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1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Human being cannot be separated from his environment because his perception and interaction with his surrounding make up his being. There are exploitative activities by man in the name of development. The negative impact of this development emanates from his neglect and disregard for the growth of a populace. Ambrose Akinbode in Introduction to Environmental Resource Management describes the environment as ‘the totality of the places and surroundings in which we live, work, and interact with other people in our cultural, religious, political and socio- economic activities for self fulfilment and advancement of our communities, societies or nations. It is within this environment that both natural and man-made things are found’ (2). Human activities have continuously revolved around man’s environment, the experiences and endeavours of man dwell with his inseparable and unceasing interaction with the environment.
Edward Relph in The Modern Urban Landscape notes that ‘the landscapes and places we live in are important. Whether we shape them or they shape us, they are the expressions of what we are. Our lives are impoverished precisely to the extent that we ignore them’ (14). In a strict and natural cause effect interrelationship, the biotic constituents are linked and balanced through the resource system of the environment. Relph’s claims connect to that of H.O. Agarval who in International Law and Human Rights reports that ‘the tremendous advancement of industrialization resulting in economic development had also continuously degraded the human environment’ (285). Furthermore, urbanization, over-population, and poverty also intensify the problem. In the present age, human activities exert enormous influence on the natural conditions of the entire planet.
Since Nigeria’s independence, the nation has been facing environmental challenges. There are some critiques who believe that the people of the Niger Delta are marginalised, while others argue that the degradation in the area is caused by poor management of resources by the government. In The Nigerian State, Oil Exploration and CommunityInterest: Issues and Perspectives, Inya Eteng notes that ‘the highly exploitative and grossly inequitable endowment/ownership-exchange entitlement relations between the Nigerian state and the oil-bearing communities in particular explain why the enormous oil wealth generated is scarcely reflected in the standard of living and life chances of the peasant inhabitants of the oil-bearing enclave’ (21). A significant dent on the socio-economic life of the Niger Deltans is environmental degradation and is largely the outcome of pollution and the exploitation of natural resources. This perspective of Eteng leads W. Reno to state in his article: ForeignFirms and Financing of Charles Taylor’s NPFI that ‘the exploitation of natural resources has played a prominent part in conflict in Nigeria. Ever since the discovery of oil in 1956, it is estimated that over USD300 billion has been acquired by the Federal Republic of Nigeria from sales of crude oil over forty years of exploration’ (4). Given this enormous capital accumulation, it is expected that the oil bearing communities of whose land oil is extracted from will be more materially prosperous and better off than their ethnic counterparts in the State. But unfortunately, the reverse is the case. For Cyril Obi:
In spite of the overwhelming contribution of the oil minority areas of the Niger Delta to Federal Revenues, they have been excluded from direct access to oil revenues, except through federal and ethnic majority benevolence.
Consequently, the region is one of the least developed and poorest in the Nigerian State. A number of factors accounts for this rather unfortunate fate of oil bearing communities all of which are rooted in historical development of the Nigerian State. The most significant of this factor till date has been the replacement of agriculture by oil, as the basis of capitalist accumulation and State reproduction in Nigeria. (108)