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GEOLOGY

OF THE NIGERIAN PART OF THE

DAHOMEY [BNIN]
BASIN
BY

M. OLNY ODBD

GEOLOGY OF THE DAHOMEY BASIN

FIG. 1: GEOLOGY OF THE NIGERIAN SEDIMENTARY BASIN [Sensu


lato]

INTRODUCTION:
The Dahomey Basin, also called the Dahomey Embayment, Benin Basin, or
West Nigerian Basin in older literature, extends from southeastern Ghana
in the West, through Southern Togo and southern Benin Republic
(formerly Dahomey) to Southwest Nigeria. (The western flank of the Niger
delta to be precise).
The axis of the basin and the thickest sediments occur slightly west of the
border between Nigeria and Benin Republic. The basin is bounded on the
west by faults and other tectonic structures. Its eastern limit is marked by
the Benin Hinge line, a major fault structure marking the western limit of
the Niger delta basin. To the west of the Benin Hinge line is the Okitipupa
Ridge (Adegoke, 1969). The tertiary sediments of the Dahomey basin thin
out and are partially cut off from the sediments of the Nigeria delta basin
against this ridge of basement rocks. The basins offshore limit is not well
defined.

FIG. 2: OUTCROP GEOLOGY OF THE DAHOMEY [BENIN] BASIN

LEGEND
RECENT [Alluvium]
OLIGOCENE QUATERNARY
\

PALEOCENE EOCENE [Imo Shale (Ewekoro, Akinbo, and Oshosun


Formations)]
CRETACEOUS [Araromi Formation]

PRECAMBRIAN [Basement Complex]

FIG. 3: OUTCROP GEOLOGY OF THE EASTERN DAHOMEY BASIN

STRUCTURAL / TECTONIC SETTING AND EVOLUTION:


The Dahomey Basin (together with other West African coastal
sedimentary basins) was initiated during the Mesozoic in response to the
separation of the African South American land masses and the
subsequent opening of the Atlantic Ocean.

Deposition was initiated in fault-controlled depressions on the crystalline


Basement Complex. The depressions were a result of rift-generated
basement subsidence during the Early Cretaceous (Neocomian). The
subsidence gave rise to the deposition of a very thick sequence of
continental grits and pebbly sands over the entire basin (Leaner & Ruiter,
1977). Over 1,400 metres of these sediments are preserved in coastal
areas in Nigeria and offshore in Benin Republic (Billman, 1976; Omatsola
& Adegoke, 1981).

During the Late Cretaceous (Santonian), there was another episode of


major tectonic activity, probably associated with the closure and folding
of the Bennie Basin. The basement rooks as well as the sediments in the
basin were tiled and block-faulted forming a series of horsts and grabens
(Omatsola & Adegoke, op. cit.) Considerable erosional activity
accompanied the uplift and block-faulting. And the extensive Lower
Cretaceous sediments were almost completely eroded from the horsts.
During the Maastrichtian, the basin became quiescent and has
experienced only gentle subsidence since.

EAST-WEST GEOLOGICAL SECTION SHOWING THE DAHOMEY (BENIN)


BASIN AND NIGER DELTA (AFTER WHITEMAN, 1982)

STRATIGRAPHY:
The oldest part of the sedimentary sequence is Maastrichtian onshore
(Stansky, 1962; de Klasz, 1978). Offshore, however, considerably older
sediments have been penetrated by boreholes (Billman, 1976). The oldest
sediments in the basin are non-fossiliferous, folded rocks of unknown
thickness but pre-Albian in age. The youngest strata are Pleistocene to
Recent in Age.

The Cretaceous strata have been assigned to the Abeokuta Group by


Omatsola & Adegoke (1981) and subdivided into three formations: Ise
Formation (oldest), Afowo Formation, and Araromi Formation (youngest).
ISE FORMATION (BB1): this is a sequence of continently sands, grits and
siltstones with a basal conglomerate overlying the Basement Complex.
Interbedded kaolinitic clays occur in places. Metres. Sporomorohs
recovered from the shell-BP paleontologists including Cicatricosisporites
sp. cf. C. mohrioides, Pilosisporites trichopapillosus, Klukisporites
pseudoreticulatus, Aequitriradites aff. verucosus and Stapilinisporites
caminus indicate a Neocomian (probably Valanginian Barremian) age for
the formation.
AFOWO FORMATION (DB2): This Formation, according to Omatsola and
Adegoke (1981) is equivalent to the outcropping unit referred to in
literature as the Abeokuta Formation. It is mainly composed of coarse to
medium-grained sandstones with variable, but thick, interbedded shales,
siltstones and clays, the shale component progressively increasing
towards the top. Its lower part is constituted by an alternation of brackish
to loose fluviatile sands. Intense pyritisation of some horizons is common.
On the basis of its palynomorph content (see Billman, 1976) and the
marine foraminifera and ammonites (e.g. Sphenodiscus and Pachydiscus)
it bears (Omatsola & Adegoke, 1981), the formation has been dated
Turonian to Maastrichtian. Its maximum recorded thickness is 2,300
metres.
ARAROMI FORMATION (DB3): This formation is composed of fine to
medium-grained sands at the base, overlain the shale and siltstones with
thin interbedded limestones and marls. Thin lignitic bands are also
common. The shales are light grey to black, mostly marine and with very
high organic content. The formation is richly fossiliferous, bearing
abundant foraminifera, ostracodes, and palynomorphs. On the basis of
this rich fossil contents, it has been dated Maastrichtian to Paleocene (Jan
du Chene, 1977a, b) Adegoke et al., 1980).
EWEKORO FORMATION (DB4): The Afowo formation (=0old Abeokuta
formation) is, in parts of the basin, conformably overlain by the Ewekoro
formation. In coastal boreholes and offshore, it is not encountered
(Reyment, 1965; Fayose, 1970; Billman, 1976). There, it is replaced by the
predominantly shaley Imo formation which unconformably overlies the
Afowo formation (Fayose, op. cit.). Borehole studies indicate that the
formation is lens-shaped, thinning out in all directions (and eventually
disappearing) from its maximum thickness of 34 metres at Ibeshe (Fayose
& Asseez, 1972).
At its type locality (Ewekoro Limestone Quarry), the formation consists of
10 to 12.5 metres of thinly bedded glauconitic and sandy limestone at the
base, which then becomes massive, grey and fossiliferous in the middle

and fine-grained, marly and algal in the upper part (Dessauvagie, 1975:
Adegoke, 1977). The top, highly scoured layer consists of red, dense
glauconitic, phosphatic and fossiliferous limestone.
Four microfacies units, sandy biomicrosparite, shelly biomicrite, algal
biosparte and red phosphatic biomicrite, have been erected for the
formation. (Adegoke et al., 1971; Ogbe, 1972).
The formations status and age have, perhaps, been the most
controversial in the history of the erection of Phanerozoic stratigraphy of
Nigeria (Jones & Hockey, 1964; Reyment, 1965; Antolini, 1968; Adegoke,
1969, 1977; Ogbe, 1970, 1972; Adegoke et al. 1971, 1972; Fayose &
Asseez, 1972; Petters, & Ollsson, 1980).
The formation is highly fossiliferous. Adegoke (1977) identified more than
220 mollusk and echinoderm species and subspecies from the formation.
It also contains abundant foraminifera, ostracodes and algae.
Most authors date the formation Upper Paleocene. The faunal / floral
assemblage indicates that the formation was deposited in a shallow,
nearshore (littoral to sublittoral) fairly warm marine environment during a
regressive phase (Adegoke, 1977).
IMO FORMATION (AKINBO FORMATION OF OGBE, 1972) (DB5): Where
encountered, the Ewekoro formation is conformably overlain by the
predominantly shaley Imo formation. Where the latter is missing, the Imo
Shale lies directly, unconformably, on the Afowo (old Abeokuta)
formation.
Imo formation consists of fine-textured dark micromicaceous shale, locally
silty with glauconitic marl and conglomerate at the base. The greenishgrey variety of the shale encountered in the subsurface of most inland
areas of Western Nigeria and which in the Ewekoro quarry disconformably
overlies the Ewekoro Formation was named Akinbo Formation by Ogbe
(1972).
The Formations thickness is highly variable. Offshore, it averages 400
metres (Billman, 1976) and in coastal boreholes 120 metres (Fayose,
1970). Further inland, a maximum thickness of 130 metres is recorded in
boreholes. At the type locality of the Akinbo Formation, its thickness
varies between 8 and 9 metres (Ogbe, 1972).
The Imo Formation is probably the most fossiliferous Tertiary unit within
the Nigerian part (i.e. eastern part) of the Dahomey Basin. Planktonic
foraminifera as well as benthonic ones are particularly abundant in it.
Four planktonic foraminifera biozones were recognize by Fayose (1970).
These are (i) Globigerina daubjergensis Globorotalia compressa, (ii)
Globorotalia angulata, (iii) Globorotalia acuta Globorotalia velascoensis,
and (iv) Globorotalia heynesi Pseudohastigerina wilcoxensis biozones.
Offshore, foraminifera (both planktic and benthic) are also abundant while
calcareous nannoplankton also occur (Billman, 1976).
The microfossil assemblage point to a lower Middle Eocene age for the
Formation.
OSHOSUN FORMATION (DB6): The shales of the Imo Formation grade into
the overlying mudstones and claystones of the Oshosun Formation.
In its lower part, the Formation is composed of dull brown and brick-red
sandy mudstone and claystone with light grey and purplish mottling. Thin
pebble beds and coarse pebbly sandstones are locally interbedded. Rare
inclusions of phosphatic and glauconitic material occur, becoming more
abundant and characteristic in the middle part. Light grey erinaceous
sediments are locally present near its top, constituting an unevenly
developed sequence to which Jones & Hockey (1964) applied the name
Ilaro Formation. (Adegoke, 1969).
Unlike the middle and upper parts, the lower part of the Formation is
extensive, stretching southeastwards from west of Ilaro to beyond IjebuOde.
TABLE : SOME OF THE MARINE PALYNOMORPHS RECOVERED FROM THE
OSHOSUN STRATA

Its total thickness onshore is unknown. Offshore, it is about 270 metres


(Billman, 1976).
The Formation is fairly fossiliferous both onshore and offshore. Onshore,
mollusks, foraminifera and fish remains have been recovered from it
(Adegoke, 1969); offshore, foraminifera (Particularly benthic) and
calcareous nannoplankton occur in it (Billman, 1976). These date it MidEocene (Lutetium).
The presence of glauconites, phosphates and abundant planktonic
foraminifera in the Formation indicates that it was deposited in fairly
deep marine waters, probably in the bathyal zone.
AMEKI FORMATION D (DB 7): At its type locality in eastern Nigeria, the
formation consists of greenish-grey clayey sand stone and sandy
claystone. It displays rapid lateral facies changes, sometimes showing
pronounced shaley development.
In the eastern Dahomey Basin, Ameki type sediments form a thin
conformably veneer above the Oshosun Formation form a (1969). In
coastal boreholes, the Formation is characterized by grey sandy shale
with intercalated glauconitic marls (Fayose, 1970; Fayose & Asseez,
1972). Offshore, the Formation is missing (Billman, 1976).
Although it has yielded abundant fossils in its type area in eastern
Nigeria, the outcrops of the Ameki Formation in the Dahomey Basin are
not richly fossiliferous. The few known Species (mainly Molluscs)
recovered from it indicate a Lutetian to Bartonian age for the Formation.
OGWASHI-ASABA FORMATION (DB8): Together with the overlying Benin
Formation, this Formation is variously known as (i) Continental Terminal
(In the western Dahomey Basin see Stansky, 1962) and (ii) Coastal Plain
Sands (Jones & Hockey, 1964). Alone, Reyment (1969) called it Ijebu Beds
and offshore, Billman (1976) gave it an informal name: Afowo Beds. It

consists of a variable sequence of clay, sand, and thin lignite seams (in
Eastern Nigeria). Its thickness is unknown. The Afowo Beds of Billman
(op. cit.) are marine shale, siltstone and sandstone sequence (known only
from offshore and the coastal region) representing channel deposits.
Ogwashi-Asaba Formation contains some plant remains which indicate an
Oligocene Miocene age and a continental environment of deposition for
it.
Afowo Beds contain foraminifera (Benthonic and Planktonic) as well as
calcareous nannoplankton... These microfossil assemblages indicate an
Early to middle Miocene age and an outer shelf to deep bathyal
depositional environment for the Formation.
BENIN FORMATION (DB9): Together with underlying Ogwashi Asaba
Formation, it is variously known as Continental Terminal and Coastal Plain
Sands (see above and Table I). The Formation was also divided into the
Ijebu Formation (i.e. the marine offshore sequence) and the Benin
Formation (i.e. the non-marine onshore sequence) by Billman (1976). The
Benin Formation consists of yellow and white, sometimes cross-bedded
sand, pebbly beds and clays with some sandy clay lenses. The thickness is
unknown except in the Niger delta where it is about 2,000 metres thick.
(Merki, 1972). The Ijebu Formation is a fossiliferous marine sequence of
fine to coarse sand and clay interbeds with glauconite and quartz sand.
Its maximum thickness is 500 metres (Billman, op. cit.).
Benin Formation contains plant remains. In addition, planktonic
foraminifera have been recovered from its lower part offshore; these
indicate a Miocene age. Its upper part is believed to be Pliocene to
Recent.
Foraminifera, ostracodes, calcareous nannoplankton and shell fragments
occur in the Ijebu Formation. The planktonic foraminifera date the
Formation Upper Miocene.

ECONOMIC DEPOSITS:
The strata of the Nigerian part of the Dahomey Basin contain several
economic deposits, the most important of which are indicated below:
(i)
TAR (BITUMINOUS) DEPOSITS: These occur in a discontinuous belt
stretching from east of Ijebu-Ode (Ogun State) to the Okitipupa
area (Ondo State).
(ii)
CLAY DEPOSITS: High quality kaolinitic clay deposits occur in
various places in the basin. These would be useful in the ceramic
industry (among other industries).
(iii) LIMESTONE DEPOSITS: These occur mainly in the Ewekoro
Formation and already feed two cement factories in Ogun State
(Ewekoro and Shagamu).
(iv) GLASS SAND DEPOSITS: These occur in a discontinuous belt along
the coastal part of the basin. Deposits of good quality glass
sands also occur in the Ilaro area.
(v)
OTHER INSUSTRIAL MINERALS: Sand, gravel etc. occur in copious
quantities in the basin.
(vi) WATER: The basal sands of the Ise Formation and those of the
Benin Formation among other occurrences, form excellent
aquifers throughout the Eastern Dahomey Basin.