Institutional arrangements of Oil Spill Pollution in the Niger Delta: The Niger Delta Implementation Deficit

Subject: Environment
Pages: 28
Words: 6568
Reading time:
25 min
Study level: PhD


Background to study

In a bid to ensure that natural resources enhance economic development and facilitate environmental sustainability, nations must design and implement institutional frameworks to streamline and ensure sustainability. Governance constitutes one of the essential institutional frameworks that facilitate functional operations coupled with the sustainability of national development (Cleaver 2012). Young (2013, p. 88) defines governance as “a social function centred on steering human groups toward desired outcomes and away from undesirable outcomes. In many nations with oil deposits, the resource constitutes a major source of economic development when well managed.

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Indeed, it is a mineral resource drawing global interests. The extraction of oil requires the deployment of various specialised approaches like subsurface technique, long-wall technique, and other solutions. After the extraction, crude oil undergoes the purification processes after its separation to yield the final products. Both the separation and purification processes are potentially harmful to the environment. Therefore, it is necessary to standardise and implement safe practices for the separation and purification of crude oil in a bid to protect the natural ecosystem and biodiversity (Rusco 2012).

In the Niger Delta, fossil fuels, especially gas coupled with oil explorations, increase the problem of ecological destruction. Apart from the fossil fuels, illegal mining and mining practices for natural resources destroy the Niger Delta’s natural habitat inappropriately and indiscriminately (UNDP 2012). The Niger Delta has the largest deposits of oil in Nigeria. It covers an area of about 7.5% of the total Nigerian landmass. This aspect gives it incredibly huge economic relevance to the Nigerian population. Indeed, it supports about 35 million people directly and indirectly (Osibanjo 2008). However, oil also presents major challenges in the region.

In the Niger Delta, incidences of violation of human rights, pollution issues, and geopolitical problems have been reported. This aspect makes the Niger Delta a centre for internal controversies. In terms of efforts to promote environmental sustainability, the Niger Delta does not possess any institutional arrangements such as governance systems and procedures for dealing with the problem of oil spillage.

Environmental sustainability means all the strategies or decisions undertaken to enhance the protection of the natural habitat. The goal of such decisions entails protecting the ability of the environment to support human life. Institutional arrangements refer to the developed set of rules and regulations governing the operation of governance systems on environmental sustainability. According to Kingsbury (2009, p. 31), governance systems are ‘an ensemble of elements performing the function of governance in a given setting’.

In the case of the Niger delta, the main challenge is the deficit of institutional arrangements to curb oil pollution. Where the Nigerian government has established rules on pollution control, incidences of compliance to environmental governance guidelines present a major challenge.

Environmental groups create pressure on oil companies operating in the Niger delta to explore policies enhancing sustainable business operations. Hence, in studying environmental sustainability in the Niger delta, the deficit in environmental governance systems and state of compliance to institutional arrangements is important. Compliance means considering and implementing guidelines on environmental sustainability put in place by the governance systems including environmental sustainability, pressure groups, and the Nigerian government. Allen (2012) notes that oil mining organisations in the Niger Delta have already surpassed the 50% mark of compliance, but he quickly points out that if this is the case, then it must have been due to persisting crisis in the area.

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However, Allen (2012, p.9) points to the need of interrogating the advancements in compliance especially after noting that the ‘National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRIA) and oil companies do not yet conform adequately to the goals embodied in environmental policy related to the oil business in the Niger Delta. Compliance also experiences some challenges related to doubts on the commitments of the Nigerian government to enforce various orders coupled with court decisions related to the functioning of oil-mining organisations operating within the Niger Delta.

Objectives of the study

Environmental sustainability can be enhanced by putting in place regulations to guide good practices in mining processes and the subsequent separation and purification process for crude oil. This process also involves practising environmental governance. Guided by this hypothetical assertion, this study ascertains deficits in institutional arrangements coupled with environmental governance best practices to curb oil spillage in the Niger Delta.

The first step to the realisation of this objective entails assessing the current environmental regulations followed by investigating the probable deficits in the implementation of institutional arrangements for curbing oil spillage in the region. Apart from explaining the deficits, the study also has the objective of assessing institutions responsible for adopting policy instruments to reduce the impacts of implementation deficits.

Amid the efforts made by various organs of the government and pressure groups on environmental sustainability, Nigeria experiences deficit issues in compliance and implementation of institutional arrangements for curbing pollution of the environment by oil-mining organisations. This deficit may be explained by governance failure and non-compliance to the set policies. Reviewing scholarly work on environmental policies in the Niger Delta evidences the existence of laws coupled with regulations meant to govern operations of oil organisations. Allen (2012, p.5) informs that one of such laws entails the ‘comprehensive legislation on oil related environmental problems or pollution is the oil navigable waters act of 1968’.

Allen (2012) doubts the degree of effectiveness of civil and criminal laws in controlling pollution control within the Niger Delta. He argues that in some situations, they are poorly implemented. This assertion suggests that although environmental sustainability policies may be designed with the right intention, their outcomes suffer deficits related to laws’ implementation and strategies for enhancing their compliance. In the early 1990s, Allen (2012) notes that Nigeria did not have comprehensive policy guidelines on the exploration and mining of oil. However, the main challenge is that even now, the laws have not been integrated successfully to form one policy document (Allen 2012). Based on this assertion, this paper seeks to discuss the extent and nature of the deficit in policy frameworks for dealing with environmental sustainability issues in the Niger delta.

Significance of the study

Nigeria needs to account for and explain the environmental protection deficit so that institutional reforms can be developed and implemented, thus promoting environmental sustainability in the Niger Delta. The development or revision of policy frameworks to promote environmental governance requires the identification of loopholes or weaknesses in the existing policies. Thus, since the research identifies deficits in the current policies, it is pivotal in initiating the process of revision of environmental suitability policies. Although the discussions of the research are conducted in the context of the Niger delta, the implications are beyond this scope.

In general, it is important to understand why environmental laws, rules, and regulations like in the case of millennium development goals on environmental protection fail, underperform, or even are rarely implemented. As stipulated in the paper, goodwill, participation, and compliance to environmental sustainability rules and regulations of all stakeholders in promoting environmental sustainability are vital in the resolution of this challenge.

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Problem Statement

Oil spillage in the Niger Delta continues to pose challenges to environmental sustainability (Omeje 2008; Oke 2014). Challenges remain in understanding why environmental damage related to oil spillage is so widespread and severe in the Niger Delta or why efforts to tackle the problem seem to have largely failed. This paper addresses this problem by focusing on the laws, agencies, and their decision-making structures and processes and the specific policies that they have created and implemented to curb the problems caused by oil spillage.

Research questions

  1. What is the current state of environmental regulation implementation in the Niger Delta? Is there an implementation deficit regarding oil spills in the Niger delta?
  2. What is the current implementation deficit in the Niger Delta? What are the extent and nature?
  3. Can the responsible institutions adopt new policy instruments based on state and civil society realities as new alternatives to reduce the implementation deficit?
  4. To what extent can the theoretical approach of good governance/reforms contribute to effective implementation?
  5. How can new reforms be implemented to bring improvements to an area that has often been ignored practically and theoretically?

Research methodology

The research will use mixed methods of study. It is designed as both qualitative and qualitative research by deploying both secondary and primary data. Data will be collected from government officials, the Niger Delta’s community, and the oil mining organisations operating within the area. Direct interviews and questionnaires will be deployed as data collection techniques. Questionnaires are for large study groups, viz. the community, while direct interviews are used in acquiring information from government officials and organisations on the strategies and status of mechanisms for enhancing environmental sustainability within the Niger Delta.

Direct interviews are also deployed as a tool for acquiring information on rules, decision-making processes, and institutional structures in the organisations. The analysis will be conducted to establish the relationship between the information provided by various stakeholders coupled with how it truncates into the better promotion of environmental sustainability or its deterioration. Direct interviews are also deployed in collecting information about what encompasses the appropriate strategies of addressing their challenges attributed to the mining of oil and subsequent oil processing practices according to the Niger Delta’s local community.

Background Information


Nigeria ranks in the 26th position on the worldwide gross domestic product index. It is a middle income and emerging economy. Nigeria currently invests heavily in the manufacturing sector in a bid to supplement the global low-cost products’ market demand. In terms of oil production, the nation supplies 2.7% of the total global oil consumption (Oke 2014). This aspect earns the country a significant proportion of national income, which is spent on food importation.

The nation has a history of massive corruption and lack of public accountability and transparency (Osuji & Avwiri 2005). This element impedes and slows down the pace of economic development. Corruption is a major contributor of social inequalities in the nation, which often leads to chaos and violence emanating from natural resources’ competition. African Department IMF (2012) posits that competition plays a critical role in ecosystem destruction.

Oil exploration followed by mining as a major source of income in Nigeria has had historical impacts on the environment. For example, the country has encountered inefficiency in economic reforms coupled with deregulation policies, which impair the living standards for about 45% of the citizenry (African Department IMF 2012). This aspect has left the nation struggling with the challenge of land competition due to the destruction of the ecosystem akin to poor practices for oil-related wastes disposal.

According to the African Department IMF (2012, p.19), major contributors to environmental degradation are ‘oil pollution from spills, oil well blow-outs, oil ballast discharges, and improper disposal of drilling mud from petroleum prospecting’. These challenges modify the ecosystem by causing damages to aquatic life, decreasing fishery resources, and decreasing farm yields (Allen 2012). This realisation explains why Nigeria is becoming a net importer of food.

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Impacts of oil spillage and definition of key terms

Oil spillage has implications for environmental sustainability. In the case of the Niger Delta, environmental sustainability is impaired to the extent that oil spillage deteriorates the natural environment, thus leading to the reduction of food production through negative impairment of subsistence farming and fishing activities. In a bid to promote environmental sustainability, reduction of oil spillage is vital

Though uncontrollable in some situations, Lee and Cogswell (2008) state that oil spillage leaves irreversible effects on the environment. For instance, drilling and exploration involve specialised procedures with implications of catastrophic incidents like unexpected blowouts of gases and other hydrocarbons that have negative impacts on the environment. Spills at this stage generate a chronic impact on the marine environment due to the prolonged hydrocarbon gushing and its long-term impacts on the well-muffling exploratory method. Such consequences have the implication of reducing the capacity of the environment to support human life, which implies that the natural environment becomes unsustainable.

In a bid to promote environmental sustainability, environmental governance is critical. As noted before, governance implies all the practices and systems of rules coupled with processes that help in directing and controlling an organisation. Through corporate governance approaches, an organisation develops the capability to balance the interests of various stakeholders among them suppliers, customers, managers, customers, the community, and the government.

In the case of the Niger Delta, governance is important to help in the mitigation of oil spillages to ensure a good relationship of the community with the government and the organisations involved in the mining and processing of oil products. In some cases, the oil mining companies do not focus on the proper treatment of associated products with oil mining as they are of no economic importance to them (Allen 2012). Therefore, they look for the cheapest ways of disposing of them, which creates and increases the probabilities for negligent spillage. Oil products storage involves the deployment of submerged reservoirs, which are constructed differently to suit the geology of a particular site coupled with the type of oil products stored.

Spillage of stored products poses major risks to aquatic biodiversity especially when the contents of storage reservoirs are toxic. Spillage of stored products also poses dangers to the environment when the contents can react to emit harmful gases. Hence, in the mining process, processing, storage, and transportation, exercising environmental governance is an important strategy for enhancing a good match between organisational, governmental, and community interests in the Niger Delta. According to Caldwell and Karri (2005, p. 255), environmental governance refers to the ‘means by which society determines and acts on goals and priorities related to the management of natural resources. Such acts entail the formal and the informal regulations, which help in governing behaviours of people during decision-making processes.

Promoting environmental governance through regulation plays important role in the reduction of incidences of oil spillage. The US National Research Council (2010) informs that 10% of spillage occurs at the transportation stage through tankers. Offshore installations account for 40% of the spillages experienced during transportation through seas. The US National Research Council (2010) argues that this aspect occurs due to natural and unpreventable conditions.

The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) (2013) argues that incidences of oil spillage have reduced incredibly across the globe. However, this scenario should not be deployed as the mechanism of assessing the implication of oil spillage. One case of spillage may cause devastative destruction to both flora and fauna. This assertion suggests that the contents, as opposed to the volume of the spill, pose dangers to the marine life and ecosystem, especially if they are impure and have corrosive features. Thus, regulating the contents of oil tankers is important to help in promoting the capacity of the environment to sustain human life.

Institutions and institutional arrangements help in the mitigation or promotion of deterioration of the natural habitat. An institution implies any organisation, whether governmental or nongovernmental, that puts efforts in promoting environmental sustainability by putting guidelines or engages in the reduction of oil and oil-related products spillage in the Niger delta. For instance, Shell Nigeria maintains that through annual certification, it has been in a position to reduce spillages by over 30% within one decade.

The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) (2008) estimates that in Ogoni-land, adverse incidences of oil spillage account for 10% of the total water contamination. In a bid to address these problems in the long term, it is necessary to design and implement proper strategies for waste disposal through the development of appropriate institutional arrangements developed to enhance environmental sustainability. Institutional arrangements imply any practice or action developed by an institution or in collaboration with different organisations to foster environmental suitability or impair it.

In 2014, Shell Nigeria data indicates the drastic reduction in oil spillage. By June 2014, the company statistics indicated a reduction of oil spillage by 6500 barrels (Oke 2014). The government of Nigeria is also taking proactive steps towards the management of the problem. For instance, the government has teamed with oil mining companies to design policies aimed at mitigating oil spillage. For instance, Shell Company, which is the largest oil company in the region, responds to the government call to manage oil spillage effectively by maintaining accurate and up-to-date records on oil spillage to facilitate response.

The state-owned oil corporation, viz. the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in collaboration with various stakeholders, engages in consultancy coupled with evaluation operations of organisations in the oil-mining subsector to advise both the public and the government. The United Nations also makes recommendations on the best practices for managing oil spillage. In 2012, the UN’s recommendations led to the establishment of a hydrocarbon-pollution restoration project aimed at monitoring pollution control strategies coupled with enhancing their implementation. All these constitute institutional arrangements aimed at reducing spillage, thus promoting environmental sustainability within Niger Delta.

Emerging implications

The government efforts to mitigate pollution through oil spillages suffer several drawbacks. Although different stakeholders value the necessity to foster environmental sustainability, they implement government directives on environmental sustainability reluctantly in a bid to maximise profits coupled with the exploration of personal stakes (Osuji & Avwiri 2005; Oke 2014). For instance, political and business actors in the oil mining industry implement recommendations on pollution reluctantly due to corruption. However, the actors have immense power to the extent that the government experiences challenges in enhancing compliance. To this extent, corruption constitutes an institutional arrangement, which deters efforts to mitigate oil spillage to promote environmental sustainability.

Emissions from the oil mining processes have particularly affected human health negatively. Common challenges encompass cancer and chromosomal damages. The Department of Morbid Anatomy and Histopathology points to rising cases of cancer among people aged between 21 and 80 years. This realisation evidences that environmental pollution has long-term negative health effects. Samaila (2006) notes that cancer and chromosomal damages are a result of chemicals released into waterways and gas sublimates.

From the perspective of economic implications, the Niger delta constitutes a major source of employment. Therefore, it is a major driver of various economic activities in Nigeria. However, farming and fishing activities are declining due to environmental pollution. About 21.7 % of the Nigerian population shows symptoms of tumour resection while the government and the entire society loses an estimated $10 million yearly on cancer therapies and other treatment options (Durosinma et al. 2013).

Niger Delta EPA Deficit

Implementation Deficit

Deficits in the implementation process indicate differences in the execution of policies proposed theoretically and actual delivery. In the context of environmental destruction by pollution, the implementation deficit establishes the differences between the desired achievements in control of pollution and the actual control results. From the government’s approach, implementation entails activities by its affiliate institutions, which are necessary to achieve objectives detailed in the policy statements and cycles. This assertion suggests that the legislation or enforcement of implementation entails the reviewing of policy frameworks coupled with outputs of such policies. The Nigerian government has established various interventions to control pollution.

The government enacted a pollution abatement policy in 1991 aiming at ensuring that industries producing wastes streamline and adopt proper waste management approaches. In the same year, it also enacted the national effluent limitation regulation. The goal of the regulation is to control liquid wastes released into waterways. These two regulations were preceded by the formalisation of the Pipeline Acts of 1956, 1958, and 1965. These acts augmented and strengthen the Petroleum Transportation Act of 1969. In 1999, the government adopted the sectorial and guidelines for the assessment of the environmental impact of industrial activities within the nation. In the same year, it also established national Guidelines on Environmental Management Systems in Nigeria and the Registration of Environment-friendly Products and Eco-labelling.

The above efforts by the government and other players in the oil industry to enhance environmental sustainability show that Nigeria has tools in place for ensuring that oil resources do not act as an environmental curse. However, what is wrong with the country since oil pollution is still evident? Does it imply that there is poor implementation or deficit for the developed policy guidelines? How can Nigeria enforce environmental sustainability regulations better? These interrogatives arise in different scholarly studies on the EPA deficit in the Niger delta.

Allen (2012, p.6) argues that the main purpose for adopting national environmental policy was to offer an integrative framework for ensuring environmental sustainability; however, his findings indicated that as ‘the key goal of government environmental policy, it is not properly implemented’. For instance, the implementation deficit is evidenced by repeated incidences of gas flaring in the Niger delta amid efforts to prohibit it through environmental sustainability laws.

Nigeria can implement environmental sustainability regulations by committing maximum efforts to mobilise political goodwill in controlling and monitoring operations of the oil companies in the context of their compliance with the set environmental rules and regulations. However, such an effort would experience challenges attributed to the joint dealership of the government through political actors and the oil mining companies (Allen 2012).

From the 1970s, Nigeria has largely depended on the stability of business involving the trading of oil in about 90% of total national revenue. This overreliance creates the fear that strict implementation of laws restricting operations of oil companies would reduce the profitability of the companies, and hence the revenues collected by the government. Although this aspect does not principally explain the deficit in the implementation of environmental sustainability policies, it partly explains sluggishness in policy enforcement (Allen 2012). Efficient implementation of environmental sustainability policies requires alternative sources of national revenue such as high investments in modern agriculture to compensate for reduced revenues upon strict enforcement of the environmental policy on oil companies.

Deficiency in the current regulatory approach

The EPA structure highlights the necessity for enhancing the flow of information on impacts of the environment coupled with policies designed to mitigate pollution from media and various functional units in a bid to ensure efficient implementation. However, in Nigeria, there are challenges in information flow. For example, media designed and mandated to ensure the dissemination of information regarding solid waste disposal and management has failed in offering accurate and transparent information and data to various functional offices and enforcement agents to facilitate compliance (Allen 2012). In some situations, administrators for prevention, pesticides, and toxic substances have shown an unwillingness to liaise successfully with inspector general and research and development functional offices to facilitate the implementation of oil pollution control and monitoring programs.

Media institutions have the mandate of providing concise information on water, land, air, and various individual pollutants to the regional functional offices for the appropriate legislation and implementation of science-based policies to curb the impacts of pollution (Watts 2004). Functional and regional offices have the mandate of ensuring the existence of sustainable policies and state-standardised legislations on oil-related pollution control.

However, the environmental protection policies attract controversies for business and political actors. Allen (2012) states that the 1969 petroleum Act empowers the minister for petroleum resources to grant oil exploration, prospecting, and mining lease licenses without the compensation acknowledgement whenever the licenses interfere unreasonably with the fishing and farming rights of locals. Allen (2012) further notes that regulatory policies and state laws borrowed from the colonial regime excluded indigenous communities in their formulation. The laws did not address sufficiently issues of air and land pollution arising from oil mining activities. Okunoye et al. (2011) add that the 1992 environmental impacts assessment program had political motivations ingrained in it. Thus, it failed to consider issues like prosecution for various offenders for the oil navigable water treaties.

Environmental frameworks for pollution management are capitalistic. Government and corporations involved in oil mining collaborate in ensuring high returns from oil products. In this relationship, the citizens suffer from deterioration of their health while the biodiversity is exposed to irreversible dangers. Therefore, the government, environmental agencies, and oil-mining corporations carry the biggest portion of the blame for the poor implementation of policies for managing oil pollution in the Niger delta. There is also low public participation in the design and implementation of policies for oil-pollution mitigation strategies.

This aspect generates growing concern on the capability of the public to take charge of issues touching on their welfare. Opaque deals between oil mining corporations and state officials are common and rampant due to the high prevalence of corruption in Nigeria. This aspect gives rise to problems of poor environmental governance and accountability akin to the capitalistic nature of state officials, agencies, and oil mining companies.

Environmental Governance, Beyond Command and Control approach

Governance comprises one of the ways of controlling and enhancing monitoring of organisational operations (Caldwell & Karri 2005). The mitigation of the conflict of interests is mostly accomplished through enactments of various customs, laws, processes, policies and institutions, which have enormous repercussions in afflicting how organisations are controlled. In Nigeria, low public participation in deriving regulations and policies for mitigation of problems such as pollution due to oil spillage creates conflicts of interest, especially by noting that cases of cancer and chromosomal damages are on the rise.

The main objective of environmental governance involves looking for ways of making interactions between global players in enhancing sustainable development possible. In the case of the Nigerian crisis, this goal can be accomplished through the integration of environmental policies and political ecology. Global players imply different states, markets, and civil societies and organisations. The players also include the globally accepted standards that seek to implement system management styles designed to control and promote human activities for the wellbeing of the ecosystem (Sonnenfeld & Spaargaren 2009). Though theoretically laid down in the 1960s, the concepts of environmental governance began their practical implementation in the 1970s.

The main concern of environmental governance entails the intertwining of communities’ economic, social, and political lifestyles with the ecosystem, involvement of biodiversity, and environmental consideration in all societal decision-making processes. It also involves advocating the best approaches in managing wastes and industrial effluents. It aims at aiding communities to achieve and appreciate their lives and the role of the environment in supporting the ecosystem, implementation of policies that responds ardently to demand placed by the society to the environment, and setting rules, processes, and procedures, which are standardised for global sustainable development.

Environmental governance is instrumental in realising conservation of the natural environment in a bid to accommodate the rapidly growing population and its incredibly increasing demand on the need for sustainability of development (Mutz, Bryner & Kennedy 2002).

Strategies for enhancing environmental sustainability have encountered challenges in the recent past such as the insufficient institutional ability to implement various designed policies and unclear goals and objectives due to poorly defined priorities, which affect the global coupled with continental pacts. There have also been challenges of ideological differences amongst civil societies and trade programs coupled with a failure by the government to fund various environmental sustainability programs. The systems on which environmental policies are based are complex, thus leading to poor coordination and facilitation amongst the government civil societies, and environmental protection agencies.

In the 1960s, Nigeria adopted the command and regulatory approaches for mitigating environmental pollution relying on comprehensiveness and assumption on the enforceability of the programs. Kraft, Stephan, and Abel (2011) support this line of argument further by claiming that the approaches assumed the government’s internal ability to stop competition and enterprise conflicts through setting standards, but in essence, the regulator would experience a conflict of interests. Ferguson (2006) adds that care was taken to ensure that the command did not incorporate excessive regulations by the government, which would translate to the overprotection of the stakeholders’ interests.

Introduction to Hybrid Environmental Governance (political modernisation): New approach plus CAC

As argued before, the Command and Control (CAC) approach to enhancing environmental governance encounters various drawbacks. This assertion underlines the necessity to come up with better governance approaches that will ensure long-term environmental governance in the Niger Delta. A hybrid approach endeavours to foster the integration of control and command with standardised approaches to enhancing the operation of environmental protection regulations (Brousseau & Siebenhuner 2012). For instance, the integration of CAC with various market-focused tools can enable the government of Nigeria to shift its roles and power in the management of environmental pollution to alternative processes for making decisions through centralisation and privatisation.

New international approaches to environmental governance pose high probabilities of success if all stakeholders involved collaborate towards the achievement of policy goals and directives. They need to provide sufficient redundancy and flexibilities in functional performance and recognise the relationship between international regimes and non-state actors (Mori 2013). As aforementioned, environmental governance approaches, which are deployed in the Niger Delta, lack ardent public participation. Rather, environmental agencies, oil companies, and government officials collaborate to enhance increased profitability with minimal incorporation of the public voice.

Making the hybrid governance approach successful requires the incorporation of public participation at all levels of policy implementation. The public serves the role of supplying vital data and information, especially on the implications of pollution on their individual lives on the ground.

Western nations underscore the effectiveness of incorporating public partnership in enhancing environmental governance. They provide room for public partnerships in the implementation of the EPA’s programs coupled with policies. Since 1970, the US EPA has collaborated with the public in programs like Super Technical Assistance Grants, Forum on State and Tribal Toxics Action, Consumer Labelling Initiatives, Regulatory negotiations, and Watershed Partnerships (EPA US 2007). Public participation aids environmental agencies to advance and establish links amongst economic, social, and environmental sustainability concerns at the ground level.

In the Niger Delta, public participation can be induced through the stimulation of public disclosures. This move would help in establishing trust and commitment to protect and conserve natural habitats through the alteration of negligent behaviours. Dietz and Stern (2008) support this assertion by adding that public participation is worth reforming legislation and regulations to make policies like decentralisation of environmental governance operational. The problems threatening the global population need the establishment of new solutions and preciseness in information gathering and partnership at all levels of society to enhance governance.

In a bid to enhance environmental governance in the Niger delta, the public partnership can help in creating social awareness about the progress and current state of compliance to environmental protection by companies engaged in the mining industry. Realising that people have pre-set environmental sustainability expectations, the companies can adopt necessary strategies to enhance good corporate citizenship and engage in social corporate responsibility as one of the essential tenets of the hybrid approach to environmental governance.

Niger Delta Civil Society

Civil societies in the Niger delta were unveiled in the mid-1980. They were born of concerns over the environmental protection crisis, an economic crisis among the residents of the region, increased corruption, and an imbalance of power to control oil-mining operations in the Niger Delta. However, their operations were hindered by weaknesses in the local leadership and the government’s pressure to implement capitalism. The government considered civil societies as a threat to its relations with oil-mining companies, which would hinder the realisation of the national development agenda (Omeje 2008). Opposed to this view, civil societies play essential roles in enhancing environmental governance through participation in lobbying for accurate information flow and information dissemination.

Civil societies advocate environmental justice and in a bid to achieve these roles, they engage in consultation for policy implementation, monitoring, and assessment of policy frameworks for environmental sustainability. Angeles and Gurstein (2007) consider these roles as manifesting interactions amongst public communications, networks, and the voluntary association between the social structures and the households. Civil societies also advocate functional institutions, which facilitate the free expression of common purposes arrived through idea sharing, actions, and information flow to impact residents of the Niger Delta and its surroundings positively. For the full realisation of this purpose, Bee and Bozzini (2010) highlight the need for the government to provide information sharing platforms and discursive forums.

Good Governance

Principles of governance have their roots in the philosophical principles of Plato who argued that people needed to do what is right for the good of all. However, governance was customised and standardised to suit political and economic public debates in the early 1990s. Governance determines the capability of institutional frameworks to make decisions satisfying the interest of different stakeholders. This assertion implies that it is pivotal in enhancing the organisation of processes through sharing of responsibilities, power, and authority in a regulated and sustainable manner (Jomo & Chowdhury 2012). Environmental sustainability is critical in ensuring the wellbeing of all residents in the Niger Delta and its environs.

Principles of governance rest on the need to enhance organisational performance. This goal can be achievable by aiding organisational leaders to execute their chores in the best interest of various stakeholders. Financial Reporting Council (2008. p.23) states that good governance ‘should facilitate efficient, effective, and entrepreneurial management that can deliver shareholder value over the longer term’. This assertion implies that oil companies in the Niger Delta region, through their managers, have a role to control the likelihood of occurrence of situations that may pose risks to the interests of stakeholders.

Citizens own the Niger Delta and they have stakes in the operations of oil companies in the region. Failing to foster environmental sustainability through the embracement of concepts of environmental governance is against such interests.

Enhancing accountability requires looking for new approaches to fostering transparency. Traditionally, the main approach for enhancing accountability was through exercising control and close monitoring of persons mandated to execute certain affairs that are of stakeholder’s interest such as the management of organisational finances (Ahrens & Chapman 2007, p.17). This involved establishment of bureaucratic discretions for checking the conducts of organisational leaders against a set of rules and regulations. Emerging literature such as Malmi and Granlund (2009) emphasise the need for alternation of such approach so that rather than direct control, organisations can consider the implementation of strategies for enhancing accountability based on the need to comply with principles of business ethics such as environmental governance in the quest to enhance sustainability. However, this aspect is largely lacking in Niger Delta.

Governance constitutes a critical aspect for the improvement of understanding of the need for environmental protection in the Niger Delta. However, inducing it requires the integration of institutional cooperation with decision making to arrive at an all-inclusive decision-making process.

The government needs to ensure the liberalisation of local media in an attempt to establish working channels for public and civil societies to articulate their concerns over operations of oil companies in the Niger delta. However, without transparency and accountability, it becomes difficult for the public and civil societies to monitor and evaluate whether the companies’ operations violate their interests. This suggestion implies that interaction amongst civil societies, the government, and the public through public partnership organisations can aid in monitoring oil companies’ activities and gathering primary data from citizens to inform the policy development process in areas where non-compliance is identified.

Any effective environmental governance framework likely to yield success in enhancing environmental sustainability in the Niger delta should reflect the interests of all stakeholders holistically. Tanner, Mitchell, Polack, and Guenther’s (2009, p.1 ) framework for ‘urban governance for adaptation in assessing climatic change resilience in Ten Asian Cities’ may be applied in the case of the Niger delta. However, since there is a need to reflect the concerns and integrate all stakeholders in the governance process, the modification of the model to incorporate other aspects as shown in the holistic governance pyramid in fig 1 is necessary.

Theoretical model for environmental governance.
Fig 1: Theoretical model for environmental governance.

Tanner, Mitchell, Polack, and Guenther (2009, p. 9) argue that developing an effective governance system calls for avoidance of ‘cyclical political stalemates and achieve situations where national, state and city ruling parties can work together quickly and effectively to implement policies and programmes’. In some situations, decentralising the decision-making process coupled with political monitoring of environmental governance policies may give rise to conflicts amongst various agencies, which reduces the effectiveness of policy development and subsequent implementation. Top-down hierarchical structures in the development and implementation of policy frameworks may help to resolve this problem.

However, they may truncate into the exclusion of some interested parties. Hence, it is necessary to strike a balance between rapid development and implementation of government policies and inclusion of all stakeholders in the decision-making, policy development, and implementation process. This observation highlights the importance of coexistence and collaboration as shown in fig 1.

Accountability and transparency form the genesis for any effective environmental governance approach. Openness helps to facilitate the evaluation of the extent of attainment of environmental sustainability guidelines and targets. In the context of Asian cities, Tanner et al. (2009, p.9) state that legislation and administrative ‘systems that support the right to information must be in place to facilitate access to investigative or grievance procedures in cases where vulnerability to climate change has been increased.’ In the case of the Niger delta, legislation coupled with coordination of accountability frameworks may help to enhance success in creating more effective environmental sustainability policies concerning responding to the needs and interests of all parties.

Continued gas flaring and release of oil wastes into the environment can create new problems. This assertion suggests that governance systems should have preparedness and flexibility to respond to emerging new problems in a coordinated manner. Without cooperation, possible new environmental challenges around the Niger delta may suffer immense drawbacks. Good governance must foster the involvement of marginalised people in the decision-making process coupled with conducting evaluations and monitoring. In the Asian cities’ settings, Tanner et al. (2009, p.10) claims that climatic change ‘in urban areas is likely to disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable first’.

Similar implication is also experienced in the Niger delta as subsistence farmers, who are generally poor, have experienced the worst implications of oil pollution through the reduction of the annual farms’ yields. As shown in fig 1, to complete the governance pyramid model, integration of the least economically endowed persons, who are affected negatively by oil pollution, can help in the achievement of a holistic governance framework to oil pollution in the Niger delta.

Relevance and Significance

Pollution of the environment constitutes an issue of not only local but also a global concern. Since the problem afflicts all people coupled with increasing the government expenditure to address its negative implications, addressing it sufficiently requires the participation of all stakeholders across the globe. Through the case of a crisis in fostering environmental governance in the Niger Delta, incorporating strategies of enhancing good governance remains as the only solution to foster environmental sustainability. In particular, compliance is pivotal in ensuring ardent addressing of conflict of interests on oil mining operations in the Niger Delta.

The case of the Niger Delta analyses the theoretical assertion that social institutions are relevant in enhancing social justice in the allocation of resources. However, the institutions have largely failed in the case of Nigeria. It is recommendable for Nigeria to adopt environmental governance approaches, which integrate economic, political, public, civil organisations, environmental agencies, and oil companies interests. A policy that considers the interests of all the stakeholders may serve to enhance the overall good for the Nigerian citizenry. The Integration of Command and Control (CAC) with environmental governance theoretical paradigms to arrive at a hybrid approach for environmental governance is of great significance in the resolution of the current environmental governance crisis in the Niger Delta.

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