Thursday, September 8, 2011

Social Justice Issues and Environmental Degradation in the Nigerian Niger Delta - My Reflections

The Nigerian Niger Delta is rich in Petroleum and its allied resources. The uncontrolled extractive activities of the oil companies working in the region has resulted in widespread environmental pollution.

This contamination has had a negative effect on farming and fishing, which are the main traditional occupations of the inhabitants of the region. Farmland and rivers have been rendered waste as a result of contamination from oil spills from the pipelines which crisscross the whole area.

Wells and local streams which serve as sources of fresh water for the people of these areas have also become contaminated.
Reports also suggest that in some areas in the Niger Delta, the air itself is contaminated and inhaling this contaminated air is believed to be the source of many diseases experienced by locals.

A recent United Nations reported indicted a multinational oil company that is active in the Niger Delta of intentional negligence in the case of the oil spills in the area. The report further stated that it will take up to 25 years to clean up the area and revive the ecosystem that is dead!

Consequently, most of the residents of this area live in abject poverty despite the colossal income generated by the government from the petroleum resources extracted from the area.
They lack basic social infrastructure like good schools, hospitals, access roads, etc.

Apart from being deprived of their basic rights to a healthy environment, residents of this region are thus also deprived of their sources of livelihood and suffer a painful form of structural violence by being denied their basic rights to good education, health etc.

Over the years, some individuals of the region and local groups have started campaigns to protest these injustices, but instead of the authorities looking into their claims, they have been subject to direct physical violence in the form of arrests, executions and massive brutality in the hands of the military joint task force which is in charge of security in the region.

This oppression and the attendant injustices should be discussed in classrooms and students given an opportunity to understand that, while oil could be a major source of income to a country, the way and manner in which it is extracted, refined, and transported could have negative effects on the lives of local communities.

Among the issues that learners could be introduced to, are:
 Relationship between oil extraction activities and environmental pollution;

 Effects of environmental pollution on the economic lives of local communities;

 Relationship between oil exploration and violence;
 Relationship between oil exploration and illiteracy;
 Relationship between oil exploration and personal health.

Guiding learners to become aware of the various environmental issues outlined above, will:
 Make them aware of the need to strike a balance between economic prosperity and environmental sustainability in public policies.

 Guide them to cultivate a motivation to take action to ensure the environment is protected.

 Make them aware of the relationship between the activities of oil companies and social justice issues.

So, while the largest proportion the government’s income from export comes from this region, the inhabitants of this area face a disproportionate amount of discrimination and oppression.

By denying them good schools, the children from this region largely grow up uneducated and thus denied deprived the opportunity of acquiring quality education that could possibly have placed them in good stead to rise to positions from which they might possibly have been able to effect changes in the plight of their people.
They are thus condemned to lives as searching for nonexistent jobs as unskilled labour!



  1. Ibrahim,

    I remember hearing about this tragedy a few years ago. I was hoping that the situation had improved over the years, but apparently it has not. The world wants oil and unfortunately oil companies do not care about the earth. All they care about are profits.

    Is the situation you describe well known by most Nigerians? Is there any movement to change this situation? It seems that resistance will have to come from within Nigeria at first before the rest of the world will pay attention.


  2. The resistance movements (especially Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People MOSOP are really trying their best.
    They've used civil means, and unfortunately were pushed to employ violent tactics later.
    But we are expecting improvements this time around since the new President is from the Niger Delta region, and he seems willing to look into the issue.
    We can only hope he is sincere.

  3. This is good news! I hope that he is sincere as well.


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This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.