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Signs of hope for environmental issues in the Niger River Delta

Oil dumping into Nigeria's Niger River Delta has been wrecking environmental havoc in the region, but there are some signs that regulation, which has failed to curb environmental abuses, will change.

Terfa Hemen of CDD writes,

Multinational corporations reportedly spill roughly 260,000 barrels of oil on an annual basis into natural water ways and fresh water sources. The Nigerian National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) recorded approximately 2,400 oil spills between 2006 and 2010.

Hemen explains that the government has been too soft in enforcing its own environmental laws, but various new pressures could force them – or other powerful bodies – into action. Nnimmo Bassey successfully pressured the Nigerian Government to adopt new legislations on the environment, and Prince Chima Williams called public attention to the Niger Delta and proposed that the UN should make sure companies abide by humane environmental standards. The incumbent Nigerian Government, under President Goodluck Jonathan, has issued several public pronouncements on environmental issues, and Shell-BP has reportedly accepted to pay huge financial compensation to communities affected by its explorations.

If these developments continue and gain momentum, they could protect the River Delta and mitigate the economic, environmental, and social damages that dumping causes.


Dumping can destroy local communities by polluting local water, and the indolence of the Nigerian government has encouraged militant activisms. Hemen says, “Ineffective laws, corruption at both federal and state levels of government have consequently deepened social discontent leading the emergence of militant groups using extralegal measures to call attention the Niger Delta problem such as vandalism, kidnapping, extortion, and so on.” If the problem continues unaddressed, more militant groups could emerge, increasingly leading to ‘shadow regulation’ of environmental practices.

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Searchlight Centre for Democracy and Development, Oct 2010, pg 11

Environment responsibilities of resource companies under host country and home country laws -the growing demand for extraterritorial liability - case studies and options for reform by Prince Charles Williams (2010 IBA Conference Vancouver, Canada) www.era.org