Abstract:

"The story of oil and gas in Africa is the story of rogue exploitation, despoliation and bizarre brigandage, displacement and pillage. It is a montage of burnt rivers, burnt forests and maimed lives. An oil well is a death sentence if it is located at your backyard" Nnimmo Bassey (2001)

Oil exploration and production involves substantial environmental risks and sensitivities, requiring delicate but deliberate management, failing which the environment, society and all energy users would have to pay a high price. To minimize these externalities, most oil companies elsewhere, adopt a structured approach involving a combination of partnership, responsible operations, corporate social responsibility to the host communities and local capacity building. Benign negligence and alienation of the genuine concerns and interests of the host communities could precipitate crises of enormous dimensions, hindering further explorative activities. Oil exploration in Nigeria's Niger Delta Region has in recent times been resisted by the host communities due to large scale environmental degradation arising from the exploitative activities of oil companies in the area. While the activities of these companies elsewhere were characterized by strict environmental quality considerations, in the Niger Delta, their operations were crude, evidenced by prolonged gas flaring and oil spillage, with adverse effects on the environment and economic activity in the region. This paper critically explicates the host community-oil Companies' arguments in oil exploration activities in Africa in the light of environmental quality requirements for similar activities, elsewhere. It avers that the industrial countries, the owners of the oil multinational companies involved in oil exploration activities in Africa, have remained largely insensitive to environmental issues in Africa's oil communities, ostensibly for economic reasons. This undignifying treatment of below human sustainability level environmental quality was traced to Africa's poverty status. It concludes that the case of Nigeria's Niger Delta Region is typical of industrial country approach to environmental quality in Africa. It recommends a United Nation's Ombudsman on sustainable environmental quality as well as a UN Commission on the Niger Delta Region to comprehensively address the contending issues with a view to making appropriate compensation where necessary.

INTRODUCTION

Each oil and gas well on black African soil, yielding black gold has an unenviable and uncanny tale of woes behind it, being intricately interwoven with the cultural and geographical boundaries and the exploration culture which created it. The low quality of life of the host communities of these oil fields is indicative of the trademarks of transnational oil companies on African oil communities. The capacity of oil exploration activities in Africa to generate prolonged conflicts is anchored on the brazen and unrivalled disregard of environmental quality concerns and gross human rights violations as well as the sustenance of undemocratic and despotic regimes in the host countries. The environment as per Stephen Woollett in his book Environmental Grants includes the "practical environment, conservation work, protection of landscapes, improving wild life habits; researching into global warming; combating water and air pollution; promoting public enjoyment of and access to the countryside;

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