Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment: The Panacea to the Niger Delta Struggle

Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment: The Panacea to the Niger Delta Struggle

Article excerpt

Abstract

Even with the Amnesty Package and the United Nations Report on the Clean-up of Ogoniland, the environmental and developmental challenges of the Niger Delta still remain daunting. The militant youths have continued with the kidnap and hostage taking of oil workers which has more recently spread to other states and regions, for a ransom. Worse, environmental laws and legislations are still being churned out. Having taken an international comparative analysis, this paper proposes a declaration of the Right to the environment as a sustainable solution to the Niger Delta crisis.

Keywords: Niger delta, Amnesty package, Environment, Oil spills

1. Introduction

"Our forests, our trees, our rivers and lakes are not commodities we can abuse. We do not own the land; we hold it in trust for generations yet unborn"... John Kufor

In the past few decades, awareness of the effects of environmental pollution on human beings and their quality of life has increased dramatically. Before then, environmental matters were left for experts in geography; countries focused their energies rather on relentless industrial development with little or no attention to its impact on the environment. By many accounts, the environmental problems in the African continent in the last decades have been exacerbated by reckless exploitation of natural resources, improperly planned urbanization and industrialization.

Nigeria is not left out of this environmental despoliation. The extent of environmental pollution and degradation in the Niger Delta Region due to oil and gas exploration have become a cause for great concern to all stakeholders; no clean water, decades of oil spills, acid rains from gas flare, idle fishing nets and adults. The people who were predominantly farmers and fishermen before the oil boom have been left with no farmlands and fishes to sustain life.

Having taken an in-depth study of the existing laws and legislations in Nigeria which have not recorded significant success, the writer recommends a pragmatic and sustainable solution: a constitutional amendment that includes the right to a clean and healthy environment (Article 39, Ugandan Constitution) as one of the fundamental rights and freedoms under Chapter Four of the Nigerian Constitution. This right has surprisingly taken its rightful place in various constitutions in the world. This work therefore x-rays the attendant possibilities and problems associated with this desired goal.

2. The Niger Delta

The Niger Delta area is located in the Southern part of Nigeria namely the South-South and some parts of the South-East and South-West zones. A geopolitical framework mainly populated by the 'Ijaw' ethnic group, the Niger Delta spreads over a total landmass of about 112,110 square kilometers, and makes up over 12 percent of Nigeria landmass (NDRDMP, 2006). The region is inhabited by an estimated population of twenty-eight (28) million people, and more than forty (40) ethnic groups consisting of 185 out of the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria (NDRDMP, 2006).

Historically and cartographically, the Niger Delta consists of the present day Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River and Edo States, thus covering the six (6) States in the South-South.

However, the legislation of the then Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Bill 1999 further extended the frontiers of the Niger Delta to include Ondo, Imo and Abia States, thus increasing the political map of Niger Delta to nine states (Ogbuigwe,1999).

The Niger Delta area is characterized by wetlands - one of the largest in the world - and water bodies, consisting of an extensive fresh water swamp forest, rich fisheries deposits and tropical rain forest of great biological diversity. Alongside these immense agricultural potentials, the Niger Delta is blessed with abundant natural resources particularly hydrocarbon deposits on oil and gas. The area accounts for Nigeria's oil reserves (6th largest in the world), which was put at 40 billion barrels as at 2010, and natural gas reserves of 159 trillion square cubic feet - 9th largest in the world (Ladan, 2009). …

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