Regulatory Implementation Deficit in the Niger Delta

Subject: Environment
Pages: 18
Words: 5012
Reading time:
18 min
Study level: PhD


Covering about 12000 m2, the Niger Delta constitutes slightly above 8 % of the land surface of Nigeria. The region also has a highly diverse ecosystem. It is made of four major ecological domains. These include a number of natural vegetation types like swamps and rainforests.

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There has been continuous drilling in the Niger Delta region since the 1950s. The daily production of oil currently stands at 2.5 million barrels. Although oil is a major resource in Nigeria, weak environmental governance coupled with corruption has led to lack of strict laws to safeguard the very environment that serves a huge segment of the population. Of greatest concern in this oil-rich region is rampant oil spill which has had disastrous social and environmental effects. The entire ecosystem is extremely endangered as mangrove forests are obliterated while aquatic animals are being wiped out in masses (Onweazu 115). According to the report released by Amnesty International, even local inhabitants are not spared. For instance, environmental degradation has led to a rise in the poverty index, owing to a drop in the volume of fishing, the main source of livelihood for local communities. According to Okoh and Aviomoh (66), the authorities are reportedly doing very little to clean up the spills.

An effective methodology is critical for developing reliable findings. It is essential that the methodology assimilated is developed in a manner that factors the need for accuracy and acceptability of the results. This paper provides a clear oversight of the methodology that was assimilated by the researcher to determine how effective it was in generating the correct results for analysis, discussion, and recommendations. Most importantly, it critically examines the monitoring and enforcement of various laws related to environmental conservation and petroleum laws by institution in the Niger Delta. An examination is done to evaluate how efficient environmental management is done to enhance safety within the petroleum sector. Various limitations such as an ineffective regulatory framework, inadequate funding, rent seeking culture and poor governance are looked into.

Research problem/justification

The study of the deficit in implementation of petroleum and environmental laws and its impact on the Niger Delta environment is important because of the complexity it creates among communities which continue to suffer in the Niger Delta region. Academically, it is crucial to study the changes that can be implemented in establishing proper framework to curb oil spillage and how this can be of considerable importance to the nation.

The cases and communities within the Niger Delta region selected for study are very significant as they relate to and express the pitfalls of irresponsibility by governing bodies. The study also aims to explore the thesis by studying the deficit in implementation process. Besides, the research intends to provide a very detailed description of the institutional arrangements in the Niger delta for oil spills. By doing so, it will be able to look at the implementation of the regulations and policies by these agencies and ministries. Academically, students will be able to fully understand the extent at which the implementation of various environmental laws has been made and what has been achieved. At the quantitative end, the study will seek to systematically output the various strategies governing bodies in Niger Delta have utilized by providing prospective policy framework for environmental management.

Significance of the study

Apart from pursuing or championing the immediate needs and concerns of the Niger Delta region, this research study is significant in several ways. To begin with, it should contribute practical considerations and principles for protecting the Niger Delta and any other region that may be affected by oil spills. The recommendations highlighted in this study can be applied to other regions. The study will also lay out a well-planned grievance mechanism for addressing environmental concerns on oil spills. Through comparative research, the paper will discuss pressing environment challenges. As a result, the research study will be a near-perfect example of how oil spillage challenges can be practically handled via negotiation and litigation. The government may also use the research findings to identify missing links in mitigating against oil spills and general degradation of the environment. For oil companies that are still insensitive to the needs of the local population and well-being of the ecosystem, this study will act as a wakeup call for them to rectify the management of oil operations within their areas of influence. For academicians, the findings in this study will supplement existing knowledge in the management and conservation of the environment.

Aims and objectives of the study

The study aims at understanding the institutional arrangement of governing bodies in the Niger delta to cover the problems of deficit in their implementation of petroleum laws. Besides, it examines the integrated policy frameworks in order to determine strategies to deal with the current problem of oil spills. Academically, the study will aid in evaluating the implementation process. As such, the study is expected to:

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  • Create an understanding of the various institutional arrangements governing bodies in the Niger delta have put in place to curb oil spills in the Niger delta
  • To identify and categorize the various policies and regulations created by Nigerian ministries and concerned agencies.
  • To evaluate, describe and explore the extent at which various policies and laws have been implemented.
  • To identify opportunities and make recommendations on how te implementation process can be improved

The central aim of carrying out evaluation is to determine where gaps or barriers may exist, consider how such limitations may have contributed to environmental conditions in the Niger delta, and identify reforms that could lead to improvements in responses to oil spills. The key research goal will be:

  • To investigate both legal and institutional frameworks of environmental conservation in the Niger Delta region.

Theoretical Framework/underpinning

Hybrid theory of environmentalism by Steve Matthews asks important questions on the value of environment to humans and its relationship with development. When one thinks of environmental pollution in Niger Delta, the case of over 2004 oil spills in the Niger Delta in 2014 and damage to the environment comes to light. Contemporary issues of irresponsibility of governing agencies to reports from shell spill data for 2015 that indicate that Ikarama Community, Peremabiri, Oporoma Rivers state, Bodo west and Odau, B-Dere have been massively affected by spills continue to rise. The theory points towards a more aggressive effort through environmental activism and proper laws fight environmental damage as a noble course because of the following extended effects (Effiong and Etowa 226). First, pollution releases toxic chemicals that easily get into the aquatic organisms and later find themselves into the human systems through bio-magnification and bio-accumulation up the food chain. It must be also understood that conservation does not mean total lack of utilization of natural biological diversity. However, oil resources must be used sustainably in a manner that does not compromise the environment.

Various theories have been used to explain the paradox of massive resources on the developments of rich resource nations. Natural resource curse abundance theory clearly explains the source of the problem. It presents the paradox of plenty where many nations with rich resources tend to ignore human rights, suffer from poor economic growth and inequality. In Nigeria, the abundance of rich oil resources with a staggering 345 spills in 2015 has been observed many researchers as a curse. Friends of Earth have drawn a correlation between devastating environmental issues and ineffective enforcement of petroleum laws to the curse of abundance resource. The concerns of this study are therefore drawn by the lack of social development caused by poor governance and ineffective legal frameworks in Niger Delta.

Studies from Friends of Earth have pointed out that ineffective implementation of petroleum and environmental laws have denied the Niger Delta its social development, economic growth and better livelihoods for citizens. Indeed, the current inefficiency in institutions mandated to ensure environmental safety relates to the curse of abundance theory. It indicates that this happens when there is lack of supportive innovative culture that guides and controls the steady supply of resources.

Proponents of the institutional theory critically evaluated the roles a government plays to ensure that all its structures and operations are effectively run. The institutional theory points towards the role of influence in areas of change, administration and production. However, while this is widely derived and supported by the framework of the open systems theory, other studies reveal that not all government operations influences input and outputs influences. This consideration has been fronted by many analysts to indicate that the situation in Niger Delta cannot be fully blamed on the government institutions.

An understanding of a methodology applied in a research is important in developing a study whose findings are acceptable to existing social systems. It is important that the research be designed in a manner that is appreciative of the role played by accuracy in ensuring that the findings of a research are acceptable.

The framework will be crucial in researching and studying the underlying facts about pollution and ways of promoting sustainable environment. Social, environmental and economic developments are all affected when the immediate environment is degraded.

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Oil spillage has continued to pose unresolved challenges in the Niger Delta. For several decades, the challenges have gradually evolved into a full brown crisis leading to disruption of the lives of people inhabiting the ecological zone. As a matter of fact, the oil spill crisis has posed severe and widespread ecological hazards in Niger Delta and its environs. The crisis has depicted its complex dimension in recent years when the militia movements portrayed dissimilar degree of affiliations and intent to control the situation. Previous reports depict government initiatives to control the situation. Nevertheless, the government initiatives depict a clash of purpose since they have not achieved pungent and desired accord. The surrounding communities have for several times waged war and pointed fingers on multinational corporations that operate in the delta. Upon a careful review of literature, the alarming crisis has not only resulted to ecological disturbance but has led to emergence of unfair federal structure that rips off all the benefits from the minority. This is one of the underlying causes of tension and social rivalry in the delta. There has been a dire need to re-examine the government initiatives and efforts are being made to terminate the crisis which has been long overdue.

This research will be based on the laws and regulations put in place to curb oil spills and examine the interventions by agencies that are responsible for oil issues as well as their decision-making structure and processes. Besides, the study will focus on specific policies that have been put in place and applied in response to the oil spillage crisis. This study will be beneficial since it will help to evaluate the responses and instruments used in order to determine the impending barriers or gaps that exist and how they have contributed to environmental crisis in Niger Delta. Moreover, the study will help to indentify relevant future reforms that should be formulated and implemented to curb oil spills.


In order to answer the research questions and meet the objectives of the study, the study will employ two methods of collecting data. One will be the use of qualitative interviews. The reason for this method is that it phenomenologically addresses the diverse experiences of interviewed groups. Through focused groups, this will allow for sharing of experiences. The communities that will be visited in the region include the Ikarama, Peremabiri, Oporoma Rivers state, Bodo west, Odau, and B-Dere. Questionnaires as well as open ended questions will be used.

The other methods that will be used will be the use of secondary materials thematic documents and personnel handbooks. The methods will be crucial for addressing specific questions in the research on policies that have been implemented and what has so far been achieved. The interviews will be carried out in a manner that is appreciative of the need to ensure that findings are of high levels of accuracy. The case study will employ ethnography, which focuses on a community and close field observation on phenomena affecting a community, will be used to gather data. In this case, the Niger Delta communities like Ikarama Community, Peremabiri, Oporoma Rivers state, Bodo west and Odau, B-Dere as well as various groups and government organizations will be involved.

In order to carry out a thorough and successful research, interviews based on theoretical discourse will be used. A number of 300 interviewees will be asked to participate. Open ended probing questions will be formulated and act as guide to allow the participants to express their thoughts/views. This will capture a whole range of experiences from participants. It will point out common experiences among them. The research intends to focus on perceptions, distress, and frustrations. After identifying or capturing these experiences, secondary data or instruments will be used to analyze or discuss the likely implications of identified experiences. However, semi-structured interviews will be required for the sake of institutions such as DPR, NNPC and local authorities. The interviews will be purposeful in such a way that the researcher will collect only the valid and reliable data. It is also important to note that the interview questions will be consistent and objective. Participant observation will also be used in line with interviews. This is whereby the researcher will take part in the experience as he notes down relevant information based on experience.

Once data is collected and recorded, the researcher will examine its validity and reliability and ascertain the outcomes and the quality of research. For one to determine the validity and reliability of data, some factors such as probability of subject error, observation error and other types of biasness will be considered (Idemudia 93).

From the above discussions, it is evident that oil spill is a major environmental disaster that needed to be addressed in the Niger Delta region. Environmental protection should be a major concern not just in the Niger Delta region. It is crucial to mention that poverty index along the Niger Delta region has been worsened by the state of environmental degradation. If implementation of associated regulations is a major contributing factor, environmental degradation will continue to worsen the state of the currently bad situation. Environmental conservation is key towards progress.

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Interviews will be conducted to determine the various arrangements by the Nigerian ministries and agencies in establishing policies to curb oil spill problem on the environment. Besides augmenting the primary data and direct application at the methodology section, secondary data will serve as part of the major facet in supporting the literature review. Interviews will be conducted with assistance of the questionnaires designed with particularistic questions that will help the researcher easily categorize the response of the participants. In this respect, highly structured questions will be employed by the researcher. Questions with answers categorized into either “YES” or “NO” were employed to ease later analysis. Interviews will be conducted in targeted group of participants who can offer the much needed information for the research study.

Evaluation of data will take on a quantitative statistical approach and involve both descriptive and inferential analyses. To address the first research question, a descriptive analysis of the data will be undertaken. Data will be summarized according to the variables and magnitude of threats determined. It is worth noting that under the research approach, it is assumed that the observations made in the sample are reflective of the overall Niger Delta communities: Peremabiri, Oporoma Rivers’ state, Bodo west and Odau, B-Dere. Use of graphs and tables that summarize and represent the data visually will aid the development of a clear picture on the nature of threats and the potential they have on the environment. The findings will also be inferred for the overall population within the defined experimental frame in order to generate the most up to date results for the research study.

Literature Review

Oil is a valuable black liquid widely used throughout society. It is so important that some call it black gold. It is used in the manufacture of various products such as tires and plastic materials. It is also a major source of energy in the form of petrol, gasoline and diesel. When an oil spill occurs, the immediate environment suffers the most because in addition to polluting water resources, it is dangerous to animals and plants in the habitat. All aquatic animals are harmed by oil spills. For instance, fish can die through suffocation because oil components settle in the gills thereby preventing exchange of oxygen with the environment (Orogun 501).

There are numerous causes of oil spills. These include tanker and platform accidents, leakage, among others. For example, the BP oil spill can be recalled as one of the accidents that harmed aquatic life.

According to an analysis by Amnesty International, Royal Dutch Shell and the multinational oil giant ENI claimed responsibility for over five hundred oil spills in the Niger Delta in 2013 (Akpomuvie 201). This contrasts with about 10 spills in Europe between 1970 and 2012 (Ejechi and Ozochi 9). In 2014, Shell Oil Company polluted the Niger Delta with oil spills over 200 times (Ejechi and Ozochi 5). This totaled 10,500 oil spills by both companies. Worse still, a staggering 349 spills were registered by ENI, even though it has a relatively small region of operation within the oil-rich regions (Onweazu 118). Unless the oil companies are compelled to account for their reckless handling of oil spills, the challenge might continue to pursuit for a long time.

The Figures are a real source of concern for those interested in environmental conservation. It appears there is limited control of the affected region by local and national government authorities(Okoh and Aviomoh 65).

This research proposal seeks to focus on environmental governance and the institutional arrangements associated specifically with oil spills in the Niger Delta. The proposal will also explore, among other aspects, the current state of Environmental Governance in Nigeria-its History and type adopted. The issues associated with oil spills will be identified and the growing national and global implications will be examined. In order to address these concerns, the proposal will be guided by a number of research questions. In particular, a major area of discussion will focus on if an implementation deficit exist (deficiencies in regulatory approach) in the context of the realities in the Niger Delta.

If such rampant oil spills happened in any other country, it would be equated to a national emergency as it happened in Midwest United States (Ejechi and Chizoba Ozochi 8). Oil and gas are the main exports of Nigeria and the consolidated budget income is mainly derived from these commodities. However, the nine States in the Niger Delta region are among the worst affected by oil spill related disasters. The onshore and offshore wells are operated by several oil companies spread across the wider Niger Delta. Yet, this region remains one of the poorest across the globe. Over seventy percent of the indigenous population relies on the immediate environment for sustenance (Onweazu 116). The environmental degradation resulting from these oil spills has led to increased unemployment due to the diminishing number of fish for fishing activities. The challenges are real and exist and should be addressed because authorities have done little to address the situation.

Case study as an observational research design will be used to gather information on oil spillage. Hauss defines case study as a tool in methodology whereby a researcher obtains information from interviews (254). In postgraduate thesis, case study is normally involves a body of knowledge. Most importantly, the study will use this method because it is efficient in investigating contemporary phenomena in different areas. In Niger Delta, it will be useful in exploring the effects of spillage among the Ikarama, Peremabiri, Oporoma Rivers state, Bodo west and Odau, and B-Dere communities. It is important to highlight that the study will adopt case study as it describes phenomena happening in a region or an area. It is not like other methods that rely on normative decision models. For this study, case study will be highly appropriate as an approach for investigating the dynamics of deficit in implementing environmental and petroleum laws by Nigerian agencies.

Implementation deficit

It is evident that the current rules and legislations on environmental protection and conservation are not operational, and are therefore not being followed. A culture of impunity is rife among companies. This has led to a gross implementation deficit of all the blueprints on environmental conservation. Implementation deficit refers to situations where existing regulatory approaches are not being followed to the latter. This research proposal will explore, discuss and draw valid conclusions on the conservation nightmares and realities facing the Niger Delta region. The main point of reference will be deficiencies in the regulatory approach in the context of environmental conservation. Hence, the research study will focus on covering areas such as the steps the government has taken to address these issues as well as implementation and enforcement mechanisms. The study will also analyze the history and structure of environmental pollution and oil spillage in the Niger Delta region. In addition, the research will seek to discover whether the menace is localized or replicated across the country. This will facilitate the discovery of the negligence parameters as well as underperforming agencies. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safeguards the environment. The study will also analyze the working principles of the Environmental Protection Agency, in order to establish the link between implementation deficit and the negligence of oil companies operating within the region (Akpomuvie 205). The agency is concerned with all matters that negatively affect the environment. The national government is the source of EPA’s authority.

This section of the research study will also highlight frameworks used in environmental protection. For example, the study will compare and contrast commitment levels of oil companies to conservation matters and prevention of oil spillage.

Environmental Governance in developing countries

The frequency of spillage is not as high in East Asia and other regions where oil exploration takes place, as it is in the Niger Delta. This research study will seek to explain how companies in oil-rich East Asia comply with environmental regulation in the handling and management of oil resources. For example, the environmental protection agencies in East Asia have instituted strict rules and regulations on environmental conservation. Any breach of such laws by oil companies often leads to serious consequences such as termination of operating licenses, or surcharge of heavy penalties. A number of oil spillage legislations have been enacted to reduce the environmental risks. For instance, the Chinese government has revised the mode of operations of oil companies operating in the country. Pipelines are regularly checked for leakages, to avoid spills and possible explosions. However, a number of past instances of oil spill threats that were never addressed suggest that East Asian government authorities and other environmental agencies are not sufficiently proactive to prevent oil spills. Disaster prevention requires regular environmental and operational audit of oil firms. The research study will integrate the best oil management practices from East Asia into operational recommendations for the Niger Delta.

New governing styles that can be adopted

It is vital to mention that lack of political goodwill has hampered environmental protection in the Niger Delta. Several reported cases of corruption attest to lack of political harmony to drive a common environmental agenda within the governance system (Onweazu 117). In this research study, it will be fundamental to develop a relationship between environmental protection and effective political governance. In other words, the importance of political modernization alongside collaborative governance will be a critical area of discussion, bearing in mind that the whole challenge emanates, or is worsened by the missing links in political governance.

A quick look at environmental sustainability will be vital in understanding this research study. Environmental sustainability refers to the ability to conserve and maintain the immediate surrounding so that it can remain vibrant and support life.

Institutional arrangements should enable various government organs and agencies to collaborate closely in delivering crucial environmental laws. Environmental governance should thus entail a rigorous framework for enacting and enforcing laws to conserve the environment (Orogun 502).

Research problem

The problem of oil spillage and environmental degradation in Niger Delta has persisted even with the existence of many agencies and ministries set up to curb menace. It is difficult to fully comprehend why oil spillage and the subsequent damage to the environment is rife in the Niger Delta region. It comes out that the mitigation efforts are ineffective coupled with deficit of goodwill to prevent further oil spills. Could this be a problem of poor governance?

The limitations and capacity of regulatory enforcement and compliance

This research proposal will outline key institutional arrangements necessary for governing bodies in the Niger delta to curb oil spills and improve the environment. Academically, it will be possible to identify and categorize the various policies and regulations created by Nigerian ministries and concerned agencies. Poor enforcement of rules and regulations on environmental conservation impedes efforts toward reducing oil spillage. It will also evaluate, describe and explore the extent at which various policies and laws have been implemented. Perhaps the best way to describe regulatory enforcement limitations is inconsiderate or little regard for the roles of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by oil corporations that operate within the Niger Delta region. Sincerity towards the well being of inhabitants in the region may be demonstrated through social welfare activities.


The study proposes to focus on Niger Delta communities affected by oil spills. Data will be collected using focus groups, interviews and questionnaires. Focus groups will entail team work and hence, detailed data will be gathered from the field. Direct phone calls and emails will also be used to obtain data from local authorities. Phones and emails are quite quick in terms of making inquiries and receiving feedback. The research designs that will be used include experimental, correlational and descriptive. The design will facilitate accurate comparison of data obtained from the field. Data will be analyzed using descriptive, exploratory and inferential methods. Descriptive methods are detailed and rich in content and therefore self explanatory. Exploratory method refers to a technique of considering all possibilities in a given study before narrowing down to specific issues. This method is open to wider discussions while inferential methods are used to give deductions based on findings. Both ethnography and participant observation will be used as part of the methodology. Ethnography will enable scientific exploration of the Niger Delta culture and how the community has been affected by oil spills.

Research design

The research is designed to be enothagraphic or an observational type of study. The design is best suited for this study since it will enable to researcher to rip-off primary or fist-hand information required for the study topic. It is important to note that first-hand information is usually not distorted unlike secondary information. Besides this, the study topic requires qualitative data which is interpretive, inductive and constructive. It is important to mention that ethnographic method will help the research to grasp perceptions and judgments from participants. This will help in interpreting complex and non-quantifiable cause-effect processes which the participants may impute during the study.

According to post 1970 discussions on international assistance, foreign companies are expected to develop and not exploit third world nations. One of the legislations formed in the discussions was to burden foreign investors to offer effective and measurable assistance to other nations. In response to this, economic or market reforms were formed through the structural adjustment program to impose corporate social responsibility. Nevertheless, this has not been the case as such legislations have been ignored particularly when it comes to the issue of oil spills in Niger Delta. Besides, the major legislation that is “The Environmental Impact Assessment Decree” has not been put into consideration by investors and the government authorities in this region thus explaining the probable cause of the oil spill crisis. There is an interesting paradox that such a regulation exists yet there is intense lack of improvement in practice.

This research will be guided institutional theoretical framework is inclined to promote and guide towards sustainable development/management of environment within Niger Delta region. Institutionalism originates from the term “Institution”. It has its discourse from the patterns and structures of institutions. This theory has its origin in the mid 19th century and was formulated due to economic crises that faced third and developing countries due to bad governance. The theory has been applied in numerous countries to explain how poor institutional and governance structures result to natural and economic crises.

In this study, the researcher will require diverse views and insights from the participants. The focus groups for this study will include communities residing around the Niger delta such as Ikarama, Oporoma and Prembari all from Bayera state. Moreover, communities from River State such as those in Bodo West, Odau and B-Dere will be included. Upon a careful review of the 2015 spill data, the communities named above were the most affected by oil spill crisis. It is worth to mention that there communities that will be visited on the ground as will be indicated in the study plan. These communities are expected to be the major victims of oil spillage as this will help one to understand the predicament impacted to them by frequent oil spill incidents. Besides this, the study will focus on major institutions that have direct access to Niger Delta and have in various ways intercepted to control the oil spill hazards. These institutions will include the Federal ministry of Environment, DPR, NNPC and NOSDRA. The institutions can be accessed through a contact from Niger Delta District Assembly and DPR. In order to adequately carry out research in the region, the researcher will seek consent and approval from the Niger Delta District Assembly, Environment Protection Agency, Environment Officials and participants from the communities involved. In order to clear any misconception, the researcher to give an explicit overview of what the study entails, how the findings will be utilized and how participants’ confidentiality will be maintained.

Works Cited

Akpomuvie, Orhioghene Benedict. “Tragedy of Commons: Analysis of Oil Spillage, Gas Flaring and Sustainable Development of the Niger Delta of Nigeria.” Journal of Sustainable Development 4.2 (2011): 200-210. Print.

Effiong, Sunday, and Ubi Etowa. “Oil Spillage Cost, Gas Flaring Cost and Life Expectancy Rate of the Niger Delta People of Nigeria.” Advances in Management and Applied Economics 2.2 (2012): 211-228. Print.

Ejechi, Bernard and Chizoba Ozochi. Assessment of the physicochemical and microbiological status of western Niger delta soil for crude oil pollution bioremediation potential. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 187.6(2015): 1-11. Print.

Idemudia, Uwafiokun. “Oil Extraction and Poverty Reduction in the Niger Delta: A Critical Examination of Partnership Initiatives.” Journal of Business Ethics 90 (2009): 91-116. Print.

Okoh, Ebenezer and Uko, Aviomoh. “The Impact of Oil Spillage on Agricultural Production among Adult Farmers in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research In Business1.6 (2009): 62- 74. Print.

Onweazu, Okoji Olufemi. “Multinational Oil Corporations Corporate Integrity Ethics and Sustainable Development in Niger Delta, Nigeria.” Journal of Sustainable Development 5.10 (2012): 114-121. Print.

Orogun, Paul. “Resource Control, Revenue Allocation and Petroleum Politics in Nigeria: The Niger Delta Question.” GeoJournal 75.5 (2010): 459-507. Print.