Information is an integral part of development. It is an indispensable factor for the development of any society. Development is hinged on the progress and productivity of the citizenry. It is therefore mandatory that the citizens are well informed of their rights, obligations, and privileges. The role of legal information in awareness of rights and obligations cannot be overemphasized.Legal information is all the published knowledge on the laws and statutes of a nation. Legal information is necessary to maintain peace and settle disputes. Legal information also promotes individual or collective rights to self defense. As posited by Omekwu (2003), legal information is critical in the administration of justice, because it reduces uncertainty while improving the accuracy of decisions. Legal information is contained in the documents of international conventions, in customs and general principles of law, and in judicial decisions (Gasiokwu and Ayewa, 2005). Civil rights groups in the oil- producing communities of Nigeria need information on various oil acts, land use acts, civil and criminal law, etc. This information is needed to carry out activities that fight for economic and political emancipation.
Civil rights groups in Nigeria predate oil exploration. These groups emerged to fight for independence and political emancipation, cultural/ethnic recognition, and autonomy for various groups. The Niger Delta today has many civil rights groups. The objectives of these groups are drawn from perceived injustices arising from oil exploitation, including the inequitable distribution of oil wealth, which is evident from the degraded landscape and lack of social and institutional infrastructure. The Niger Delta is a low-lying land of waterways and mangrove swamps located in southern Nigeria (Strides and Iteke, 1977). It is rich in crude oil wells and therefore hosts the oil producing communities of Nigeria.
Oil exploration, exploitation, and sales have left the Niger Delta environment degraded. The means of livelihood of the communities have been completely destroyed (Adebanwi 2004). The present sorry state of the oil-producing communities has led to the awakening of the citizens, who protest to draw attention to their plight and attract relief measures. These protests are coordinated by civil rights groups that have sprang up within the communities. They focus on economic and political emancipation for the Niger Delta region. These included groups of men, women, and youth, both literate and non-literate. They negotiate rights to employment, infrastructure development, and the ability to collect rent for land and passages. They negotiate based on established statutes and laws of the state and federation. The Niger Delta is witnessing methods of protest that run contrary to societal expectations, e.g., blockade, seizure of flow stations, and kidnapping. This paper explores whether the civil rights groups are aware of laws of the nation (Ugboma, 2008).
Objective of the Study
To investigate the provision and use of legal information among civil rights groups in their fight for economic and political emancipation of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the study is aimed at:
* Identifying demographic characteristics of these civil rights groups.
* Identifying legal information needs of civil rights groups.
* Identifying the different sources of legal information of civil right groups.
* Identifying constraints in accessing legal information by civil rights groups.
* Investigating the use of legal information for the prosecution of civil rights activities.
The survey research design was adopted for this study. The population of civil rights groups was drawn from Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers States, in the southern part of Nigeria, which are rich in crude oil and comprise a host of oil-producing communities. The sample size was taken from the active members of the groups who engage in negotiations for rights and privileges in ten oil producing communities which include Bomadi, Oleh, Irri, Amassoma, Brass, and Ogoni. …