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Ogoni Clean Up And The Challenges Of Environmental Governance In The Niger Delta



  • Background to the Study

This study assesses the security implication of ogoni clean up on environmental governance in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Environmental governance has to do with power relations between people and their immediate environment. One issue that has gained prominence and attracted the attention of actors and policy makers in the international system, and also dominated academic discourse is climate change. This is so, because it has become the biggest contemporary issue facing humanity in the world we live in (Obi, 1999; Onuoha & Ezirin 2010).  For the danger it portends, a number of conferences and meetings have been organised at local and international level to address the causes of climate change as well as proffer solutions to the impacts being witnessed around the world. Some of these efforts have led to the development of legal frameworks to cut down what countries contribute to emission. Similarly, efforts have made to highlight the roles of stakeholders in finding a lasting solution to the climate change. Unfortunately, these legal frameworks and indentified roles have failed to yield the much desired result (Chris, 2008: 16. Obi, 1997: 139).

Before the discovery of oil in Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the indigenes depended solely on fishing and subsistence farming as their means of livelihood. However, since 1956 when oil was discovered in commercial quantity by Shell D’Arcy in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State, exploration activities of the oil multinationals in Niger Delta, have affected the means of livelihood through release of toxic waste and other harmful substances (Obi, 1999: 5; Chris, 2008: 16). The oil multinationals, as it would seem, have failed to take complete responsibility of the damage on the ecosystem. Shell’s argument that sabotage by aggrieved villagers contributed greatly to the pollution of the environment in Niger Delta exemplifies this denial. While this may not be completely false, giving the number of oil pipeline vandalized by the Niger Delta militant in the early 2000s (Fidelis & Ebienfa, 2011), it remains a far cry when compared to the spills caused by the oil multinationals.

At the United Nations General Assembly meeting held in September, 2015 in the United States of America, a number of Heads of State called for urgent actions to address climate change. Interestingly, the religious leaders have also added their voices to the call for action on climate change. For instance, Pope Francis while speaking at the US White House in September, 2015 and also at the UN General Assembly, later in the same month, requested world leaders to collaborate and make serious commitment to tackle climate change (Pope Francis, 2015).

As it would appear, the Pope is not only in this call, in the same token on Tuesday, August 18, 2015, Islamic leaders from twenty countries announced a declaration requesting immediate action from that world leaders to combat climate change. The implication of these calls therefore, is that, they are simply drawing the attention of their members to the need to put more pressure on their governments to act accordingly (Dennis & Tony, 2015).

It must be noted, however, that effort at tackling climate change at the global level has been highly politicized between the highly industrialized developed countries of the North and the developing countries of the South. For the later, they believe that they produce only negligible greenhouse gases. This view was again echoed by President Muhammadu Buhari while addressing the United Nations General Assembly meeting of September, 2015 in the United State of America. He argued that:

The world is experiencing new and unusual climate variability due to increased emissions of       greenhouse gases. Even though Africa contributes very little to global warming, the socio-economic consequences of climate change spare no nation. The burden is just as overwhelming             for developing countries (Buhari, 2015).

However, there might just be other contrasting views as to who pollutes the environment more. A World Bank Study carried out in 1995 typifies this view. It states that “as much as 76 per cent of all the natural gas from petroleum production in Nigeria is flared compared to 0.6 in the United States, 4.3 in the UK and 21 per cent in Libya. The Study further argued that the emission of CO2 from gas flaring in Nigeria releases 35 million tons of CO2 a year and 12 million tons of methane, which means that Nigeria oil fields contribute more to global warming than the rest of the world put together” (Abdul, 1991; Obi, 1999).

This sort of blame-game or schism was visibly demonstrated in Copenhagen when the Annex 2 Countries vehemently opposed the Copenhagen Accord, insisting that the agenda was tailored at short-changing developing countries in their quest for development. This failure to reach a consensus on dealing with climate change is occasioned by the disparity between the developed countries of the North and the developing countries of the South. Many are therefore hoping that the outcome of Paris Conference of December, 2015 will prove to be the much needed collaboration and understanding to address climate change (Obi, 1997; Obi, 1999; Aaron, 2005).

There are two relevant approaches in explaining climate change. One views it from the mitigation approach, which has to do largely with the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emission. Other view it from the adaptation approach which deals with the hydra-headed consequences of greenhouse such as flooding and increased temperature. Both approaches have been widely debated in the political and academic sphere. While adaptation is such an important aspect which requires concerted effort in dealing with it, the focus of this study, however, will be on mitigation.

1.2       Statement of Problem

Nigeria, the most populous black nation, with an economy highly dependent on oil exploration is not left out of the effects of climate change. For instance, the country has witnessed unprecedented flood in the South-South and South-East regions of the country were submerged, properties were destroyed, citizens rendered homeless and farm produce were completely destroyed. Many times people have complained about extreme weather variation and unbearable heat throughout the country. Recently, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Mrs Fatimah Mede, at the Joint Technical Supervision Mission on NEWMAP warned that Nigeria is the 6th in the world highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. She stressed that this may lead to disaster-induced poverty across the country if not adequately and urgently addressed. To underscore this, while addressing the General Assembly meeting, President Buhari informed that “in Nigeria, we have seen extreme weather variation, rising sea level, encroaching desertification, excessive rainfall, erosion and floods, land degradation – all of which threatens the ecosystem” (Peter, 2008; Okechekwu, 2015; Buhari, 2015).

The effects of climate change is country-wide, with devastating effects of recent flooding in the Niger Delta region and the various prolonged droughts that are currently witnessed in some parts of Northern region. In the Northern regions, there is a decline in food production to about 178.37% with high deficit recorded in the North West zone of the country (339%) (Apata, 2014). Nonetheless, this study will focus mainly on the Niger Delta region with emphasis on ogoniland of Nigeria.

One would therefore expect the Federal Government of Nigeria to rise to the occasion, by protecting the Niger Delta environment and in turn, the lives and properties of its citizens by monitoring the activities of oil multinationals as A. A. Kadafa argued. Unfortunately, the Government has continued to play lip service to the issue. Nigeria still ranks as one of the lowest in environmental ranking. This government inaction is due largely, to the fact that oil production constitutes a major chuck of revenue for the Nigeria state. Over 80 per cent of government revenue in Nigeria comes from oil in the Niger Delta (Olayiwola & Iwebunor, 2007; Fagbohun, 2012).

In spite the establishment of the laws such as FEPA Act and NESREA Act, 2007, and institutions such as the Ministry of Niger Delta, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to address and monitor environmental degradation in Nigeria, these efforts have only received attention on paper as Professor Faghoun (2012: 10) argues that the more things changed the more they remained the same.

Following series of agitations and unrest in the Niger Delta, characterised by kidnappings, destruction of oil facilities, hostage taking and violent protests, the government of Late President Yar’adua introduced the Amnesty programme in 2009 to restore peace in Niger Delta (Egwemi) The agitations that cumulated into the Amnesty programme in the words of Cyril Obi involved strategies of local empowerment, he explained that “mass participation included professionals, women, peasants, youths, traditional rulers, students, teachers and the church were devised” (Obi, 1999). In spite of this wide participation, only a few militant youths eventually benefitted from the bounty of the Amnesty programme. In fact, Iwilade and Ukeje (2012: 347) have argued that the process leading to Amnesty itself excluded the militant youths. Thus, concluding that, Amnesty itself is a tool of exclusion. Nonetheless, one thing that is agreed by many is that the Amnesty programme has helped increase oil production in the Niger Delta. This is underscored by the increase in oil production from 800,000 bpd in 2008 to 2.3million following the implementation of Amnesty leaving the environment to further deteriorate with the poor as the most vulnerable (Oluduro & Olubisi, 2102) This is aptly explained by Owolabi and Okwechime in what they have called the “contradiction of securities”.

As a result of years of oil spillages, gas flaring, environmental degradation by oil multinationals in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the government of Nigeria in 2006 contracted the UNEP to conduct a comprehensive assessment of environmental and pubic impacts of oil contamination in ogoniland. Even though the oil industry is no longer active in ogoniland, the people of the region still live with pollution caused by oil spillages every day. The UNEP report was released in August 2011 after months of expert assessment of the level of damages caused by oil exploration (UNEP report, 2011).  Based on UNEP report, Nigerian government launched the 1billions dollars ogoni clean up project in August 2017.  However, more than half a decade since the launch nothing much significant has been done.

Arising from the foregoing, this study therefore examines the nuances of ogoni clean up by focusing on the effort at mitigating the problem of environmental degradation in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. By implication, it seeks to explain the complexity associated in the cleanup of ogoni-land. It also seeks to interrogate the level of compliance of stakeholders in the cleanup exercise. It investigates the role of the state, oil multinationals, non-governmental organizations and social movements in the region. Finally, the study attempts to establish the challenges of environmental governance in the Niger Delta.

1.3       Research Objectives

The objectives of this study are to:

  1. Highlight the impacts of ogoni clean up on the environment and lives of the people of Niger Delta
  2. Examine the key roles played by different stakeholders in addressing climate change in Niger Delta
  3. c) Investigate why environmental governance has failed in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria in spite of the laws and institutions established in Nig

1.4       Research Questions

The Following questions will guide this research:

  1. What are the impacts of ogoni clean up to the environment and lives of the people of Niger Delta?
  2. What are the key roles played by different stakeholders in addressing climate change in the Niger Delta?
  3. Why has environmental governance failed in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria in spite of the laws and institutions established in Nigeria?

1.5       Research Assumption

This study is based on the following assumptions:

  • The continuous environmental degradation in Niger Delta would lead to total destruction of the Niger Delta region if left unchecked.
  • A proper implementation and monitoring of the environmental laws in the Niger Delta region will ensure the environment is safe for human to pursue their livelihood

1.6       Significance of study

This study is significant for many reasons. First, climate change has gained currency as it has taken the centre stage in local and global discourse. At the floor of the United Nations General Assembly members states focused largely on climate change and effort made at mitigating it. Again, in spite of the Amnesty programme and the establishment of different institutions such as Ministry of Niger Delta, environmental condition in the Niger Delta has continued to deteriorate. It is therefore important to evaluate these initiatives by government and examined why they have failed to yield the much desired result.

1.7       Scope and Limitation of the Study

This study will examine the challenges of environmental governance in Niger Delta, Nigeria. The scope will be limited to the Niger Delta region of Nigeria because of the severe environmental degradation being witnessed by the indigenes of the region due to the production of oil. The study will also focus on the Niger Delta because it provides about 80 percent of the entire government revenue, making it such a sensitive region for the government. The region has also become a hotbed for violence and agitation in recent times because of the hazards occasioned by oil exploration. Therefore, the scope of this study will be limited to this region.

This study like every other study has its own limitations. The work may likely face two major constraints. First, the researcher will face difficulty in interviewing key stakeholders for different reasons. While some may simply be busy, many others may not be disposed to granting an interview giving the nature of the subject matter. The research work will be richer if the research is able to travel round the Niger Delta states of Delta, Edo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Ondo, Imo, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River as well as Abuja to interact with stakeholders and administer questionneers to capture the view of a wider audience, but for limited resources. Therefore, it will relies on documentary works and government official policy documents to serve as primary documents.

1.8   Research Method

This study adopts qualitative research methods to both gather and analyse data. No doubt, qualitative method is best suited to the goals of my study. At the very least, this method stands a better chance of producing the kind of data needed to answer the questions posed in the study. Primary data will be obtained from official publication of Nigerian Government, United Nations Environmental Agency, and HYPREP Publications. Secondary data on the other hand will be obtained from academic journals, extant literature, published papers, and newspaper reports, and Civil Society Policy briefs.


1.9 Operational Definition of Terms

Ogoni clean up

Within the context of this research, ogoni clean up is the idea of cleaning of ogoniland from all form of contamination as a result of years of oil exploration by oil multinationals

Environmental Governance

Environmental governance refers to the processes of decision-making involved in the control and management of the environment and natural resources.  It is about the manner in which decisions are made; are they made behind closed doors or with input from the broader public?  Good environmental governance should reflect our best understanding of the structure, function, processes and variability that typify natural systems. Without this understanding, inappropriate decisions can be made with catastrophic environmental consequences (Obi, 1999: 6).

Although governments are important players in how the environment is managed, exploited and conserved, actors outside government are equally important.  The activities of nongovernmental organizations such as environmental groups, civic groups and labour unions have become advocates for better and fairer environmental decisions.  The actions of industry, trade associations and professional associations influence the way companies do business. For example, promoting cleaner processes. Environmental governance is only effective if it leads to fair and sustainable management of ecosystems (Fakier, Stephen & Jenny, 2005).


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