Environmental Management Project Topics

Challenges of Oil Spillage on the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria. Remedies and Prospects.

Challenges of Oil Spillage on the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria. Remedies and Prospects.

Challenges of Oil Spillage on the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria. Remedies and Prospects.


Objectives of the study

The main objective of this project is to examine problems associated with oil spillage in Nigeria, to analyze and evaluate natural oil resources extraction, its impact on the Environment and its effect on Development in the Niger Delta communities; this would be reviewed in the context of world system analysis and theories. The following are the specific objectives of the study:

  1. To examine the challenges of oil spillage in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.
  2. To examine the Legal and Institutional Framework for the Prevention of Environmental Degradation by Oil and Gas Companies in Nigeria
  3. To proffer remedies to the issue of oil spillage in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.




Exploration, prospecting and marketing of petroleum products have been with Nigeria for quite a long time now. There is no gain saying that the effect of these activities has brought about social, political and economic benefits to the nation. The other side of the coin is the adverse effect which petroleum exploration, prospecting and marketing have on both man and the environment. Without hesitation, it can be said correctly that it degrades and pollutes the environment. In this context, pollution occurs as a result of use of petroleum product either in its crude or refined state. Oil pollution may occur from an act of deliberate dumping or discharge of oil from ship when it is in jeopardy. It may also occur as a result of accidental spills in the course of transportation, pipeline leakage loading and or leakage at the drilling rigs. Whenever any of these situations arises, the result of such act may include destruction of marine life, destruction of wild life habitat, bird and destruction of the recreational value of beach areas. The negative consequences may also result in the contamination of drinking water and in some cases, it may cause fire outbreak there by destroying property and lives. Apart from these hazards, the damage that may result from petroleum operations, also include health hazards to man.

Concept of oil spillage

Oil spill incidents are common occurrences in Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta area. Prominent oil spill incidents include the Bonga (2011); GOCON’s Escarvous (1978); Idoho (1998); Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC)’s Forcados Terminal (1978); and Texaco Funiwa 5-Blowout (1980). The Niger Delta area, which harbours a substantial proportion of Nigeria’s oil and gas deposits is plagued with so many problems that make incidents of oil spill rampant. Vandals, militants, saboteurs, oil companies and the government have all contributed in one way or the other to this situation in the Niger Delta. To protect lives, properties, the environment, and business investments, drastic actions have to be taken to curb incessant oil spills.

Amnesty international in its recent report, said the hundreds of oil spills reported in Nigeria every year are ruining the Environment and putting human lives at risk. It said spills in Niger – Delta is the result of pipeline corrosion, maintenance issue, equipment failure, sabotage and theft.

For the last decade oil companies in Nigeria, in particular shell, have defended the scale of pollution by claiming that the vast majority of spills are by sabotage and theft of oil, the amnesty report said there is no basis for this claim.

Oil spillage could come up as a result of equipment failure, sabotage, human error, corrosion, blow guts, engineering errors, natural causes, acts of third parties, erosion and accidents. Data shows that most spills are attributable to technical reasons such as corrosion or equipment failure. This may occur as a result of some unexpected situation under very high pressure or where there is a failure in the normal working system of a rig or on the drilling unit. The acts of third parties can result to oil spillage as for instance, the drilling unit or pipeline is damage either negligently or maliciously.



As noted above, multi-agency response to oil spill incidents in Nigeria is hindered by a number of practical problems that reduce legislative coherence and institutional harmony. This section of the article will synthesize and discuss these problems.

Conflicts in Responsibilities between the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR)

The first challenge identified here is the apparent conflict between NOSDRA and DPR. NOSDRA is the statutory institution saddled with the responsibility of coordinating response to oil spill incidents in the country. From the provisions of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (Establishment) Act No.15, 2006 (NOSDRA

Establishment Act), this important responsibility is laid out. The Act also provides that NOSDRA is in charge of the coordination and implementation of the Plan (the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan) for Nigeria. From these provisions, it is expressly clear that NOSDRA is the agency in charge of oil spill response. However, the Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN) provides that all oil spillage incidents shall be reported to the Director of Petroleum Resources. The foregoing provision of EGASPIN, therefore, conflicts with section 6 (1) (b) of the NOSDRA Establishment Act. These conflicting provisions make room for “double reporting”, which amounts to a waste of time and defeats the essence of an efficient multi-agency response to oil spill incidents, which is to provide quick and effective response. Conflicting provision such as this should not be in laws governing the industry.



Institutional frame work for the prevention of oil spillage In the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria

Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR)

 The present-day department of petroleum resources started as a Hydrocarbon section of the ministry of Lagos Affairs in the early fifties it is the first statutory agency set up to supervise and regulate the petroleum industry in Nigeria with time, the section was up graded to a petroleum division within the then Ministry of Mines and Power. In 1970, the division became the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). In 1971, a new body, called Nigerian Oil Corporation (NNOC) was created to engage in commercial activities in the petroleum industry with the Department continue to perform the supervision and control duties in the oil industry.

In 1975, the Department of Petroleum Resources was constituted into the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (MPR) after energy matter was excised and transferred to another arm of Government. Through the Proclamation of Decree 33 of 1977, MPR and NNOC were merged to form the Nigerian Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The Decree also created the Petroleum Inspectorate as an integral part of the Corporation and granted it a semi-autonomous status, with its head reporting to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, who also doubled as Chairman of NNPC. IN 1985, a new Minister of Petroleum Resources (MPR) was again created, while the Petroleum Inspectorate remained in the corporation and retained its regulatory functions. On the 23rd March, 1988 with the commercialization of NNPC, the petroleum inspectorate was excised from the Corporation due to the noncommercial nature of its functions, and merged with the new MPR to form its technical arm.




Oil spill is caused by vandalisation and operational activities. Obviously, the production of oil and gas generate waste gases and necessitates that there should be control in a manner that protects the environment. But a major problem with oil and gas exploration activities in Nigeria is the inability of governments (federal and state) and their regulatory agencies to control and prevent environmental pollution and other associated problems. This inability is caused by the overlap of responsibilities of regulatory bodies and the nonchalant attitude of government to environmental matters. The insufficiency of our regulatory laws and the high level of corruption in the system are also responsible for the current state of our environment in relation to the oil and gas industry.

The importance of oil deposit in any society or nation can never be overemphasized as it has over the years contributed enormously to would economy growth and a higher standard if living for every country that are so blessed, on the other hand the downside of petroleum development has left a profound adverse effect on the global environment. Nigeria is no exception.

The people of Niger-Delta live in extreme poverty and continuous environmental degradation.

Given the overwhelming role of oil in Nigeria national economy, the policies and practices of the oil companies are important factors in the decision making of the Nigeria government. Because the oil companies are operating joint ventures with the government, they have constant opportunities to influence government policy, including with respect to the provision of security for the oil facilities and other issues in the oil producing region. All the oil companies operating in Nigeria share this responsibility to protect and preserve the environment.

In addition to these general responsibilities, the oil companies have specific responsibilities to protect the environment in connection with their operations, the

responsibilities must be seen against the context of oil production in Nigeria and in fact that the environment needs to be sustained to keep the oil flowing benefits the Nigeria government, the oil companies and the communities.


Spilled oil poses serious threats to fresh water and marine environments, its affects surface resources and a wider range of subsurface organism that are linked in a complex food clean that includes human food resources. Spilled oil can harm the environment in several ways, including the physical damages that directly impact wildlife and their habitats (such as coating birds or mammals with a layer of oil), and the toxicity of the oil itself, which can poison human organism.

Nigerians, the Niger Delta people in particular has suffered and are still suffering from continuous incident of oil spill in their environment, this has greatly affected their life style and pose a continuous health challenge on them.

Nigeria has become one of the most petroleum polluted environments in the worlds the impact of oil spill includes but not limited to habitat degradation, pollution from gas flaring.

These unfortunate incidents make the victims individual and host community, land owners, pond owners and other property owners to demand compensation. A lot has been done by the Nigerian government in ameliorating the plight of victims of oil spillage but much more still needed to be done if we are to once and for all control the incidence oil spillage. The Nigeria legislation at the moment is week in the provision for the protection of prevention of environmental degradation and compensation of victims of oil spillage.


Oil Pollution Compensation set up by the Federal Government that will make provision for Compensation for Oil Pollution damage resulting from activities of not only multinational Oil Companies but that of Oil thieves, Saboteurs and Pipeline Vandals.

Legislations that will protect the Environment of host Communities and ensure timely, adequate and fair compensation are to be urgently enacted. The Petroleum Industry Bill should be passed into law as soon as possible because it creates an opportunity to break up the existing ineffective structure and greatly increase environmental protection, particularly in relation to oil spills. It also offers the prospect of a new regulator and independent inspectorate.

Furthermore, relevant Government Ministries are to come up with administrative Policies that will ensure that Oil Spillage Victims are compensated on time, fairly and adequately. Immediate necessary Environmental efforts to be made by the Oil Company after any Oil Spill, the multi – national Oil Company must effectively attempt to rectify the harm caused to the victims of Oil Spill. Payment of compensation presents an opportunity for the Oil Companies to address and repair some of the Environmental damages. Oil Companies should endeavor to have flexible attitude towards determining adequate Compensation values for Claimants. Opportunities for Information and Communication are to be increased so as to appease victims.

Oil companies are to secure their pipelines so as to prevent Oil theft, sabotage and vandalism by using helicopters for daily surveillance. This will ultimately prevent Oil Spillage by these activities and the issue of victims not being compensated due to these activities will not arise at all. NNPC pipelines are to be guarded by Government Security Forces to avoid Oil theft sabotage and Vandalism (though the NSCDC) are doing a great Job at the moment so as to avoid Oil Spillage.

Oil Companies in Nigeria do not operate according to the robust International, Social and Environmental Standard most of them still use obsolete equipment in operation and this also cause Oil Spillage. Multinational Oil Companies in Nigeria should change all the obsolete equipment of Operation to current and Modern ones to avoid Oil Spillage since it is better to prevent Oil Spillage than to pay Compensation after degradation to the Environment. Eventually, high rise in case of severe Pollution of air, Land and Water with disastrous Impacts on health and livelihood will decrease.

Inadequate Inclusion of Communities in decision affecting their lives by both Government and Multinational Companies especially on Issues of Compensation should stop.

To avoid the heavy financial burdens and prolonged stress suffered by private citizens obliged to go to court to win Compensation, Government should take over the case on behalf of the claimants and stop taking sides with the multinational Oil Companies, to provide the victims with legal aid to pursue claims which in the opinion of an independent valuer, are reasonable and have a fair chance of success. Government should constantly relieve Pollution victims of the stress and financial hardship that currently accompanies attempt to win fair Compensation through litigation or arbitration.

If all these recommendations are put to use, there will be a noticeable Improvement in Nigeria Oil Industries and incidents of Oil Spillage in Niger – Delta and Nigeria as a whole will be at its minimal.


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