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Oil Pollution In The Niger Delta: The Responsibility Of The Nigerian State And Oil Companies

2276 words - 9 pages

Oil pollution has been a major environmental concern since commercial scale oil extraction began in the Niger Delta in the 1950s and it will be for as long as oil extraction continues. Since the 1950s because of the increasing demand for crude oil and the existence of large oil reserves, the Niger Delta has experienced what can be called an environmental disaster from oil pollution, which resulted in major consequences for the environment and for the indigenous people who depended on the region for their livelihood. A study on Ogoniland, located in the Rivers State of the Niger Delta, revealed that the soil, groundwater, vegetation, surface water and even the air had been contaminated by petroleum hydrocarbons, devastating aquatic and agricultural communities and causing serious health issues for many residents (Environmental Assessment 2011). Many historians, environmentalists, political theorists, and other parties have discussed and explored this disaster, leading to disagreement about who is to be blamed. Two general positions have emerged as a result: the first position, suggests the Nigerian State made the country ripe for such a disaster and that although multinational oil companies (MNOCs) like Shell might have played some role, the state that is primarily responsible for the environmental disaster in the Niger Delta because it is in control of rules, regulations, policies, and revenue. The second position argues that MNOCs themselves, with Shell being used as an example, are primarily responsible for the environmental disaster in the Niger Delta because they are in direct contact with the oil, equipment, and local people. Ultimately, the examination of popular and secondary research and of both positions outlined above leads one to conclude both the Nigerian State and MNOCs like Shell are responsible for oil pollution in the Niger Delta. The following paper will proceed by first examining the historical and current context of Nigeria; then it will examine each major position in turn, followed by a careful estimation of the most supportable position through an examination of primary and secondary research sources.
Historical Context: Before Colonization to After Independence
It is necessary to first highlight some elements of the historical context of Nigeria within the political, economic, and social spheres to put into perspective what may have led to the environmental disaster of the Niger Delta due to oil pollution. The social history of Nigeria shows the development of diverse ethnic bonds and social conflicts that continue to exist today. During the Late Stone Age, with the transition to agriculture and livestock rearing settlements, there was a greater allowance for the development of the many language groups and social identities seen today (Falola and Heaton 2008, 21). The Niger Delta originated as an ecologically diverse and resource rich region and for that reason, many different ethnic groups were attracted to the area...

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