Monday, 23.08.2021 - Port Harcourt

Living with Oil by We-The-People and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Nigeria

Living with Oil: We-the-People and FES Nigeria Presents Finding of Research on Impacts of Oil Extraction on Communities. According to members of oil producing communities involved in the town hall meeting, the over six decades of oil extraction in the region had bequeathed a legacy of livelihood loses, conflicts and destitution.

Following extensive research conducted by We-the-People with support from the FES Nigeria on the negative impacts of oil extraction on communities of the Niger Delta, a validation town hall meeting was held in Port Harcourt on the 23 August 2021. The meeting which brought together stakeholders from various oil and gas producing communities across the region, featured narratives and experience sharing sessions dwelling largely on impacts of oil extraction.

According to members of oil producing communities, the over six decades of oil extraction in the region had bequeathed a legacy of livelihood loses, conflicts and destitution. Among the key negative impacts of oil extraction, the following were highlighted:

  • Oil pollution which has destroyed most of the rivers, swamps, and creeks in the region, has also resulted in massive livelihood loses. Being traditionally farmers and fisher folks, the pollution of the water bodies through oil spills has meant that the traditional livelihood sources of the people has been eroded, leading to widespread poverty and destitution.
  • The abundance of oil and gas wealth ought to mean an attendant improvement in the welfare of the people of the region, better infrastructures, better educational standards, better healthcare, etc. This has not been the case. Despite receiving higher revenues from the sale of oil and statutory allocations, states in the region have not managed to lift their people out of poverty and destitution. A long history of mismanagement, fiat and corruption has made states of the region among the least developed in the country.
  • In terms of infrastructure and other development indicators, Niger Delta states do not fare significantly better than others, despite standing on far more impressive fiscal grounds. The vast resources of the region have not translated into development. In many instances, social indicators- bad as they are in Nigeria- are even worse in the Niger Delta. For instance, while life expectancy in Nigeria is 53 years, in the Niger Delta it averages around 40 years. While 67.1% of Nigerians currently live below the poverty line, in the Niger Delta, 88% of rural dwellers live below the poverty line. These trends are similar when other indicators are considered.

The problems of the region have however been exacerbated by activities associated with crude oil extraction. One instance is the economically wasteful and environmentally hazardous practice of gas flaring. Of the 3.5billion cubic feet of associated gas estimated to be produced annually in Nigeria, 2.5billion cubic feet (or 70%) valued at about $2.5billion is burnt off in gas flares. The real losers in this practice have been Niger Delta communities who are exposed to adverse health impacts and loss of livelihoods arising from the practice. Another major source of concern is the uniquely destructive phenomenon of oil pollution. The transport of crude oil and finished products from various points to desired destinations means that thousands of kilometers of pipes are buried beneath the lands, swamps, and rivers of the Niger Delta. Sometimes due to age or human activity, the pipes rupture releasing oil that pollute farmlands and water bodies, leaving a trail of destroyed ecosystem, wildlife, aquatic life, and livelihoods. It is estimated that as many as 13 million barrels of oil has been spilled into the Niger Delta over the last decades.

Pollution, environmental degradation, and the inability of the environment to continue to support life, is the most visible and direct impact of oil exploitation. In all, the plethora of problems associated with crude oil in the Niger Delta has resulted in an alarming loss of traditional livelihood, leaving in its thread alarming levels of poverty, destitution, and conflict.

Research findings also indicate that there have been increased risks of illnesses among oil producing communities.  Respiratory system related health hazards occasioned by the continued flaring of gas are common. While gas flaring has been illegal in Nigeria since 1979, all oil companies operating in the region continue the unhealthy and wasteful practice which is known to poison and compromise the health of community people.

The need to suppress community dissent engendered by the challenges occasioned by oil extraction has resulted in state sanctioned acts of repression in the Niger Delta region. Military operations have become normal practice in communities of the region, resulting in widespread abuses and stifling of community dissent. Examples of these abound all over the region including in Umuechem, Ogoni, Rumuekpe, Udoda, etc. where alleged killings by law enforcement to protect oil extraction has taken place.

The town hall meeting equally explored the rising cases of oil company divestment from the region without necessary remediation of the years of negative impacts in those places.

Finding of the research by We the People with support from FES Nigeria will be published in a soon to be released report.

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