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OIL SPILLAGES AND ITS ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS (NIGER DELTA)

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the Study

In recent years, tremendous attention has been directed towards environmental negative effects by man’s activities which adversely affect the lives of plants and animals on land, water and air and even livelihood of people (OECD, 1976). One activity that has aroused considerable interest across the globe and especially in oil producing countries like Nigeria especially in the Niger Delta region is crude oil exploration. Crude oil exploration is one of such activity that can affect the environment negatively especially when accidents occur in operations resulting to spillage of oil. As a result of the impacts of crude oil operations to the environment, there have been actions in the activities of crude oil exploration across the globe to prevent the high risk of oil spillage and the accompanying environmental hazards (Ojakorotu and Gilbert, 2010). However, the exposure to risk has not been helped by the players in the oil industry who jostle for the ‘liquid gold’ thereby putting pressure on the oil producing communities and the surrounding environment. According to Egwu (2012), one of the factors that cause discharge of oil to the environment is the unethical engineering operations practiced by the industries involved.

An example of the catastrophic impact of oil spill is the Exxon Valdez oil spill which occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989 with an estimated crude oil spill of 260,000 to 750,000 barrels and more recently the BP deep-water horizon oil spill on 20 April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. It caused an oil discharge for 87 days with an estimated total discharge at 4.9 million barrels, (Egwu, 2012). As a result of lessons learnt from these and other oil spills, the prevention, response and management of oil spills is being given top priority worldwide especially in oil producing countries such as Nigeria in order to circumvent the economic and environmental hazards of an oil spill. To this end, several initiatives have come to the fore. One of such initiatives is to make and enforce laws and contingency plans for the prevention and control of oil spills. It is however curious that in most developing oil producing nations including Nigeria, the management of oil spill to prevent and respond to unwanted oil discharge even after so many years of petroleum exploration and production activities have not seen a reduction in the number of spillage occurrence. This has caused the government to resolve to grossly inadequate measure of monetary compensation to the victims of oil spill rather than concerning itself with the more appropriate solution of prevention and management to safeguard the environment, society and economy from the menace that is an oil spill.

1.2 Statement of Problem

Spillage of oil from exploration activities in the many parts of the world has lead to massive environmental degradation in the past decades. Such problems include contamination of water bodies, danger to aquatic life, destruction of flora and farmlands which includes resort centers, destruction of properties, loss of lives and many more (Badejo and Nwilo, 2008).

In addition, oil spillage impacts to the environment can lead to unwanted migration of people from the areas. According to Nwilo and Badejo (2005), the consequences of oil spill are far-reaching as it impacts negatively on the economy of a region, pollutes water thereby affecting the health of the local community, contaminates soils rendering it useless for farming and damages the reputation of the oil companies involved. These environmental consequences are some of the impacts of oil spillage observed in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria but could be more. Therefore, the need for measures to prevent and control oil spillage in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. The first step in managing crises like oil spills would be identifying the factors responsible for the spillage and similar incidents management’s methods. With the outcome, better managerial approaches can be adopted to prevent and respond to oil spills. The questions that therefore arise are; what are the causes of oil spill occurrence in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria? What are the impacts of oil spillage in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria? What are the management systems adopted for control of oil spill in Nigeria? Investigating these matters can also expose serious gaps in the management system for control of oil spill in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. This increases demand for suitable systems to address the issue of oil spill in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria by the government and oil industries.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

  • To examine the causes of oil spillage in Niger Delta region
  • To examine the effect of oil spillage on human health in Niger Delta region
  • To examine the effect of oil spillage on properties in Niger Delta region
  • To examine the effect of oil spillage on the standard of living in Niger Delta region

1.4 Research Questions

  • What are the causes of oil spillage in Niger Delta region?
  • What are the effects of oil spillage on human health in Niger Delta region?
  • What are the effects of oil spillage on properties in Niger Delta region?
  • What are the effects of oil spillage on the standard of living in Niger Delta region?

1.5 Hypotheses

  • There is no significant effect of causes of oil spillage in Niger Delta region.
  • There is no significant effect of oil spillage on human health in Niger Delta region.
  • There is no significant effect of oil spillage on properties in Niger Delta region.
  • There is no significant effect of oil spillage on the standard of living in Niger Delta region.

1.6 Significance of the Study

Research has a significant role to play in discovering approaches to prevent, respond, and manage issues like those presented by oil spillage in oil production activities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. This study will critically investigate and analyse the causes and provide recommendations for the improvement of the oil spills management in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, in order to reduce and where possible prevent the occurrence of oil spillages in the region.

It will help to create public awareness and understanding of oil spills problems and appreciation of their responsibilities to the environment. Industrial wastes from the oil industries could be used to address the impact of infrastructural deficiency in the local communities, for example, the disposal of gas from flaring could constitute the basis for generating power for urban and rural electrification. Other industrial wastes such as plastics, synthetic fibers, detergent and solvent could form the yield stock for petrol chemical industry. However, the wealth derived from oil sources exploits this oil producing area socio-culturally, socio-economically, and psychologically.

It will also highlight the extent of the effect of oil spillage on the public and point to relevant oil spillage issues deserving the attention of public enlightenment; that is, an enlightenment campaign through print media, radio and television if the government can implement laws, policies, and enforcement measures within the existing production regions.

1.7 Scope of Study

This study is focused on oil spillage in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria but particularly on the causes and impacts of oil spillage in the region and the management systems practiced in controlling oil spills in the area. This study is necessary at this time considering the increasing environmental deterioration in the Niger Delta region and presently the increase of migration of people from the rural areas to urban areas.

The Niger Delta region of Nigeria is the source of over 90 per cent of crude oil, which is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Oil accounts for over 90 per cent of the country’s export earnings and some 80 percent of government revenue.

More than four decades of oil exploration and production activities have left a severely degraded environment in Nigeria's Niger Delta oil region, through uncontrolled discharge of oil or its by-products including chemicals and wastes. The Niger Delta is located on the Atlantic Coast of Southern Nigeria. It is the second largest delta in the world with a coastline spanning about 450 kilometers and it has been described as the largest wetland in Africa and among the three largest in the world (NDES, 1997).

About 2,370 square kilometers of the Niger Delta area consist of rivers, creeks, and estuaries with stagnant swamp covering about 1900 sq. km. This is the largest Mangrove swamp in Africa; the region also falls within the tropical rain forest zone. The ecosystem of the area is highly diverse and supportive of numerous species of terrestrial aquatic flora and fauna in addition to human life. The Niger Delta region cuts across nine states in Southern Nigeria which includes Bayelsa, Abia, Cross-River, Akwa-Ibom, Imo, Delta, Edo, Rivers, and Ondo States. The region has emerged as one of the most ecologically sensitive regions in Nigeria.

1.8 Limitations of the Study

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