Oil exploitation, environmental justice, and decolonization: exploring the historical accounts of oil host communities in South-Eastern Nigeria

Kanu, Ejikeme Johnson ORCID: 0000-0003-3962-7030 (2023). Oil exploitation, environmental justice, and decolonization: exploring the historical accounts of oil host communities in South-Eastern Nigeria. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This study examines the environmental justice experiences and legacies of host communities in south-eastern Nigeria whose means of subsistence have been destroyed by oil extraction. In the study area, there is documented evidence of the ecological devastation caused by oil extraction and how it has rendered farming and fishing, the main occupations of rural residents in this region, virtually impossible (Elum et al., 2016). Unfortunately, these host communities from which oil is extracted has remained the nation's economic engine for decades, despite the degraded environment and the oil revenue accruing to the Federal government not substantively improving the well-being of their people (Nwajiaku-Dahou, 2012). As it is today, the quality of life and standard of living of the people has stagnated, and their environment is polluted, yet there is no tangible evidence of real community development from oil revenue (Danaan, 2018). What is worrying is that many scholarly works at the macro-level (Niger Delta region) focus on the south-south region, which contributes about 80% of Nigeria's oil and gas, in their debate on environmental injustice even as they adopt the western liberal perspective (distributive, procedural, and recognitional) inequalities, but the outcome of such findings is used to generalise on other areas, e.g., south-eastern Nigeria, which contributes 15% of Nigeria's oil and gas. Such generalisation I consider as ecological fallacy as this may not truly reflect the condition of the study area.
Although there are few studies done at the micro-level (study area or south-eastern Nigeria) which also adopt the western liberal perspective, first, I argue that there is a need for micro-level study of the south-eastern region. This is to make a contextual contribution since the south-south region differs significantly from the south-eastern region in terms of language, culture, socio-political, and economic standing which implies that the drivers of environmental justice (EJ) may differ between them. And these are contextual drivers that influence the causes, experiences, and outcomes of environmental injustice. Second, I explored colonial legacies linked with land use and ownership; the derivation-based system; the divide and rule system (creation of more states and local government); and the system of appointment to boards of directors of government agencies responsible for oil exploitation in Nigeria. And how these colonial legacies mask internal socio-political differences within Nigeria. I went further to consider how such legacies impede the cultural ideals of the host communities and how they persist in the post-colonial era, with significant implications for the current debates on indigenous environmental justice (IEJ). Then, I assessed the sufficiency, or lack thereof, of the EJ framing in the study region, which adopts western liberal ideas and does not recognise the influence of colonialism and cultural domination of the host communities, both of which contribute to environmental injustice.
The study was guided by four research questions: 1) What are the historical developments of environmental injustice in oil exploitation in south-eastern Nigeria? (2) What are the political and legal resources available to support environmental justice concerns in south-eastern Nigeria? (3) In what ways can the existing environmental and oil regulations in Nigeria be adapted or transformed to ensure inclusiveness in sharing the proceeds from oil exploitation and environmental challenges in south-eastern Nigeria? (4) How can the historically marginalized communities in south-eastern Nigeria proactively organize to achieve environmental justice?
To answer these research questions, a mixed research method was adopted. This includes an archival method, closed-ended questionnaire administration, virtual elite interview, and administration of the open-ended questionnaire. Data from the archive served as a foundation for the study's environmental justice concerns and served as the basis for responding to research questionnaire one. Triangulating the interview method, the detailed open-ended questionnaire and the closed-ended questionnaire formed the basis for answering research questions numbers two, three, and four. Drawing from data analysis and anchoring on development theories like dependency theory, post-colonial theory, and decolonial theory, the study observed that the micro-level findings (south-eastern Nigeria) corroborate the majority of macro-level findings (Niger delta) and indicate that EJ problems in the study area stem primarily from government actions that began in the colonial era but continued in the post-colonial age. The study further indicates that globalized theories of environmental Justice overlook the internal/indigenous socio-political (and ecological) disparities found within postcolonial societies and therefore recommends indigenous environmental justice through decolonization as necessary for the marginalised host communities to achieve environmental justice.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Funders: Other
Other Funders: PTDF – Petroleum Technology Development Fund
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
J Political Science > J General legislative and executive papers
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/13346


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