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African Journal of Sustainable Development

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Conflicts Related to Natural Resources Exploitation: A Case Study of Oil Crisis in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Region and its Socio-Political and Economic Implications

PC Aju

Abstract


Nigeria’s Niger Delta (ND), an area of about 70,000km2 and harboring the third largest mangrove forest in the world is also the home of oil and gas with proven reserves of 37.2 billion barrels of oil and 32.8 billion cubic meters of gas respectively. Ever since oil was discovered in commercial quantities within the area in 1956, it has remained the ‘goose that lays the golden egg’ contributing over 90% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. However, activities associated with oil and gas exploration and exploitation has put the area, in the news within the last 20 to 25 years. Oil spillage has remained a common occurrence in the region with over 4,647 incidents recorded between 1976 and 1996 resulting in the spillage of approximately 2,369,470 barrels into the environment. About 300 cubic feet of gas is also said to be flared daily making Nigeria to account for over 75% of gas flared in Africa and about 18% of that flared by OPEC member countries. Nigeria in this way contributes 19% to global warming. Thus, oil spillages, gas flaring and other activities associated with oil exploration and exploitation have had adverse effects on the environment leading to pollution of land, rivers, creeks and waterways. This has tremendously disrupted the primary sources of livelihood of the people namely fishing and farming which has left them in abject poverty. It is this unbridled exploitation of the natural resources of the ND and the resultant devastation of her nvironment. However, pauperizing effects on the people coupled with the nonchalant attitude of successive governments in Nigeria in addressing the problems that was the driving force for the restiveness and militancy witnessed in the zone. The militants were involved in such violent acts as the blowing up of oil pipelines, disabling of flow stations, shutting down of oil rigs and hacking of oil installations all aimed at crippling Nigeria’s capacity to export oil and gas. This later snowballed into hostage taking, kidnapping and bombing with common criminals cashing in under the confused atmosphere to unleash reign of terror on innocent citizens. At the height of the problem, the Nigerian economy became prostrate with the country losing billions of dollars due to shut downs and spillages occasioned by attacks on oil installations. Human carnages resulting from the crisis was also very enormous. In order to douse the tension in the region, the Federal Government was compelled to proclaim an amnesty to the militants. Since implementation of the amnesty programme started, militancy and restiveness in the ND region has drastically reduced while crude oil production has picked up more. A big lesson to be learnt from the ND crisis is that it is only justice and equity and not force of arms or threat of deaths that can stop people from defending what they believe to be their inalienable rights.

Keywords: Niger Delta, Conflict, Oil spillage, Militancy, Amnesty



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