The objective of this study is to examine the political and social conflicts that arise from the oil industry and specifically, the conflict in the Niger Delta along with one more recent example of political or social conflicts that came from oil money, supply, control, and explorations as well as other sources of conflict. This work will explain why these conflicts occurred, what happened, and what the government can do to fix these problems.
I. The Niger Delta
The conflict in the Niger Delta in Nigeria is reported to be an example of “a resource-related conflict.” (Pavsic, 2012, p.1) There are reported to be approximately 93.1 metric tons of oil extracted in The Niger Delta each year, which accounts for approximately 2.9% of the total world oil production. Pavsic (2012) reports that various ethnic communities in the Delta region mobilized in the 1970s and 1980s against the ‘slick alliance’ between the oil companies, the Nigerian state, and the military.” (Pavsic, 2012, p.1) Other communities in the region joined the movement and the Kaima Declaration was issued in 1998, which was attempting to pressure the federal Government and oil companies to leave the region.
Shell was backed by the military rulers in the Niger Delta. These rebellions were violent and many were killed or forced to leave their homes. The reason for the unrest was that the rebels comprised of “angry youths’ had seized the oil well terminals and flow stations and had even taken people hostage. They intended to halt production of oil unless they received what they held was their share of it. The state fought back with violence. The government created an Internal Security Task Force and adopted the Decree Against Treason, which meant that anyone organizing war against Nigeria or attempting to intimidate the President of the Governors would be sentenced to death.
The reasons for the tension in the Niger Delta can be said to be attributed to the reckless exploration and exploits of crude oil in which “High pressured pipelines are laid” on the surface of the earth and “at close proximity of human habitation.” (Wuloo, 2012) The result is that environmental hazards occurred due to “incessant oil spills from corrosive, outdated pipes exposed to sun and other natural agents.” (Wuloo, 2012) The spills wind up in rivers and creeks and protein-based seafood, fish and other resources are poisoned and the water polluted. In addition gas flaring on a great scale has resulted in additional degradation to the environment. Finally, none of the gas companies has conducted any type of environmental impact or social assessment studies since the oil was first discovered.
The situation is much the same in Sudan according to the work of Patey (2012) who reports that the history of armed conflict in Sudan is a long one. The armed conflict in Sudan is attributed greatly to the “social and environmental damage” that the oil development has caused in Southern Sudan. The oil development is further expanding in Sudan and to make the social environment as well as the ecological environment worse. Included in the effects of the oil industry in Sudan are “forced relocations” and water contamination. Patey (2012) states that the situation on security has improved but that this also has been characterized by environmental degradation, which has negatively affected the regions’ livelihoods. Cited as affecting the environment in Sudan are “exploratory wells, permanents roads, pipelines, pumping stations, and electrical facilities.” (Patey, 2012, p.564) The worst impact is reported to be the water that is produced which is mixed with “extracted crude oil” and holding concentrations of chemical and other toxic material. The poisoned water has been consumed by livestock that have died as a result. In addition, human beings have become ill due to the poisoned water. The failure to address the problem of the produced water has been due to several reasons including an underestimation on the part of oil companies about the amount of produced water that the oil fields generate. Secondly, there have been financial constraints as well as the environmental policies, which are very lax in nature resulting in cutting of corners by oil companies and little in the way of regulations.
The oil companies operating in Sudan are all from countries that have environmental practices that are poor and that do not have any regard for international standards. Roads in Sudan are limited as well as the needed infrastructure to properly handle storage of waste. Access roads, which have been constructed, have resulted in disruption and alteration of hydrology and this in turn has affected drainage and flood patterns in the area that irrigation and wildlife are dependent upon. There has been little in the way of compensation in local communities in Sudan and what has been occurred is reported to have been “through ad hoc agreements, with little governmental or legal oversight.” (Patey, 2012)
The opportunities for employment in Sudan are rare as the oil sector does not employ many workers that are low-skilled workers and those who are low-skilled workers and employed by the oil companies are generally foreigners. Patey reports that oil companies specifically do not hire those in Southern Sudan and if southerners are hired by the oil companies they are compensated poorly and treated poorly as well in terms of their benefits. There is very little environmental regulation in Sudan as well reports Patey (2012). While oil companies have been known to conduct environmental impact assessments it is reported that the assessments do not take place until after the oil operations have already been underway and the assessments are generally forgotten once they are completed. The oil industry in Sudan, according to Patey (2012) is a self-regulating industry.
III. Addressing the Issue
These issues can be addressed effectively through the governments of these two regions developing and implementing laws and regulations and enforcing them with the oil companies. Future such developments for oil drilling and production should address the environmental, social, and economic impacts before development and further should ensure that the public will experience gains through employment and benefits to the community rather than being left with empty pockets, a degraded environment, loss of livestock, crops, and livelihood, holding less than they had before the oil companies came to their region. It appears from the information reviewed in this study that the oil companies and the governments of the Niger Delta and Sudan have been remiss and irresponsible and have failed to make effective plans for mitigation of the impact of oil drilling and production in both the Niger Delta and Sudan.
Summary and Conclusion
The evidence reviewed in this study has revealed that there are definitive reasons that violence and unrest is being experienced in Sudan and the Niger Delta. The impact upon these two regions from the oil company developments that produce oil in these areas has been very negative in many aspects of these regions including on the social, economic, and environmental levels. The environment in both of these regions has been irrevocably harmed by roads being cut across the region, unsafe drilling of oil wells and oil production and pumping facilities and the production of water containing crude oil and other minerals which makes the water toxic killing livestock and harming the public. Agricultural production has been disrupted due to the oil drilling and production activities and the oil companies are reported to be self-regulating in terms of any environmental standards. The people living in these regions have not benefitted through gainful employment or any other gains due to the oil companies drilling and oil production operations. While the oil companies are getting richer, the poor people living in the regions of the Niger Delta and in Sudan are only getting poorer. There have been no benefits of the oil companies activities in these regions to those living there and the facts are clear in showing that there have been very many detriments to the lives of people in these regions since the oil companies came to drill for oil.
- Oil Conflict and Accumulation Politics in Nigeria (2012) Report from African, Population, Health, Environment, and Conflict.
- Patey, Luke A. (2012) Lurking Beneath the Surface: Oil, Environmental Degradation, and Armed Conflict in Sudan. Danish Institute for International Studies. June 2012. Retrieved from: http://environmentalpeacebuilding.org/
- Pavsic, Petra (2012) Niger Delta Region: What is Behind the Oil Conflict. Consultancy Africa Intelligence. Retrieved from: http://www.consultancyafrica.com/
- Wuloo, Ben (2010) Topic: Niger Delta Oil Conflict: The Reason, Current Status; the Demands and Western Influence, etc. Modern Ghana. 1 Apr 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.modernghana.com/