New Bill Determines the Future of Nigeria’s Destructive Oil Industry
Author: Sina Heckenberger
Environment and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
Against the backdrop of the latest IPCC report’s alarming findings on the state of the global climate and urgent calls for a drastic reduction in the use of fossil fuels, Nigeria’s president Buhari signed the long-sought Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) on Monday, August 16. As Africa’s top oil producer, Nigeria’s oil and gas sector makes up for 65 % of government revenues as of 2018. Nigeria faced a gradual retreat of international oil companies (IOC) in recent years due to global competition. By reducing taxes and royalties on extraction for Chevron, Shell and Co. the bill is expected to attract more foreign investment and boost the economy.
Despite the county’s riches in oil, poverty remains widespread. The local community cannot legitimately benefit from the oil industry. Furthermore, the PIB has daunting consequences for the environment and Human Rights situation in Nigeria, since the population suffers greatly from harmful practices of IOCs in their homeland.
In a recent incident in Gbaramatu, an oil pipe broke and thousands of litres of crude oil leaked into the river covering plants and fish. This deprived local women, who fish in the river, of their main source of income. Scenes like these are a Déja-vu for the people in the Niger Delta, who have been affected by the systemic pollution and environmental damage of the oil industry for decades. Pastor and activist Christian Kpandei, a victim of a massive oil spill in the Bodo community in 2008, says that “The lack of clean-up has deeply affected us. The soil, the water and the air are all still contaminated.” (Amnesty International, 2020).
Between 1958–2010 around 546 million gallons of oil spilled in the Niger Delta region, amounting to an average of 300 spills a year (Woodrow Wilson Institute, 2011). Such oil spills severely harm the local ecosystem and violate the communities' right to a clean, safe and healthy environment, right to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation, and right to food. Protecting the environment is closely linked to the wellbeing of the people - almost 60% of the population of the Delta rely on the natural environment for their livelihood (Woodrow Wilson Institute, 2011). Women are exceptionally vulnerable because they predominantly depend on agriculture for their subsistence.
If the bill attracts the anticipated increase in oil operations, incidents like the one in Gbaramatu or Bodo are likely to continue into the future or become more frequent. Consequently, the Nigerian government fails to protect its environment and citizens from IOCs that yet again elude accountability.
Amnesty International (2020) Nigeria: 2020 could be Shell’s year of reckoning. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/02/nigeria-2020-could-be-shell-year-of-reckoning/
Clowes, W. (2021, August, 16). Nigeria’s Buhari signs law to overhaul oil industry. Bloomberg https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-08-16/nigeria-s-buhari-signs-bill-to-overhaul-oil-industry-into-law
Francis, P., Lapin, D. & Rossiasco, P. (2011). Securing Development and Peace in the Niger Delta. A Social and Conflict Analysis for Change. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/publication/AFR_110929_Niger%20Delta_0113.pdf
Maclean, R. (2021, July 25). The Fisherwomen, Chevron and the Leaking Pipe. The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/25/world/africa/nigeria-fisherwomen-chevron.html