Nigeria is an oil exporting nation. The economy of the nation is entirely dependable on the export of crude oil. In fact, ninety percent of the Nigeria’s foreign income is acquired through oil export. The financial benefits of Nigeria’s oil and gas exploitation and productions are undoubtable. However, the consequential impact the activities of the oil industry to the environment cannot be discountenanced.
In reality, the consequential impacts of oil and gas exploration and production to the environment are believed to be inevitable. In addition to environmental degradation, generation of waste, exploitation and exploration of activities of oil and gas production in Nigeria, the oil bearing rich regions have been permanently alienated. For instance, almost the whole land and fertile offshore of the Niger delta in Nigeria are covered by oil and gas exploration and production industries. Moreover, the atmospheric, marine and terrestrial environmental pollution associated with oil and gas extraction industrial activities result to the worst health hazards forms.
Despite the health hazards resulting from oil and gas exploration and production industries in Nigeria, until recent past, there was no satisfactory institutional framework and law through which the environmental pollution and degradation problems could be solved. The continuous problem of gas flaring, pollution of the environment, oil spillage and the consequent ecosystem destruction were not given any legal attention by the Nigerian government.
Over the last few decades, the Nigerian government has enacted some latent laws to combat the problem of environmental pollution as well as other related issues. One of these legal enactment is the 1969 Petroleum Act. Among other things, the Act gives power to the commissioner in control of Petroleum to generate regulations to prevent the pollution of atmosphere, marine and terrestrial environments. The Act as well requires oil and gas exploration and production companies to carry out all practical measure to ensure no oil escapes into marine or terrestrial environment and also no gas flaring into atmosphere.
Another environmental law enacted in Nigeria is the Associated Gas Re-injection Act Cap 26 of the laws of the federation of 1980. The Act requires gas and oil exploration and production industries to submit gas reinjection preliminary program.
Unfortunately, these environmental laws have neither been active in controlling consequential impacts of gas flaring and oil spillage nor have they been capable of preventing exploitation of the environment. The laws tend to under value the strategic consequential impacts of the environmental exploitation. Certainly, these laws emphasis on control of environmental pollution whilst pay no attention consequential impacts of pollution.