Oil Nigeria: Bothered For Fair Shares

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

Air quality regions have to reduce hydrocarbon emissions, and these tanks are an obvious source that they can regulate to help meet the Clean Air Act’s requirements, less alone poisonous effluent from gas flaring. Environmentalists accuse the company of failing to meet promises to replace ageing pipes and swamp flowlines that, it is claimed, are steadily leaking oil into the once pristine waters of the delta. Shell estimates that 95 per cent of discharges over the past five years have been caused by sabotage. The Niger Delta was now one of the five most polluted spots on the planet. Far from benefiting local people, rural communities have borne the brunt of the environmental and social costs of development, damage to the fragile mangrove forests over the past 50 years was tantamount to a catastrophic oil spill occurring every 12 months in what is one of the world’s most important ecosystems. As well as threatening rare species including primates, fish, turtles and birds, the pollution is destroying the livelihoods of many of the 20 million people living there, damaging crops and fuelling the upsurge in violence

In Oloibori, the first oil village where drilling began in 1958, youth unemployment is now running at 50 per cent. The cost of the leaking crude, much of it from outdated equipment and pipes, is estimated to be costing Nigeria $10m (£5.3m) a day. Flaring of natural gas has also been identified as having negative impact on surrounding vegetation. Effluent Discharge and Disposal. Refinery waste also contains very toxic chemicals, which constitutes potential land, water and air pollutants. Atmospheric contaminants from refinery operations include oxides of nitrogen, carbon and sulphur. Liquid refinery effluents usually contain oil and grease. These compounds contain organic chemicals such as phenol cyanide, sulphide-suspended solids, chromium and biological oxygen demanding organic matter, which on getting in contact with land and water pollute them.

The Niger Delta communities have remained grossly socio-economically underdeveloped and pauperized amidst the immense oil wealth owing to systematic dis-equilibrium in the production exchange relationship between the state, the Trans-national companies and the people. Enormous money had been derived from oil export but the area has been subjected to severe land degradation, socio-economic disorganization, increasing poverty, misery, military occupation and bloody violence. Oil extraction has impacted most disastrously on the socio-physical environment of the Niger Delta oil bearing communities massively threatening the fragile subsistent peasant economy and bio-diversity and hence their entire social livelihood and very survival. The oil producing communities have basically remained dependent and underdeveloped, persistently dis-empowered, socio-culturally marginalized and psychologically alienated. The wealth derived from oil resource exploitation and exports benefit directly only the operators of the oil industry and the bureaucrats in government.

The majority of the people of the region depend on fishing and farming for their livelihood, yet years of oil exploration activities with frequent oil spillages have led to severe environmental degradation with resultant destruction of farmlands and aquatic flora and fauna. Approximately 30% of the population have access to safe water, the rest of the people depend for water from lakes, rivers, streams, stagnant ponds and hand-dug wells generally contaminated and often at great distances from homes.

Consequently the oil boom has become, to the people of the Niger Delta region, a doom, and years of official neglect has resulted in the Niger Delta Region of today being the epitome of hunger, poverty and injustice. It is estimated that 10 million3of the 20 million people in the area are destitute, with 14 million people living in poverty in rural communities. In common with the poor the world over, their lives are characterized by malnutrition, under nutrition, disease, illiteracy, unemployment, low income, inadequate shelter and high fertility. The Niger Delta’s population suffers from the poor health conditions common in developing nations. Children are the most at risk and a tragically children under the age of 5 years constitute 20% of the total population but account for 50%of the deaths (in contrast to industrialized countries where they comprise only 1-2% of all deaths). Vaccine-preventable deaths are responsible for 20% infant mortality. The number of children infected with HIV/AIDS through mother-to-child transmission is high. Government medical care facilities reach perhaps 10%6of the population (mostly in cities and towns)

Exploration and exploitation over the last four decades have also instigated and intensified bitter and bloody conflicts between emerging interest groups within and between communities. This conflict now ranges between elite groups and between youth organizations on one hand, between the urban resident elite and the village community resident on the other scale. The Niger Delta Coastal settlements, which are already under stress of demographic pressure and unsustainable oil exploitation, are equally under the threat of sea level rise. Global projections of sea level rise put the area under future inundation of up to 100km in land. The implications are the loss of valuable Biodiversity, land, property, economic activities and livelihoods. Though the impact is not expected to be uniform across board, the flora and fauna already enlisted as threatened will be more vulnerable. The poor, marginalized and economically weak would be worst affected.

The impact would not be spontaneous and as such economic activities and facilities will gradually be relocated and human population will migrate, creating environmental refugees. The burden, which will be more social than economic will be heavy on the government, the community and other stakeholders. In addition increasing scarcity of land will accelerate the stress on available resources and conflict could ensue. Many adaptation measures are in place to contend the negative impact of sea level rise. These have their financial and environmental cost implications. Because of the prohibitive cost of protection, many developing countries such as Nigeria may not be able to afford such measures.

The preservation and advancement of basic human rights, the equitable use of land and resources, and the preservation and sustainable use of the countries natural environment are three inextricably connected aspects of a single historical process. The conflict that has emerged in the Niger Delta as a result of the extraction of oil has its roots in the violation of the rights of local community people as a result of the promulgation of obnoxious legislation’s. This has inevitably led to greater poverty and landless groups of people whose basic sustenance as peasant farmers have been negatively affected as a result of oil extraction for export. As a cumulative effect, this has led to more environmental problem in the region. While oil production is easily the nation’s most crucial economic life-line and has been the major contributor to the nations overall economic development over the decades, the oil bearing Niger Delta communities have basically remained persistently deprived of the benefits of oil resources” Suffice it to note that the environmental consequences and resultant poverty in the Niger Delta communities as a result of natural resource extraction can be explained within the context of internal and external production exchange relationship with the core.

What currently prevails in the Nation’s Southern oil enclave is a specific variant of internal colonialism…. The specific, highly exploitative and grossly inequitable endowment/ownership -exchange entitlements relations between the Nigerian state and the oil-bearing communities in particular, which explains why the enormous oil wealth generated is scarcely reflected in the living standard and life chances of the peasant inhabitants of the oil-bearing enclave. The government should put close supervision into whatever measure taken to boost the people’s living standard, in order to show us that democracy is working.

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