Environment pollution: The rise of militarism and terrorism in the Niger Delta of Nigeria

Christian Madubuko


Oil was discovered in large quantities in Nigeria in 1956 and exploration began in the same year. Before oil, agriculture and fishing had assured the Niger Delta people of a bright future. Since 1956, oil has been extracted from the Niger Delta with destructive consequences on the environment, bringing about environmental degradation and destruction of the people’s primary means of livelihood. Land and water were badly polluted, and the health of the people affected because of leaks from oil pipelines, gas flaring and acid rains. Several petitions and non-violent protests by Delta communities, women and youth against environmental destruction failed to receive attention. Rather, opposition to peaceful protests earned the people military invasions of their communities, clampdowns and jailings. The rise of militarism and terrorism in the Niger Delta was the result of the Federal Government and Oil Companies’ clampdown on non-violent protests for environmental justice in the Niger Delta. This paper discusses the history of oil exploration in the Niger Delta, oil laws, effects of oil exploration in the region, and the rise of militants and terrorists in the area. The paper uses the term, ‘environmental Justice’ to denote unfair treatment and destruction of the Delta environment resulting from oil exploration, non implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations, and abuse of human rights.

The paper suggests solutions for peace in the Niger Delta.

Full Text:



John Campbell, Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink (Maryland: Rowmand and Littlefield, 2011) 63.

Amnesty International, Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Nigher Delta (Amnesty International Publications, 2009) 9.

Okechukwu Ibeanu, ‘Civil Society and Conflict Management in the Niger Delta’ (CLEEN Foundation Monograph Series (2), 2006) 13.

Solomon Azaiki, Inequalities in Nigerian Politics (Yenogoa, Bayelsa: Treasure Communications, 2007) 39.

Bernard Umoh, ‘The Nigerian Oil Industry and Ethnic Militias in Niger Delta’ (2005) 5(2) Journal of Environmental Studies 6.

Roger Mac Ginty, No War, No Peace (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) 70.

J Fearen, ‘Primary Commodity Exports and Civil War’ (2005) Journal of Conflict Resolution .

P Englebert and J Ron, ‘Primary Commodity and War’ (2004) Comparative Politics .

C Collier and A Hoeffler, ‘Greed and Grievance in Civil War’ (2004) 56(4), Oxford Economic Papers .

Michael Watts, ‘Oil Development and the Politics of the Bottom Billion’ 24(article 11) Macalester International

Kate Higgins, ‘Regional Inequality and the Niger Delta’ (Policy Briefing No. 5, World Development Report, 2009)

World Bank, Nigeria at a Glance.

John Burton, Deviance, Terrorism and War: The Process of Solving Unsolved Social and Political Problems (Macmillan, 1979) 72.

Manfred Max-Neef, ‘Development and Human Needs: Latin America Crisis and Perplexity’ in Paul Ekins and Manfred Max-Neef (Routlage, 1992).

Falati Ademola, Theories of Social Conflict (unpublished, 2009) 53.

C Ifeka, ‘Violence, Market Forces and Militarisation in the Niger Delta’ 2008, 31 (99) Review of African Political Economy 147.

Onwuka Dike, Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta 1830 – 1885 (Oxford: ACLS History e-Book Project, 2008).

Dan O Chukwu, An Introduction to Nigerian Political History (Enugu: Rhema Publications, 2005) 34.

E J Allagoa, ‘Peoples of the Cross River Valley and the Eastern Niger Delta’ in Obaro Ikime (ed) Groundwork of Nigerian History (badan: Heinemann Educational Books, 1980) 249.

Obaro I kime, European Resistance in the Niger Delta, (1973) 4(3) Tarikh.

Phia Steyn, Oil Exploration in Colonial Nigeria, C. 1903 – 1958 (University of Stirling, 2006).

D K Fieldhouse, Unilever Overseas: The Anatomy of a Multinational 1895-1955 (Croom Helm, 1978) 98.

Edgar Wesley Owen, Trek of the Oil Finders: A History of Exploration for Petroleum (Tulsa: American Association of Petroleu Geologists, 1975) 30.

‘Oil and the Niger Delta’, Times International, 16 October 1911, 23.

Mr Crewe to Sir W Egerton, Governor of Nigeria, 30 August 1909 (Confidential Letter), CSE 8 april – CSP 368/09, Nigerian national Archives, Enugu Branch (NNAE).

Robert Shenton, ‘Nigerian Agriculture in Historical Perspective: Development and Crisis, 1900-60’ in Michael Watts, (ed), State, Oil and Agriculture in Nigeria (Berkeley: University of California, 1987) 14.

Edwin Aney Speed (ed), Laws of the Colony of Southern Nigeria Being the Schedule to the Statute Laws Revision Ordinance (London: Stevens, 1908, Vol II). See also, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, The Shell-BP Story (Port-Harcourt: Shell-BP, 1965) 6.

S A Khan, The Political Economy of Oil (Oxford University Press, 1994) 6.

Donald Kingdom, The Laws of Nigeria Containing the Ordinances of Nigeria in Force on the 1st Day of January 1923 (Lagos: Government Printer, 1923, Vol 1).

Munro j Forbes, Maritime Enterprise and Empire: William Mackinnon and His Business Network, 1823–1893 (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2003) 132.

S R Pearson, Petroleum and the Nigerian Economy (Stanford University Press, 1970) 33.

L H Schctzl, Petroleum in Nigeria (Oxford University Press, 1969) 64.

Victor Ojakorotu and Ayo Whetho, ‘Multinational Corporations and Human Rights Abuses: A Case Study of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People and Ijaw’ (2008) 2 (May) Resistance Studies Magazine.

See J Finine Fekumo, ‘Civil Liability for Damage Caused by Oil Pollution’ in J A Omotola (ed), Environmental Laws in Nigeria (University of Lagos Press).

SPDC v. Chief Graham Otoko and five others [1990] 6 NWLR (Part 159).

Cited from Human Rights Watch, interview, July 7, 1997, The Price of Oil


HRW, The Price of Oil http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/nigeria/Ngew991-05.htm

HRW, ‘The Price of Oil: Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights Violations in Nigeria’s Oil Producing Communities’ (1997) 11(3) PIRC Intelligence.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, ‘“My Story,” text of statement to the Civil Disturbances Tribunal’, reprinted in Ogoni: Trials and Travails (Lagos: Civil Liberties Organisation, 1996) 42-3.

UNDP, ‘Niger Delta Development Report’ (Abuja Nigeria, 2006).

UNEP, 2011 .


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5130/ijrlp.i1.2014.3847

Share this article: