Esrc seminar, 13 july 2009. Ogwu, Friday Adejoh

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OGWU, Friday Adejoh.

PhD Student

School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

Newcastle University.

PhD Research Topic: Petroleum Pipeline Distribution System: The case of Oil and Gas Pipeline Network in Nigeria-‘an environmental justice approach’


As mode of transportation, pipelines traverse the landscape of the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria and utilize vast tracts of land whose original ecosystem have been altered. Constant oil spillages and gas blow-outs from these pipelines constitute health hazards to the people and the environment. The surface pipelines reduce agricultural land and impede free movement. This research believes pipelines are major infrastructure development that impacts adversely on the environment. Its core objective is to identify the specific input physical planners are making at the moment and consider what other impact they ought to make into oil and gas pipeline networking. It will adopt the concepts of collaborative planning and environmental justice. Relying on ethnographic case studies to be conducted in two communities, the research intends to make a set of policy, management and research recommendations for dealing with any identified impacts of pipeline on land use.

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Unlike most countries in Western Europe that heavily depend on imported oil for their energy requirements (Odel, 2002), Nigeria’s economy is dominated by the oil and gas sector. This accounted in 2004 for about 95% of gross domestic product. The country is Africa’s leading oil producer and at a global level, ranks among the top 10 oil producers (Olokesusi, 2005). Most of the oil and gas are produced in the Niger Delta Region, presently defined by the political boundary of nine States- Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross-River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers States. Nigeria’s oil and gas operations comprises of assets and infrastructure including 5,284 oil wells, 10 gas plants, 275 flow stations and 10 export terminals (Joab, 2004). All of these are connected by a network of pipelines. Oil and gas production has come at a great environmental cost to about 1,500 communities in the Niger Delta where Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) oil venture partners operate. The impact has been mostly negative. Until the tragic events of Odi, Ogoni and Umuechem, many Nigerians remained unaware of the environmental degradation, pollution and neglect in oil producing communities.

In more recent times, the environment in the Niger Delta has been at the centre of discourse in many seminars, conferences and even in government circles. The trend has been helped by recognition in the international arena from 1992 to the Millennium Development Goals emanating from South Africa in 2002. Presently, the environment is on the agenda in different forums ranging from local oil producing communities to states and at the national levels. Pipelines are part of major infrastructure of oil and gas production. They are necessary for the transportation, storage and marketing of natural gas, crude oil, and refined petroleum products. Available data put the nation’s pipeline network at over 3,000 km. Most of these run across the rivers, creeks, swamps and farmland in the Niger Delta. Nigeria has proven oil reserves of 22.5 billion barrels that are located mainly within the coastal area of the Niger Delta among some 250 separate fields. About 200 other fields are known to exist and there have been several deep water discoveries. Reserves of natural gas in Nigeria are estimated to be 124 trillion in 1999 which represented 2.4% of world reserves (Handasah, 2003). For example, the Shell Petroleum Development Company’s 95 km trunk line runs from Nembe Creek field to Cawthorne Channel field passing through 35 communities and traversing 60 rivers/creeks of varying sizes along its route.

Outside the Niger Delta Region, oil and gas pipelines run to petroleum products storage depots in Aba, Enugu, Gombe, Gusau, Ibadan, Ikorodu, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Ilorin, Maiduguri, Markurdi, Ore and Yola, and a refinery at Kaduna. With associated Gas Gathering programmes at Bonny, Soku and Brass, the pipeline network has increased greatly. There are statutory regulations that require a Development Permit for any new project and a Permit to Survey (PTS) a pipeline route be obtained by oil companies from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), in Nigeria. There are also regulations that require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) be carried out prior to an approval being obtained for the project and subsequent execution. Pipelines in excess of 50 km require an EIA. Nigeria is also a signatory to International regulations such as Agenda 21 which have implications for environmental management within the country (Nnah and Owei, 2005).

In spite of its significance, not much has been done by way of environmental impact assessment of pipelines in Nigeria.

There is lack of strategic planning and this failure of appropriate

methodology to bring to Africa the much needed infrastructure;

this lack of this basic “backbone” infrastructure is what holds

Africa back more than any other issue that faces Africa today.

(African Development Bank 2008)¹
Following (Pinch, 1985) who argues in his theory of public goods that Geographers should be interested in the distribution of public goods for the externalities they produce, this research will attempt to highlight the significant physical, social and economic impacts of Nigeria’s oil and gas pipelines on the communities through which they pass. More significantly, the research will like to argue physical planners should constitute part of the core team of professionals who regulates and monitor oil pipelines in Nigeria. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. The research intends to investigate why this is so.

2.0 A Brief Literature Review

Pipelines are used to transport petroleum products from oil refineries and import-receiving jetties to storage depots in Nigeria. In Nigeria, petroleum pipeline traverses the entire country’s geo-political zones ranging from the subsea swamp, rain forest to savannah grass lands and are exposed to diverse climates and soil conditions with varying consequences which include leakages and seepages of petroleum products with damaging implications for the communities and the environment (Agbaeze, 2002).

According to (Nnah and Owei, 2005), petroleum pipeline is an essential mode of transport and is therefore an infrastructure of a highly specialized nature. Unlike other modes of transport such as road, pipelines do not improve access to people in communities through which they pass. Rather, they impose constraints on interactions and when located close to houses, pose a hazard to life.

Even when pipeline is no longer in use, it is left to rust in the open field as the oil companies are not willing to spend money dismantling it. After the construction phase, there is usually lack of periodic monitoring. Monitoring is an important activity to ensure the integrity of pipelines and safety of people in the vicinity. Whereas oil companies attribute most spillages to sabotage, the communities argue it is due to failed pipelines and consequent leakages (NDDC, 2001).

At inception in 1977, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation paid compensations for portions of land acquired for its projects but with the promulgation of the Land Use Decree of 1978, compensation payment by the Corporation was limited to economic trees and structures. The decree excluded compensation for land acquired for projects such as pipelines. This has been responsible for agitation by pipelines host communities, which have often led to vandalisation of pipelines and other oil installations (Essiens, 2004).

There are a number of regulations and laws that control oil pipeline operation in Nigeria. Some of these laws have direct bearing on oil pipeline construction. An example is the Oil Pipeline Act of 1956, amended by the Oil Pipeline Act of 1965 drafted into CAP 338 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN). It governs the grant of licences for the establishment and maintenance of pipelines (Rivers State of Nigeria, 2005).

In addition (Nnah and Owei, 2005) observe that the Department of Petroleum Resources specifies under part VIII Section A 1.4.3 of its guidelines that an Environmental Impact Assessment Report is mandatory for some activities including drilling operations, construction of crude oil production facilities, tank farms and terminal facilities, oil and gas pipelines (in excess of 50km), hydrocarbon processing facilities and product process. The Co-authors note the environmental impact assessment process covers three areas of impact – the bio-physical, the socio-economic and the health impacts. While admitting that Urban and Regional Planners have participated effectively in the socio-economic impact, they argue there is an increased role for physical planners in oil and gas pipeline operation. They further opined that apart from public consultations in which planners should participate in articulating the interests of the communities, in social and economic impact assessment, the entire engineering process in determining the pipeline routes constitutes development in the context of Nigerian planning law, which defines development as “the physical development activities of government or its agencies”.

It is the view of (John, 2007) that Urban and Regional Planning is a profession that puts the welfare of people on the top of the environmental and sustainable agenda. According to him, it takes a holistic and comprehensive view of the environment and has robust methods, techniques and tools for environmental management, which should be applied to the exploration industry in order to achieve sustainable exploration.

It is the hope of this research to highlight the specific context for physical planning input and the necessity for this in pipeline route planning and monitoring of impact. The research will have the competence to suggest areas that may need review in existing statutes. It might be important to suggest that one of the key objectives of planning whether in the area of development control, plan preparation or programme implementation is the management of land for the benefit of all. In pipeline activities, this objective ought to be brought to the fore since land is a major subject of most of the conflicts and litigations between oil companies and host communities. Therefore, policy makers, communities and oil and gas companies need be aware of the potential input of land use planners to the activities of oil companies especially in pipeline route planning, impact assessment and monitoring. Thus, this research is geared to identify the impact planners are making into the oil and gas companies activities at the moment and consider what other impact they ought to make.

3.0 Potential Impacts of Pipelines on the Environment

  1. Destruction of seabed by dredging for pipeline installation

  2. Sedimentation along pipeline routes

  3. Water pollution from leaking pipes

  4. Explosion of pipes resulting from vandalization/sabotage

  5. Destruction of environmentally sensitive estuaries wet lands

  6. Sometimes causes erosion and flooding

  7. All of the above have serious effect on human and animal health

4.0 ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE – A case study of Erovie and Shell oil pipeline explosion in the Niger Delta Region.

200 villagers died in this nigerian pipeline explosion a year ago.

Disasters in Nigeria's oil operations are common. 200 villagers died in this pipeline explosion 2001

NIGER DELTA -- Erovie, a community in the Niger Delta. The tragedy that befell the citizens of Erovie, who were poisoned by toxic waste from Shell Oil's operations, is a graphic example of what the Durban Conference's NGO Forum refers to as environmental racism: the disproportionate impacts of pollution borne by communities of color around the world.

At the Durban Conference fifty Nigerian non-governmental organizations worked with others from around the world to underscore the drastic consequences of these practices and to demand environmental justice. Unlike many other critical issues being addressed at the Conference, they are not only looking to governments to make change, they are also demanding that corporations be held accountable for their abuses. Some even insist that corporations-including the many foreign oil companies operating in the Niger Delta-- pay restitution to communities that have been devastated by their actions. The World Conference Against Racism marks an important opportunity for dozens of groups to inject an environmental justice and corporate accountability perspective into the mix, according to participants in the NGO Forum.

"We want to highlight the need for the multinational oil companies to stop the devastation of the Niger Delta and for the Nigerian government to enact laws that will compel them to respect the people and their environment," explains Annie Davies of the Nigeria based NGO DevNet.

Erovie and Shell

Local residents began to experience health problems soon after Shell Oil company injected a million litres of a waste into an abandoned oil well in Erovie two years ago. Many who consumed crops or drank water from swamps in the area complained of vomiting, dizziness, stomach ache and cough. Within two months 93 people had died from this mysterious illness. Independent tests by two Nigerian universities and three other laboratories, conducted in the year after the health problems emerged, indicate that the substance was toxic. All the tests confirmed poisonous concentrations of lead, zinc and mercury in the dumped substance.

"The presence of heavy metals at above acceptable limits and the unusually high concentration of ions make the substance toxic. Therefore, if these substances were to infiltrate the underground water or aquifer, it would have serious environmental and health implications," says one of the reports.

In the year and a half since the reports were released, many residents have fled the community to avoid illness from the waste contamination. But Shell has refused to respond to the community's appeal to clean up the toxic mess. Rather, the oil company and the Nigerian government claim the substance is harmless. The Nigerian government even ran a newspaper ad saying its own test showed that "the substance had no obvious significant harmful impact on human and the immediate environment." In an attempt to foreclose the controversy, the government described the advertisement as the "full and final report" on the waste's toxicity.

But for the community, the controversy has just begun. Community members have gone to court seeking an order to compel the Nigerian government to conduct a fresh independent scientific inquiry on the nature of the waste. The community is also seeking a court order to compel Shell to immediately remove the hazardous waste and undertake a comprehensive clean up.

"Our land should not be turned into a waste dump for Shell, our ancestors forbid it, they are angry," says Odhegolor Abikelegba a community leader.

Shell, which is responsible for half of Nigeria's production of two million barrels of crude oil a day, denies the charges of human rights and environmental abuses. "Shell has always conducted its business as a responsible corporate member of society which observes the laws of Nigeria and respect the fundamental human rights in line with the United Nations declaration of human rights," asserted Ebert Imomoh, the company's Deputy Managing Director in Nigeria, when he recently appeared before a government panel investigating human rights abuses.

Shell Not the Only Corporate Villain

Reports of environmental and human rights abuses by multinational oil companies operating in the Delta are common. And Shell is not the only corporation under fire. In one instance, six youths engaged to clear an oil spill from a pipeline belonging to the Italian Oil company Agip, were burnt to death while eleven others sustained seriously burns. "We were bailing the crude oil with buckets and our bodies were soaked with oil when suddenly there was fire," says Reuben Eteyan who survived the incident.

In another case, documented by foreign journalists in 1998, Chevron flew in troops by helicopter during a peaceful protest on one of their oil platforms in the remote Ilaje community. Those troops shot dead two youths and wounded several others.

Terisa Turner, coordinator of the non-governmental International Oil Working Group, described multinational oil companies’ conduct in the Niger Delta over decades as an expression of environmental racism. "These practices are not, and could not, be pursued in Western Europe or North America, nor should they be practised anywhere," she says.

Turner says Northern countries benefit from the abuses taking place in the Niger Delta because the bulk of the oil extracted there is used in the North. The profit, she said, also accrues to shareholders in the North.

She observes that environmental racism in the Niger Delta persists due to propaganda "devised by corporate public relations conmen, blinding oil consumers in the west from knowing or caring about the blood that is mixed with the oil they consume."

By contrast, residents of the Niger Delta sleep in mud houses, drink dirty water from ponds and rivers and live far below subsistence level. The oil wealth accruing from their land is shared between the Nigerian government and the oil companies with very little or nothing getting to the communities. The government's share of the money often ends up in the private bank accounts of government officials. This perhaps explains why the Nigerian government is quick to side with foreign oil companies in conflicts with the communities.

Reparations is a crucial issue in the struggle for environmental justice in Nigeria. Many of the ethnic groups in the Niger Delta have drawn up various demands. A key document is the Ogoni Bill of Rights which seeks reparations from Shell for environmental pollution, devastation and ecological degradation of the Ogoni area. Shell's abuses in Ogoniland were made infamous by the late playwright and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed by the Nigerian government.

The issue of reparations for colonialism and slavery are also a hot button issue at the World Conference Against Racism. Northern governments are loathe to accept responsibility for 18th and 19th Century slave trade. But the pillaging of Southern countries continues-oil extraction in the Niger Delta is just one example. The challenge for activists trying to inject an environmental justice perspective into the debate, will be to raise the issue of reparations from corporate violators, like Shell, Agip and Chevron, not just from governments.

Table 1. Yearly Distribution of Oil Spills from oil pipes (1970 – 1983)

















































Various Sources

Table 2. Average Annual Spills



1976 to 1980


1989 to 1999




Source: SPDC (Shell Petroleum Development Corporation) Highlights 2000

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Figure 1. Map of Nigeria showing the Niger Delta Region in red.

Figure 2. OPEC production, quotas and capacity, in millions of barrels per day.


Contrary to popular beliefs, this paper argues there are enough safeguards pertinent for abatement of environmental problems arising from mineral resources exploitation activities in Nigeria. Sada and Odemerho (1998) broadly classified these as follows:

  1. Statutory provisions for prohibiting and controlling pollution of the environment

  2. The National policy on the environment

  3. The oil spill monitoring programmes

5.1 Statutory Provisions for prohibiting and controlling the pollution of the environment

There are a number of statutory provisions for control of pollution and restoration of mined areas in Nigeria. These include:

  1. Mineral Act of 1946 which vested all mineral oils in Nigeria with the government. It prohibits pollution of the environment through exploration activities and made provision for restoration of the extraction areas;

  2. Mineral Oils (safety) Regulations of 1963, which requires oil company operators to meet specified minimum standards of safety;

  3. Oil in Navigable Waters Regulation, 1967, which controls oil operations in Nigerian Waters;

  4. Oil in Navigable Water Act No,34 of 1968, which implements Nigeria’s adherence to convention for the prevention of sea pollution;

  5. Petroleum Regulations, 1967, which prohibits discharge of petroleum into waters;

  6. Petroleum Decree, 1969, which formalises the regulations dealing with oil operations;

  7. Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulations 1969, which deals with prevention of oil pollution, well abandonment procedure and conduct of operations;

  8. Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Amendment Regulation, 1973, which amended the 1969 Regulations; and

  9. Petroleum Refining Regulations to be observed within the refining industry.

6.0 An Assessment of Environmental Protection Strategies in Nigeria.

a) Weak and conflicting enforcement mechanism

b) Inadequate Laws and Rules Standards and Practices

c) Lack of Standing to Sue for Environmental Wrongs

d) A judiciary Sympathetic to Oil Companies and Government

e) A Biased Government

f) A Controversial Right to the Environment.
7.0 The Way Forward

  1. EIA must be submitted for all project

  2. There should be public participation

  3. Strict environmental standards to be adopted by relevant agencies

  4. Re-appraisal of militating legislations

  5. The operation of the oil companies must be brought to internationally acceptable standards and should be held responsible for environmental degradation – “transfrontier responsibilities” and “polluter pay principle”.

8.0 Conclusion
Given the strategic importance of the Niger Delta Area in the socio-economic development of Nigeria, environmental sustainability in this area need be viewed with urgency it deserves. Adequate efforts should be made to attend to her environmental problems. Comprehensive environmental plans that will ensure sustainability of development efforts should be put in place. More importantly, effective implementation of these plans must be practiced. However, good governance in the interest of the served public is a precursor to meeting the demand of environmental justice even though reparations may remain a crucial issue.

Agbaeze, K.N. (2002) Petroleum Pipeline Leakages in PPMC Report for Chief Officers Mandatory Course 026, Lagos

Essiens, A.O. (2004) " Land Acquisition and Payment of Compensation by the NNPC", Report of the Officers Management Development Programme, Course 038, Asaba.

Handasah, D. (2003) Bonny Master Plan: Final Draft Existing Report. Portharcourt: NITP.

Joab, P. S. (2004) "Transnational Oil Corporations and the Niger Delta Sustainable Development Question". Awka: NIPR.

John, Y.D. (2007) Post Mining Operation and the Environment, Paper presented at the annual conference of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, 31st October to 4th November, 2007, Asaba

Niger Delta Development Commission (2001) "Sustainable Livelihoods and Job Creation", Technical Committee on international conference on development of the Niger Delta, Portharcopurt, Nigeria, December, 2001.

Nnah, W.W. and Owei, O.B. (2005) "Land Use Management Imperative for Oil and Gas Pipeline Nework in Nigeria". Abuja.

Nwachukwu, M.U. (2005) "Petroleum Pipeline: Efficiency of its Utilization and Relationship to Fuel Scarcity" Journal of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners.

Odel, P. R. (2002) Oil and Gas: Crises and Controversies 1961-2000. Brentwood: Multi-Science Publishing Co. Ltd.

Olokesusi, F. (2005) Environmental Impact Analysis and the Challenge of Sustainable development in the Oil Producing Communities. Abuja: NITP.

Pinch, S. (1985) Cities and Services: The Geography of Collective Consumption. London: Routledge.

Rivers State of Nigeria (2005) Rivers State Physical Planning and Development Law, Number 6, December, 2005.

Sada, P.O. and Odemerho, F.O. (1998) Environmental Issues and Management, Proceedings of the National Seminar on Environmental Issues and Management in Nigerian Development, Ibadan: Evans Press, pp.224 - 229.

Internet Resource

African Development Bank, Advisory and Services Project, Finance Models, IFRS: “Infrastructure Development Tops AfDB Projects in Africa”, http://… (Accessed Date: 27 October, 2008).

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