Why Environmental Injustice Flourishes In Nigeria


By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Recently, precisely on Tuesday, November 21, 2023, I participated as a panellist at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands, a panel discussion on The role of multi-stakeholder engagement in achieving environmental justice.

The gathering, which was held in Victoria Island, Lagos, formed part of training on Environmental Justice: Reducing Ecological and Social Inequalities through Effective and Participatory Land Governance.

Essentially, in my private study/preparation for the programme, the need to domesticate the subject became paramount to me. To achieve this objective; the following questions came flooding; what is environmental justice? Are there traces or evidence that it exists in any part of Nigeria? In what form or shape? Who are the people responsible? Who are the most impacted? What is the politics that kept it going? How can we creatively achieve effective development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies without discrimination against the have-nots and vulnerable peoples? What strategy and tactics can policy and decision-makers at both Federal and state levels adopt to get the people directly involved in the decision-making process that affects their environment?

Providing answers to the above questions, beginning with the first, from what experts are saying, environmental justice is a crusade that advocates fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, colour, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Viewed broadly, environmental justice, according to the world information search engine, Wikipedia, is a social movement to address environmental injustice, which occurs when poor or marginalized communities are harmed by hazardous waste, resource extraction, and other land uses from which they do not benefit. The movement has generated hundreds of studies showing that exposure to environmental harm is inequitably distributed.

Historically, the movement began in the United States in the 1980s. It was heavily influenced by the American civil rights movement and focused on environmental racism within rich countries. The movement was later expanded to consider gender, international environmental injustice, and inequalities within marginalised groups.

The global environmental justice movement arises from local environmental conflicts in which environmental defenders frequently confront multinational corporations in resource extraction or other industries. Local outcomes of these conflicts are increasingly influenced by transnational environmental justice networks.

Undoubtedly, when the above definition/explanation is juxtaposed with the ongoing degradation in the country in the name of development, it becomes glaringly obvious that environmental injustice exists here in Nigeria and remains a sin that all must share in its guilt.  But if this injustice which daily and harmfully impacts the poor and other vulnerable Nigerians is a challenge in other parts of the country, what is happening in the Niger Delta region, South-South Geopolitical zone is a crisis.

It is a brazen unfairness planted by the government and signposted in areas such as; a parade of multiple but obsolete environmental laws, poor enforcement habits and brazen lack of capacity to see through to programme monitoring and evaluation,  discrepancy in application and implementation of environmental, policies, programmes and initiatives.

This environmental ill is further accelerated by corporate organizations’ particularly the International Oil Companies (IOCs) noncompliance with international best practices in their day-to-day quest for profit maximization through crude oil exploration and production in the Niger Delta region and compounded by their erroneous understanding of call for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a dangerous fiction targeted at hand twisting the rich and mighty.

Out of many such examples, this piece will highlight evidence of incapacity to enforce compliance with environmental regulations and demands.

Fundamentally, many Nigerians with critical interest had hitherto believed that the advent of Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, which was signed into law in the aforementioned years, and arguably the most audacious attempt to overhaul the petroleum sector in Nigeria, will solve the real and imagined challenges in the nation’s petroleum sector, and turn Niger delta region, particularly host communities to a zone of peace in their relationship with Crude Oil prospecting and exploration companies.

But today, facts have since emerged that instead of providing the legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian Petroleum Industry and the host communities, the Petroleum Industry Act (Act), has contrary to expectation become a first line of conflict between crude oil prospecting, exploration companies and their host communities. Like other Acts that guided crude oil production in the past, PIA has similarly become a toothless bulldog that neither bites nor barks. In fact, analysts and industry watchers have come to a sudden realization that nothing has changed.

A tour by boat of creeks and coastal communities of Warri South West and Warri North Local Government Areas of Delta state will amply reveal that the much-anticipated end in sight of gas flaring is actually not in sight. In the same manner, a journey by road from Warri via Eku-Abraka to Agbor, and another road trip from Warri through Ughelli down to Ogwuashi Ukwu in Aniocha Local Government of the state, shows an environment where people cannot properly breathe as it is littered by gas flaring points.

To a large extent, the above confirms as true the recently published report which among other concerns noted that Nigeria has about 139 gas flare locations spread across the Niger Delta both in onshore and offshore oil fields where gas which constitutes about 11 per cent of the total gas produced are flared. Apart from the health implications of flared gases on humanity, its adverse impact on the nation’s economy is equally weighty.

Banking on what experts are saying, the major reason for the flaring of gases is that when crude oil is extracted from onshore and offshore oil wells, it brings with it raw natural gas to the surface where natural gas transportation, pipelines, and infrastructure are lacking, like in the case of Nigeria, this gas is instead burned off or flared as a waste product as this is the cheapest option. This has been going on since the 1950s when crude oil was first discovered in commercial quantities in Nigeria.

While Nigeria and Nigerians persist in encountering gas flaring in the country, even so, has successive administrations in the country made both feeble and deformed attempts to get it arrested.

The facts are there and speak for it.

In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration enacted Gas Flare Prohibition and Punishment), an act that among other things made provisions to prohibit gas flaring in any oil and gas production operation, blocks, fields, onshore or offshore, and gas facility treatment plants in Nigeria.

On Monday, September 2, 2018, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum (as he then was) while speaking at the Buyers’ Forum/stakeholders’ Engagement organized by the Gas Aggregation Company of Nigeria in Abuja among other things remarked thus; ‘I have said to the Department of Petroleum Resources, beginning from next year (2019 emphasis added), we are going to get quite frantic about this (ending gas flaring in Nigeria) and companies that cannot meet with extended periods –the issue is not how much you can pay in terms of fines for gas flaring, the issue is that you would not produce. We need to begin to look at the foreclosing of licenses’.

The threat has since ended in the frames as the Minister did little or nothing to get the threat actualized.

The administration also launched the now abandoned National Gas Flare Commercialization Programme (NGFCP, a programme, according to the Federal Government aimed at achieving the flares-out agenda/zero routine gas flaring in Nigeria by 2020.

Again, like a regular trademark, it failed.

Away from Buhari’s administration, in 1979, the then Federal Government in a similar style came up with the Associated Gas Re-injection Act which summarily prohibited gas flaring and also fixed the flare-out deadline for January 1, 1984. It failed in line with the leadership philosophy in the country.

Similar feeble and deformed attempts were made in 2003, 2006, and 2008.

In the same style and span, precisely on July 2, 2009, the Nigerian Senate passed a Gas Flaring (Prohibition and Punishment) Bill 2009 (SB 126) into Law fixing the flare-out deadline for December 31, 2010- a date that slowly but inevitably failed. Not stopping at this point, the FG made another attempt in this direction by coming up with the Petroleum Industry Bill which fixed the flare-out deadline for 2012. The same Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was protracted till 2021 when it completed its gestation and was subsequently signed into law by President Buhari, as the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).

Despite this vicious movement to save the environment and its people, the Niger Delta challenge remains. So the question that is as important as the piece itself is; if this legion of laws/Acts cannot save the people of the region, who will? When will it complete its gestation period and deliver the targeted environmental protection/justice to the people of the Niger Delta region?

While answer(s) to the above question remain germane, this piece also identifies the government’s reluctance to appreciate development plans and reform programs from a rights-based perspective, as another fundamental obstacle to realizing environmental justice in the country.

This non-infusion of human rights perspective to development adversely acts as an impediment to the application of principles of participation, accountability, transparency and non-discrimination towards the attainment of equity and justice in development initiatives.

As clarified by the United Nations Independent Expert on the Right to Development, for a programme to be tagged development, it must require a particular process that allows the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, and all fundamental freedoms, by expanding the capabilities and choices of the individual.

To operationalize the above guideline, the state and federal government must shun all forms of discriminatory approaches to environmental designs, implementation and enforcement, as the concentration of environmental attention in one part of the state to the detriment of others is nothing but environmental injustice.

As stated elsewhere “the intentional involvement of traditionally underrepresented communities — especially low-income people of colour — is key to addressing local environmental justice concerns. Not only do these communities benefit from inclusion in the planning processes, but their knowledge can help those making planning and policy decisions in identifying activities of polluters and potential hidden hazards that they may not even realize exist.

This holds the opinion that both Federal and state governments must internalize these facts.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He can be reached via [email protected] or 09032725374

Related Stories

World Holocaust Day – Untold Story of A Religious Group’s Stand Up to Nazi Regime

As many around the globe commemorate the 97th International Holocaust Remembrance Day (also known as World Holocaust Day or IHRD) today January 27, it is a time to reflect on the inhumane treatment meted out to groups seen as opposed to the Nazi regime and the world’s response to genocide since the end of World War 2. One of the groups targeted by the Nazi regime was Jehovah’s Witnesses who were among the first to be sent to the Death Camp. For many, the observance of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp which forms the basis of the World Holocaust


A Cultural Journalist’s 15 years of Research on Ijaw Culture and Worship

By Jerome-Mario Utomi No man, according to Aristotle, chooses anything but what he can do himself. And thus, choice is limited to the realm of things humanly possible. Aristotle further stated that there is no choice among impossibilities. Choice, by its very nature, is free. A necessitated choice is not a choice at all but a great sacrifice, he concluded. The above lines from great Aristotle amply capture the ‘fate’ or better still the position of Asiayei Enaibo, Bobogbene community, a Warri, Delta state-based journalist who made a necessitated choice/sacrifice by opting out of conventional journalism to explore formation that


A Victory That Rendered Further Conflicts Unnecessary

By Jerome-Mario Utomi It is pedestrian information that pursuant to the provisions of Section 72(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, issued a Certificate of Return to Sheriff Oborevwori, Delta state Governor-elect. The ‘ritual’ followed his electoral victory at the Saturday, March 18 gubernatorial poll in the state as conducted by INEC. But similar to every new invention which comes with opportunities and challenges, many of Oborevwori’s opponents particularly candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Labour Party (LP), in pursuit of their constitutional rights

More Stories

Muwowo Seeks Urgent Action on Rising Costs of Land, Materials

By Modupe Gbadeyanka An appeal has been made to governments across the globe to urgently do something about the rising costs of land and building materials in order not to deny citizens affordable houses. This plea was made by the acting Managing Director and Chief Finance Officer of Shelter Afrique, Mr Kingsley Muwowo, at the 11th World Urban Forum held in Katowice, Poland from June 26-30, 2022, with the theme Transforming Our Cities for a Better Urban Future. Mr Muwowo, while speaking on Delivering Affordable Housing Across Continents, lamented that the aforementioned factors could derail efforts to speed up the


Takeda Okays Phase 3 Trial of ALUNBRIG

By Dipo Olowookere Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited has disclosed that the global, randomized, Phase 3 ALTA-1L (ALK in Lung Cancer Trial of AP26113 in 1st Line) trial met its primary endpoint at the first pre-specified interim analysis, with ALUNBRIG (brigatinib) demonstrating a statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival (PFS) compared to crizotinib in adults with anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive (ALK+) locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who had not received a prior ALK inhibitor. The trial was designed to assess the efficacy and safety of ALUNBRIG in comparison to crizotinib based on evaluation of the primary endpoint of


SERAP Begs INEC to Allow 7 million Nigerians Complete Voter Registration

By Adedapo Adesanya The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to allow seven million Nigerians to complete their voter registration. SERAP made the call in a statement on Sunday through its Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, warning that the failure of the electoral body to grant this request could attract legal action. According to the rights group, INEC recently disclosed that out of 10,487,972 Nigerians who carried out their pre-registration online, only 3,444,378 completed the process at physical centres. SERAP believes that the right to vote is also the right to be


NNPC, Kaduna Sign MoU to Deepen Gas Supply

By Adedapo Adesanya The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the  Kaduna State Government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for utilisation and expansion of gas supply in the state. This is as the country seeks to boost its domestic gas penetration aspirations in line with the federal government Decade of Gas plans which is aimed at utilising the nation’s abundant gas resources to power the nation’s economy through a number of strategic gas expansion projects such as the ongoing OB3 and Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) Gas Pipeline Projects. Speaking at the MoU execution ceremony, which was held on Thursday at


I Know Nigerians Are Not Enjoying Quality Power Supply—Minister

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel The Minister of Power, Mr Abubakar Aliyu, has said he’s aware that Nigerians are not enjoying quality power supply, stating that efforts are being made to address this issue. In a statement issued to mark his 50 days in office, Mr Aliyu said the service quality was making it difficult for the sector to grow as desired. He stated that the quality of service such as hours of power supply, voltage, disputed or estimated bills, is less satisfying to many people but noted that the federal government has always had to provide financial support to cover the


UNIOSUN Targets Spot in 10 Top Universities in Nigeria by 2026

By Bliss Okperan The University of Osun State (UNIOSUN) has set a goal to achieve a spot in the 10 top universities in Nigeria by 2026. The Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Clement Adebooye, while speaking on Friday at the main campus of the university in Osogbo, said the management also intends to make the school one of the 25 best in Africa in three years’ time. According to him, the management has begun to implement the strategies designed to meet this target, including providing a peaceful academic environment for students and others. He expressed the commitment of the


4 Things To Look Out For Before Using an ATM

By Adeniyi Ogunfowoke ATMs have made sending and receiving cash very easy. You don’t really need to visit the bank to perform banking transactions. However, with the increased use of these machines, ATM related fraud has increased. In some cases, you will receive alerts when you have not used your card. So, don’t just insert your ATM card in any machine. We gather some signs to look out for whenever you use an ATM. Pinhole camera Almost every ATM comes with a pinhole camera. The camera captures every person who uses the machine. So, before you use the machine, you


NASD OTC Stock Market Witnesses 0.13% Depreciation

By Adedapo Adesanya  The NASD Over-the-Counter (OTC) Securities Exchange slumped by 0.13 per cent on Wednesday, November 8, affected by a weakening in the health of two admitted securities. FrieslandCampina Wamco Nigeria Plc further depleted by 40 Kobo in the midweek session to close at N74.00 per share versus the previous day’s N74.40 per share, and UBN Property Plc went down by 12 Kobo to sell at N1.36 per unit compared with Tuesday’s closing price of N1.48 per unit. The losses posted by the duo pulled down the market capitalisation of the bourse by N1.46 billion to N1.121 trillion from

Recent Stories

Nigeria Posts 2.74% GDP Growth in 2023

By Adedapo Adesanya Nigeria’s economy grew by 2.74 per cent in 2023, lower than the 3.1 per cent posted in 2022. This was disclosed by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its latest Nigeria Gross Domestic Product Q4 2023 Report released on Thursday. While the country’s economic growth was lower than the preceding year, it grew by 3.46 per cent (year-on-year) in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2023. This growth rate is lower than the 3.52 per cent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2022 and higher than the third quarter of 2023 growth of 2.54 per


Nashaira Belisa Takes Project OMI to Lagos Orphanage, School

By Adedapo Adesanya  Miss World Curacao 2024, and Curaçao’s delegate to Miss World 2024 in India, Miss Nashaira Belisa, an influential humanitarian and businesswoman, has launched PROJECT OMI. OMI, meaning water in the Yoruba Language, is a transformative initiative focused on addressing the critical need for clean water in orphanages and communities across Nigeria and Ghana. She is using this initiative to change the world, one drop of water at a time. The project, aptly named OMI, is a testament to Belisa’s commitment to making a lasting impact beyond the realm of beauty pageantry. Belisa’s dedication to clean water accessibility


Senate Confirms Cardoso, Yuguda, 10 Others as CBN MPC Members

By Adedapo Adesanya The Senate has confirmed the appointment of 12 persons as members of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) ahead of next week’s eagerly awaited interest rate-setting meeting. This confirmation comes after a report of the Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions was considered during plenary on Thursday. The confirmation of the new MPC members comes days before the first policy meeting of the apex bank under the new CBN governor, Mr Olayemi Cardoso, who by his position will be the chairman of the committee. The meeting has been slated


Purple Real Estate Welcomes Umar, Oladimeji to Board

By Adedapo Adesanya Nigerian real estate platform, Purple Real Estate Income Plc, has made significant changes to its board, marking a pivotal moment in the company’s growth strategy amid current macro headwinds. The reshuffle brings on Mr Aminu Umar and Mr Olasunkanmi Oladimeji to join the board as Non-Executive Director and Executive Director. The duo of Mr Umar and Mr Oladimeji will take over from Mrs Osareme Archibong and Mrs Fiona Ahimie, both outgoing Independent Non-Executive Directors, according to notice on NASD OTC Securities Exchange, where the company trades its securities. Commenting on the changes, the Chairman of the board,


AFCON 2023: Nigerian Content Creators See 200% Rise in Revenue, Views

By Adedapo Adesanya Content creators in Nigeria saw a 200 per cent increase in views and revenue between December 2023 and February 2024, a new study shared with Business Post showed. According to new data released by StarNews Mobile, an African video streaming platform, content creators across Africa experienced a 300 per cent surge in revenues during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) held between January 13 and February 11, 2024, reaffirming the massive surge in consumption of hyper-localized content from the continent. Based on metrics from StarNews Mobile’s platform, creators in Nigeria were only outshone by their peers


Two Die, 15 Rescued in Ikoyi-Lekki Link Bridge Boat Mishap

By Modupe Gbadeyanka Two persons have been confirmed dead in a boat accident that occurred on Wednesday night at the Ikoyi-Lekki Link bridge in Lagos. The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), which confirmed the incident, stated that 15 persons were rescued in the mishap. The agency stated that the boat, which was conveying 17 passengers, was heading to the Ikorodu area of the metropolis from its take-off point, Sandfil, when it capsized at the Powerline area of the popular bridge. It said the body of a female passenger, who drowned, was recovered, while the corpse of the male passenger


NPPAN Targets $10bn Contribution to Nigeria’s GDP via Palm Biomass

By Adedapo Adesanya The federal government will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Malaysian government to develop palm biomass in the country as part of efforts to utilise one of the undertapped farm produces in the country. Mr Alphosus Inyang, President of the National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria (NPPAN), made this disclosure, saying palm biomass is a multi-billion dollar economy. “Biomass simply means agricultural waste and we are talking about turning waste into wealth,’’ he said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Abuja. The president said NPPAN was working with


Salesforce Introduces Clean Energy Programme Management

By Modupe Gbadeyanka A new solution to help electric, gas, and water utilities increase customer participation in clean energy programmes has been introduced by Salesforce. The initiative known as Clean Energy Programme Management for Energy & Utilities Cloud streamlines the launch, management, and oversight of energy efficiency, conservation, electrification, and EV charging programs. It helps utilities manage clean energy initiatives with connected data — like energy usage and billing information — and personalised engagement to promote relevant programmes. This platform also digitises and simplifies the application process for customers, participating contractors, and utility program staff to help increase clean energy


Dangote Sugar to Borrow N50bn from Commercial Paper Sales

By Aduragbemi Omiyale The management of Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc is requesting about N50 billion from capital market investors for its short-term working capital and funding requirements. The sugar miller will get the funds from investors through the sale of commercial papers and has promised to repay in about nine months’ time. The CP sales will be conducted under its N150 billion commercial paper issuance programme approved by the regulatory authorities. It is the first series the company is selling this time and it specifically has a tenor of 266 days with a discount rate of 15.92 per cent and


NASD Unlisted Security Index Depreciates by 0.77%

By Adedapo Adesanya A 0.77 per cent loss was suffered by the NASD Over-the-Counter (OTC) Securities Exchange on Wednesday, February 21 following profit-taking in three stocks. Aradel Holdings Plc went down by N49.50 during the session to close at N2,476.50 per share versus the previous day’s N2,526.00 per share, Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) Plc depreciated by 37 Kobo to end the day at N19.63 per unit compared with Tueday’s closing price of N20.00 per unit, and FrieslandCampina Wamco Nigeria Plc deflated by 7 Kobo to settle at N74.43 per share, in contrast to the N74.50 per share it traded