1.0     Introduction

Oil spillage is a global issue that has been occurring since the discovery of crude oil, which was part of the industrial revolution. The total spillage of petroleum into the oceans, seas and rivers through human activities is estimated to range 0.7-1.7 million tons per year (www.science.irank.org). Oil spills have posed a major threat to the environment of the oil producing areas, which if not effectively checked can lead to the total destruction of ecosystems. The Niger Delta is among the ten most important wetland and marine ecosystems in the world. The oil industry located within this region has contributed immensely to the growth and development of the country which is a fact that cannot be disputed but unsustainable oil exploration activities has rendered the Niger Delta region one of the five most severely petroleum damaged ecosystems in the world. Studies have shown that the quantity of oil spilled over five decades was a least 9-13 million barrels, which is equivalent to 50 Exxon Valdez spills (FME, et. al. 2006). In 1956, Shell British Petroleum (now Royal Dutch Shell) discovered crude oil at a village Oloibiri in Bayelsa state located within the Niger Delta of Nigeria (Anifowose, 2008; Onuoha, 2008) and commercial production began in 1958. As of 2006, there are eleven (11) oil companies operating one hundred and fifty- nine (159) oil fields and one thousand four hundred and eighty-one (1,481) wells in the Niger Delta in Nigeria (The Guardian, 2006). Human activities and those of oil exploration and exploitation raise a number of issues such as depletion of biodiversity, coastal and riverbank erosion, flooding, oil spillage, gas flaring, noise pollution, sewage and waste water pollution, land degradation and soil fertility loss and deforestation, which are all major environmental issues. Oil exploration and exploitation has been ongoing for several decades in the Niger Delta. It has had disastrous impacts on the environment in the region and has adversely affected people inhabiting that region. Odeyumi and Ogunseitan (1985) wrote a paper on the growth and development of the oil and petrochemical industry in Nigeria with emphasis to the notable cases of pollution disturbances during the 25 years of its existence, highlighting causes and effects on the social, economic, agricultural and ecological characteristic on human and other biotic occupants of the oil region. Recommendations were given as guide, for the activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Coperation (NNPC) in the prevention, control, treatment of oil and petrochemical pollution. Celestine (2003) discussed the effects of intensive oil resource extraction on the environment of the oil bearing Niger Delta communities and environmental problems such as resource degradation, pollution and poverty in the Niger Delta communities. Tolulope (2004) wrote on the oil spillage incidences in Nigeria with its negative implication to the environment, emphasizing on the extent of hazards and the tendency of petroleum products to pollute the environment. Twumasi and Merem (2006) explored the application of GIS and remote sensing in the tropical coastal zone environment with emphasis on the environmental impact of development in the Niger Delta region. The paper presented a vivid overview of issues, environmental effects and factors. The results showed decline in water bodies, mangrove forest and several cases of oil spills. Chukuezi (2006) wrote a paper on the implications of oil exploration and environmental degradation to sustainable development in the Niger Delta. Explaining this has culminated into poverty, restiveness and human insecurity in the region. In general, the assessment of other researchers into this issue acknowledges that the oil industry has undoubtedly brought economic benefit to the Nigerian state but has left environmental pollution problems with visible physical destruction. The prevention of environmental degradation is a task that must be pursued vigorously. Amu (1997) said that the identification of problems, design and applying appropriate sanctions is a major issue that needs to be resolved and has to start with change in the present judicial system and attitude towards the litigation of environmental issues as well as a reform in environmental policies.


1.1     Background on Nigeria and the Niger Delta Region

Nigeria has a coastal line of approximately 85km towards the Atlantic Ocean lying between latitude 4°15′ to 4°50′ and longitude 5°25′ to 7°37′ with a land mass of about 28000sq/km area within the coastal region. The surface area of the continental shelf is 46300sq/km. The coastal areas consist of freshwater swamp, mangrove swamp, beach ridges, sand bars, lagoons marshes and tidal channels. Nigeria has a total land mass of 923,768sq/km; 918,768sq/km being terrestrial land and 13000 sq/km being aquatic (CIA World Fact Book). The coastal area is humid with a mean average temperature of 24-32°C and coastal area has an average annual rainfall ranging between 1,500-4,000m (Kuruk, 2004). Nigeria has two large rivers; the Niger-Benue and the Chad River. There are several rivers that channel into the Atlantic Ocean directly, all other flowing waters flow into the Chad basin or into the lower Niger to the sea eventually (Kuruk, 2004).The Niger Delta is located in the Atlantic coast of Southern Nigeria and is the world’s second largest delta with a coastline of about 450km which ends at Imo river entrance (Awosika, 1995). The region is about 20,000sq/km as it is the largest wetland in Africa and among the third largest in the world (Powell, et al., 1985; CLO, 2002; Anifowose, 2008; Chinweze and Abiola-Oloke, 2009). 2,370sq/km of the Niger Delta area consists of rivers, creeks, estuaries and stagnant swamps cover approximately 8600sq/km, the Delta mangrove swamp spans about 1900sq/km as the largest mangrove swamp in Africa (Awosika1995). The Niger Delta is classified as a tropical rainforest with ecosystems comprising of diverse species of flora and fauna both aquatic and terrestrial species. The region can be classified into four ecological zones; coastal inland zone, freshwater zone, lowland rainforest zone, mangrove swamp zone and this region is considered one of the ten most important wetlands and marine ecosystems in the world (FME, et al., 2006; ANEEJ, 2004). The Niger Delta consist of the following states Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ondo, Imo and Rivers respectively.As of 1991 from the National Census estimated about 25% of the entire Nigerian population lives within the Niger Delta region (Twumasi and Merem, 2006; Uyigue and Agho, 2007). The Niger Delta region has a steady growing population of approximately 30 million people as of 2005, accounting for more than 23% of Nigerias total population Twumasi and Merem, 2006; Uyigue and Agho 2007).



The subject matter of the study is oil spill incident and management in Niger Delta.



To examine the causes of oil spillage in the Niger Delta.

To identify possible measures on how to manage oil spill in the area.