Nigeria is an African country endowed with a wealth of oil and gas resources, and they are mainly found in the core Niger Delta (home to the Ijaw and Ogoni indigenous, ethnic minorities). Since Great Britain granted Nigeria political independence on October 1, 1960, successive Nigerian governments (military and civilian) have been dominated by the majority ethnic groups (Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, and Ibo). Significantly, the government adopted a socialist-based model of absolute state ownership over oil and gas resources.
The socialist model formed the basis of Nigeria's business collaboration with multinational oil and gas corporations from Europe and the United States (notably Shell, Chevron Texaco, Agip, Exxon Mobil, Total, and Elf). This model is fraught with contradictions and has led to unacceptable consequences, including policies that allow exploitation of natural resources without reference to environmental sustainability. When oil was first struck in 1956 at Oloibori (Ijaw area), people thought it would bring prosperity and an improved quality of life. Sadly, the opposite has occurred. Forty-nine years of hardship, agonizing pain, debilitating anger, extreme poverty, poisoned rivers, destroyed occupations, devastated environment, and stunted growth of the youth are the negative impacts of oil and gas exploitation in the Niger Delta. In other words, oil and gas exploration and production have visited a full range of evils—socio-political, economic, and cultural—upon the indigenous Niger Delta people. Furthermore, the wealth extracted from the area is used by the state and multinational corporations to enhance their own wealth and quality of life. Revenue has been conspicuously looted and misappropriated by political leaders at the expense of the Niger Delta environment and its people.
This confluence of exploitation and injury has led to social upheavals and armed rebellions, all capable of precipitating the disintegration of the country. In this dissertation, research materials have been used to identify fundamental problems inherent in the current approach to oil and gas exploration and development. Primary research findings were used to develop the recommended shift in environmental paradigm that is critical to achieving sustainable development in Nigeria. Central to the recommendations in this dissertation is a rigorous, participatory Environmental Impact Assessment ("EIA") process.