oa ESR Review : Economic and Social Rights in South Africa - The wealth and pain of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region : moving from exploitation to accountability - feature

Volume 20 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1684-260X



The Niger Delta region of Nigeria is remarkable not only for its magnificent ecology as one of the world’s largest wetlands but for its richness in natural resources, which include extensive oil deposits that make for over 90 per cent of the country’s oil. It is also one of the most threatened and rapidly deteriorating natural habitats in the world.

More than four decades of resource-exploitation have created incredible wealth for transnational oil corporations and turned Nigeria into a petrol-dollar state; by the same token, they have left the local population deeply impoverished and devastated the environment. It is an unjust and inequitable situation that stems from, on the one hand, corporate greed and irresponsibility, and, on the other, governmental arbitrariness and indifference.

The result has been a tit-for-tat conflict between militants in the region and the Nigerian government. While the militant groups rightly or wrongly protest against human rights abuses through criminal activities, the government in turn unleashes military forces to ‘curb’ the violence. Hence, the conflict has spread like wildfire, threatenening the social, economic and political security of the region and the country at large.

The principal contention in this article is that conflict and abuses persist in the region chiefly because the Nigerian government and oil corporations fail to be accountable for the exploitation. After an overview of the Niger Delta’s history, the article sets out the major economic, social and cultural rights violations that have occurred and examines the government’s attempts at developing the region.

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