n AFFRIKA Journal of Politics, Economics and Society - Bringing human rights back into the Niger Delta discourse

Volume 2, Issue 1_2
  • ISSN : 1998-4936
  • E-ISSN: 2075-6534


The Niger Delta has been enveloped in deepening contradictions of oil and environmental politics and appalling human rights conditions. Attempts to challenge these contradictions by the Niger Delta people and official responses to popular agitations on the part of the government and oil multinationals, however suggest contrasting uses of human rights. Although each actor tends to couch its position in the language of human rights, there is an apparent disagreement over what constitutes the correct interpretation of human rights. This article critically explores the contrasting uses of human rights the Niger Delta and argues that the seeming failure of the rights-based approach to development in the Niger Delta so far cannot be directly linked to the theory of human rights itself, but its practice, which has been unduly legalistic without moral fervour.

What is required is a transition from a donor-driven to a people-driven rights agenda for development. This requires developing a bottom-up, participatory approach to human rights, which can be achieved by investing in capacity building to reposition community-based organisations (CBOs) for the articulation and aggregation of the human rights concerns of the Niger Delta. This includes the rights to environmental security, good governance and development. This is not to suggest that donor agencies and their professionals will no longer be relevant in any sense. Instead, a progressive partnership between donors and CBOs built on mutually conceived and agreed principles, as against imposition, may serve to boost the rights-based approach to the development of the region. This partnership approach to rights not only has the potential to effectively historicise and contextualise rights, relating theory to practice, with the possibility of exposing and filling the gaps between the two; but also accommodates both the legal and moral components of rights, whereby one set of rights does not become a stumbling block to another.

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