, who also went round the affected areas of the town to sympathise with the people, seemed to agree with Babangida. He said the fires cut across a wide area and there was no reason to read political meaning into it. "We believe it was a mystery from Allah and decided to go back to Allah to seek His intervention," he said. He also said he reported the matter to the Emir of Ringim, Alhaji Sayyadi Mahmud and the emirate intervened with prayers as well.
The traditional intervention included doing 'ruqiya' for the three girls who were seeing the apparition. This meant special prayers would be said to help the girls stop seeing the apparition. Prayers were also said to rid the town of the spirit. As these efforts were being intensified, the local government authorities also moved to douse fears and stop the spread of panic in the town.
Aminu Ahmed, the chairman of the local government area who had been away on official assignment in neighbouring Niger Republic dashed back to take personal charge of the council's efforts. After a brief meeting with officials of the council who had been around and had witnessed the fires, he led a team of government officials to the scenes of the fires.
The mystery started on the afternoon of the first Friday of the month of March. Around 2:30pm, shortly after the Friday congregaeeting victims and their neighbours, the chairman assured them that government would take care of them in their times of need. He also told them that it was the will of God and with prayers, there would be no recurrence. Men of the council took a census of those affected as well as an inventory of the damage caused by the mystery fires.
The state government was not left out of efforts to stop the spread of panic and take care of those affected. Alhaji Lawan Garba, the Special Assistant to the Governor on Fire Service and Emergency led a special team from the state capital to assess the situation, stop panic and find the causes of the fires as well as make recommendations to the state government. The government's team included men and officers of the State Fire Department led by the Director, Alhaji Nasiru Yusuf. Officials of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) were also there. They interviewed victims and took an inventory of their losses.
The prayers and the efforts of the government began to pay off as women and children began to return to their homes. By Sunday afternoon, there were no more reports of fire. And after the government's assurances, the tension which hung over the town like a thick cloud began to disappear as quickly as it had gathered and people began to face their respective businesses.
Much later, the chairman of the local government area spoke to journalists about the mysterious fires, the fears of the people and the efforts of government. He dismissed suggestions that it had to do with the invocation of the Holy Qur'an saying that the Almighty is always merciful. He admitted though that it was a mystery but stressed that it was the will of God. He noted that the fires affected citizens who were not politicians and who supported different parties.
He went down memory lane and explained that the town witnessed something close to this some thirty years ago. "When we were growing up, we heard stories of strange fires which spread through the town. Prayers had to be said to stop the fires then. At that time, there were no politics; it was the will of God. The recent fires are also the will of God and we are not blaming anybody for the outbreaks," he said.
He noted that the outbreaks and the attendant panic have been contained and appealed to the citizens of the town to avoid rumour mongering as it could stoke unnecessary fright. He also said the council had concluded arrangements on how best to assist victims.
Many questions, but very few rational answers where provided. At the end of the day, everyone who listened to the stories from Babura agreed it was mysterious. How do you explain a mystery then? The answer is simple: a mystery is a mystery; there is no need to explain it. So, the people of Babura and their visitors stopped trying to explain the fires. It was a mystery which thoroughly harassed them for three days. They fought it with prayers and now it is the turn of the government to wipe away their tears.
The unusual characteristics of these fires are similar to spates of fires that have been raging in various parts of the world, all caused by an ultra low-frequency infrasound resonance. In myriad recent cases of this kind, standing waves of infrasound have caused the heating of metals, which then ignite any flammable objects in contact with the metal. In some cases metal car doors have ignited their plastic framing, and in this case in Babura, the flammable household items have included even a bucket of water, likely made of metal. The infrasound standing waves causing these types of fires are focused by the Orion pyramids of Giza, Egypt, which is 1,853 miles from Babura, Nigeria (12.65S 8.96E). This distance is 7.44% of the Earth's mean circumference distance of 24,892 miles.
This infrasound resonance will be growing erratically in relation to the increasing solar activity and requires the complete evacuation of these focal areas. Other affected areas in this region include Lalapansi, Zimbabwe; as well as Mapuve and Bodibe, South Africa.
In various other cases, vibrating cellphones and shavers have spontaneously ignited by this same effect, as reported in Vallejo, California; the Berici Hills of northern Italy and in Messina, Sicily. Other infrasound focal points include Ratria, India; Seattle, San Mateo and Santa Barbara, USA.