ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES IN NIGERIA’S DELTA REGION AND AGRICULTURE
A.E. Ubom, Haruna O. Idris and Charles Ekpo
Department of Science and Envirionmental Education,University of Abuja,Abuja.
The paper discussed the environmental challenges in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria with emphasis on the impacts on agricultural production. It thus discussed the concepts of Niger-Delta, Environmental pollution, Niger-Delta crises and Agriculture. The paper posits that there are positive relationships between these concepts justified on the basis of socio-Economic, political, health and agricultural under-development. The paper hence sees a looming bleak and dead-end to agricultural production and food security in Niger-Delta. Based on these theoretical positions, it recommends for active and pro-active measures to the environmental challenges in Niger-Delta region of Nigeria.
Keywords:Environment, agriculture, challenges, development
In 1914, Sir Frederick Lord Lugard amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates to one entity called “Nigeria” for administrative conveniences. Since then, Nigeria had continued to grapple with the challenges of Nationhood from the points of Independence, National identity and unity, sustainable development, lasting democracy, electoral reforms, resources control etc.
Nigeria has a total population of about 140 million people. One major challenge that cannot be compromised nor negotiated is the provision of adequate food for the teeming population in order to guarantee peace, security and healthy living.
Another major challenge in Nigeria Nationhood is the Niger –Delta issues predicated on resources control, conflicts, armed struggle, hostage takings, pipelines vandalization, militarization, oil spillage etc. These issues had taken center stages in our national discourse over the years. Nwanne (2007) corroborated this when he noted that one of the most contentious issues that have engaged the attention of Nigeria especially since 1999 is the problems of crude oil exploration and exploitation which account for about 90% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. He noted that the struggle for oil had become more vicious with the passing of each day – a situation he described as “oil politics”. This can be described literally to mean a political ball game which revolves round the question of taking care of the goose that lays the golden eggs or put otherwise as caring for the people and the areas where oil is being extracted.
Closely related to the challenges of food and the Niger-Delta question are the environmental challenges in the region which are endemic and globalize.
The world may have probably ignored this late president’s prediction or warning. After one century, the lethal effect or his prediction is obvious world-wide and in particular the Niger-Delta region as evidenced in the environmental challenges occasioned by oil spillage, gas flaring, smoke pollution, water pollution, land degradation, erosion etc, which had continued to pose serious threats to lives, natural resources and properties of the people of Niger-Delta and by extension agricultural productivity.
The position of this paper is that there exist crises in the Niger-Delta which had assumed a monumental proportions as advanced in the upsurge of attacks on oil pipe installation, pipelines vandalization, hostage taking, kidnapping and Genocide killing of people. These crises had been predicated on resources control. To press home this resources control bid, there had been formation of pressure groups like the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ijaws Youth Congress (IYC), Uhrobo Progressive Union (UPU), movement for the emancipation of Niger-Delta (MEND), Isoko Development Council (IDC) and to the extremity, the militant fractions. Olayinka (2007) reported that crises in Niger-Delta had been characterized by extreme violence, militarization, unemployment and environmental pollution. Even though the federal Government had made concerted efforts to forestall the Niger-Delta crisis through suppressive and repressive policies, demolition, disarmament rehabilitation and presently amnesty to the militants, It is to be noted that these crisis had left no one in doubt that the Niger-Delta is a threat to the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria. In the opinion of Azam (1999), PENGASSAN (2008) and Fadahusi (2008), argued that at the household level, individuals are at risk from violence, civilians are Apenmed killed and displaced, there is diminish access to services such ad health, and education, fear, flee, distorted family life etc are devastating effects of crisis.
Agriculture had been variously been described as a science, an art, a business tradition and a way of life. Sonenka (2000) argued that no matter how much structural transformation that will take place in Nigeria economy for many years to come, agriculture will continue to play its dominant role. Beyond supplying foods and raw materials to the rest of the economy, the conventional and predominant roles of agriculture had placed it as resource reservoir providing the needed finance and labour to other sector of the economy.
Successive Governments in Nigeria had placed Agricultural transformation in its cardinal agenda. Haruna and Ibrahim (2007) noted that over the years, Nigeria had made concerted efforts aimed at agricultural development through such programmes as Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) Green Revolution, River Basin Development Authorities, (RBDA), Integrated Rural Development, National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (NEEDS) and land Reforms”
The co-existence of crude oil in large commercial quantity and the vast agricultural potentials in Niger-Delta region suggest that the region should have a potential economic comparative advantage. However, the agrarian communities which constitute over 50% (1) of the inhabitants have been most disadvantaged in terms of prospect for agricultural growth, transformation and development. What this potent to the Niger-Delta populace is a bleak in the future of agriculture which hitherto is the people’s occupation, business, tradition and way of life prior to the discovery of oil in the region.
Oil exploration and the impact on agriculture
Several studies have shown that there exist positive relationship between Niger-Delta region of Nigeria, oil exploration, environmental pollution, crisis and agriculture. These relationships had been justified on the basis for socio-economic, health, political and agricultural under-development.
Oil was first discovered in commercial quantity in 1956 in Oloibiri in River state by Shell petroleum. B.P Later, Mobil, Agtip, Texaco, Elf, Chevron, etc broke into the lucrative business. Crude oil is a hydrocarbon minerals deposit which through fractional distillation at different temperature produce compound of gas, paraffin, petrol, diesel, kerosene, residual oil/grease etc.
The process involved in the exploration, extraction, distillation, and transportation of the products has left -no one in doubt as to the socio-economic and Agricultural impact and devastation.
Fadahunsi (2002) further elucidated the enormity of the impact of oil exploitation on Niger-Delta region. He noted that petroleum companies are flaring about 17 billion cubic meter of Natural gas every year to emit 2,700 tonnes of dust, 160 tonnes of oxides of sulpher, 5, 4000 tonnes of carbon, 27, ooo tones of oxides of nitrogen into the air with attendant disastrous consequences. (Nnandi 1997) He further noted that all these gas mixed with humid air produce acidic rains.
The impact of oil spillage and its effect on Niger –Delta and by extension agricultural under- development had been fully documented. Sampson (2005) reported that between 1999 and 2004, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) alone recorded 2012 oil spill sites in Niger-Delta region.
At this point in time, it is necessary to establish the isolated facts that oil exploration in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria is characterized by environmental pollution and ecological disturbance (1) biodiversity depletion which potent dead-end to agriculture in the area. These view points are as follows:-
(1) Animal and aquatic lives are exterminated/killed due to their exposures to toxic and hazardous substances to water and atmosphere.
(2) The acidic rain leaches the magnesium and calcium from soils. Hence heavy metals such as iron and calcium in solution lead to toxic concentration causing damages to roots of plants, dead of mycorrhizeas and poor microbial proliferations.
(3) Toxic substances alter the soil mineral composition leading to soil nutrient deficiencies – a situation which predisposes plants to diseases condition, wilting and poor fruits, seeds and root crop production.
(4) Oil spillage predisposes land to fragility and ecological instability of the landscape. Apart from its impact on the flora and fauna community, there is the indiscriminate, canalization that course soil erosion aggravated by flooding.
(5) Ekpo (2004) corroborated the above facts when he noted that the Niger-Delta is an area where animals and aquatic lives are threatened due to exposure to toxic and hazardous substances, and that deforestation, erosion and destruction of farm lands are the main signpost that greets visitors to Niger-Delta communities.
(6) Duru (2008) sees the social economic impacts of oil spillage in Niger-Delta from the point of view of depletion and the extermination of forest and mangrove, fishes and other aquatic lives, (marine and fresh water) on which the revenue of the coastal villagers is dependent.
(7) The toxic substances released from oil spillage destroy the reproduction cycles of fishes, terrestrial organisms and other aquatic organisms and those eaten by humans are cancerous due to their injection with heavy metals and other oil derivatives.
(8) Oil exploration impacts on global warming brought about by increase in thermal radiation and thus weakening of the ozone layer and consequently alters the global weather pattern and earth surface climate all of which impact negatively an agro-production.
(9) Movements of agricultural goods in the Niger-Delta are extremely difficult. This leads to distortion in the consumption pattern and high cost of consumer goods.
(10) Without prejudice to the impact of oil exploration in the Niger-Delta- region of Nigeria on agriculture, health hazards is eminent. Water contamination result in typhoid, diarrhea, jaundice, fever, haepathitice, Noise pollution, heat rashes etc.
Oil exploration in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria has left no one in doubt that its effect has posed a lot of environmental challenges on the lives of the people, plants and animals in the region. The impact of oil exploration on agriculture on the inhabitants of the Niger-Delta potent a bleak future translated from agricultural perspectives to mean food insecurity. Despite the efforts of the federal Government of Nigeria to redress this situation, practice are that little achievements had been recorded. A claring call is thus made to all concerned (oil companies, Government and non-Governmental organizations and individuals to initiate active and pro—active measures to put to history Environmental challenges of the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria particularly as they affect agricultural production.
This paper makes the following recommendations aimed at environmental protection and by extension food security in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria:
Oil companies operating in Niger-Delta should endeavor to change their operational procedures in order to reduce the rate of environmental pollution due to oil exploration.
Government should demonstrate the willingness to provide lasting political solutions to deal with the political problems of the Niger-Delta.
Oil companies in Niger-Delta should pay adequate compensation for oil spillage and indiscriminate environmental pollutions. Laws on environment protection should be strictly enforced.
The inherent of oil spillage can be reduced or checked by the use of big and strong pipelines. This can also educe the rates of vandalism on the oil pipelines.
All ecological solution adopted to reduce environmental problems inherent in Niger-Delta should ensure they meet the needs of future generation.
Physical and Infrastructure developments for improved living conditions should be put in place. There is also the need to properly enforce strategies aimed at improving the lives of the Niger-Delta inhabitants of Nigeria.
Finally, it is recommended that the displaced inhabitants of Niger-Delta should be properly resettled and provided with lucrative economic alternatives to farming through capacity building and entrepreneurial education.
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