School of Engineering


Linking environmental protection and adaptive management in the Niger Delta

This study is an inter-disciplinary investigation into the complex issue of environmental pollution in the Niger Delta.


The Niger Delta region in Nigeria covers seven states, namely Akwa-Ibom, Crossriver, Edo, Delta, Ondo, Bayelsa and Rivers States (Imo and Abia states are oil producing states but not in the Niger Delta regions).This region of Nigeria has most of the country’s petroleum oil buried in it’s soil. Environmental pollution has occurred in the Delta region on a massive scale during the last 40 years, largely linked to the extraction and refining of oil by the Royal Dutch Shell multi-national oil corporation. Oil pollution has affected the water bodies of the Delta, killing aquatic plants and fish, and rendering fishermen in that area jobless. Leaking pipelines have been observed to pollute the land, while the air is considered unhealthy to breath due to high carbon content, creating further health issues for the people. Moreover, houses have been demolished to give way for the oil companies to work, rendering many people homeless, accounts report that sometimes with compensation given on paper that does not get to the homeless.

The damage to the physical environment has also affected the socio-cultural and economic life of the people, with many people living in poverty, vulnerable to kidnapping, killing and the gathering of dangerous firearms. The spread of violence, threats to life and properties is common in the oil rich Niger Delta, with locals waging war and killing each other.

Any solution seems very far from being reached as none of the local groups seem to have a clear idea of how the environmental, social, cultural and economic problems can be solved. The Petroleum Act of 1969 empowers the commissioner in charge of petroleum to make laws that will guide against pollution of water bodies and the atmosphere and also ensure that every necessary step is taken to minimize pollution when it seems inevitable. However, the agencies charged with the responsibility of making laws to protect the environment and to monitor the activities of the companies to reduce environmental damage are consultative offices that lack capacity and resources to initiate and implement policies.

  1. Examine the multi-faceted causes of the pollution, including ecological, technological, economic, social, political and cultural factors;
  2. Critically analyse the various attempts that have been made to deal with the problem; and
  3. Explore the potential value of a new management approach based on the twin concepts of adaptive management and multi-stakeholder partnership.
Research questions
  1. What role does oil extraction and refining in the Niger Delta play in the Nigerian economy?
  2. What is the extent of oil pollution in the Niger Delta, and how serious are its ecological, economic, social, political and cultural effects?
  3. What are the main causes of oil pollution in the Niger Delta?
  4. What actions has the government taken to address the problem, and how effective have they been?
  5. What actions has Royal Dutch Shell taken to address the problem, and how effective have they been?
  6. Have stakeholders other than the government and Shell been involved in attempts to deal with the problems? If so, how have these stakeholders been selected, and do they include local residents /workers or their representatives?
  7. Could a multi-stakeholder partnership be a possible mode of governance that would better address the problem?
  8. Would adaptive management be a better policy approach than the present one?