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This project set out to examine the compensation of oil spill victims in the Nigerian oil industry. The compensation of these victims has become clumsy and dark in the wake of oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism, sabotage since in the past, oil spills were a result of the activities of the oil companies or operators. The object is to discuss who is responsible for payments of compensation to oil spill victims who are entangled in a political system that lacks legislative and administrative guidelines and framework that will effectively deal with the issue of petroleum compensations arising from sabotage, bunkering and even activities of multinational oil companies. Nigeria has become one of the most petroleum-polluted environments in the world. The impact of the oil spill includes habitat degradation, pollution from gas flaring and these are cumulative and have acted synergistically with other environmental stresses to impair ecosystems and severely compromise human livelihoods and health. These unfortunate incidents make the victims' individuals and host community, landowners, pond owners and other property owners demand compensation. It is hereby recommended that the Nigerian government should set up oil pollution compensation funds that will make provision for compensation for oil pollution damage resulting from activities of not only multi-national oil companies but that of oil thieves, saboteurs and pipeline vandals. More so, legislations that will protect the environment of host communities and ensure timely adequate and fair compensation to them are to be urgently enacted.



Recently, it was announced amidst cheers and jeers that the Nigerian economy has surpassed that of South Africa after the most populous nation in Africa overhauled its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data for the first time in two decades. On paper, the size of the economy expanded by more than three-quarters to an estimated 80 trillion Naira (8488 billion) for 2013. Yemi Kale[1] also confirms that the revised figures make Nigeria the 26th biggest Economy in the world. According to the new data, Nigeria’s economy grew by 12.7 per cent between 2012 and 2013.

Much of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is driven by oil production, which accounts for 40 per cent of its GDP; since oil was discovered in 1956 till the present time it has dominated the Economy. Shell B.P and other developers in the pursuit of commercially available petroleum found oil in Nigeria in 1956.

Prior to the discovery of oil, Nigeria like many other African countries strongly relied on agricultural exports to other countries to supply their Economy.

Many Nigerians thought the developers were looking for palm oil[2] but after nearly 50 years of searching for oil in the country, shell B.P discovered the oil at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta. Wishing to utilize the newfound oil opportunity, the first oil field began production in 1958[3] after that, the Economy of Nigeria would have seemingly experienced a strong increase and truthfully it has, but not without leaving behind some adverse environmental problem.

For nearly a century, petroleum production and consumption have probably brought out both the best and worst of Modern Civilization.

The industry has contributed enormously to the world Economy growth and higher standard of living in our time[4] the mythos of oil and oil wealth has been central to the history of

Modern Industrial Capitalism and annual oil revenue of over N50 Billion has ushered in a miserable, undisciplined, decrepit and corrupt form of petro-capitalism[5] after over a half-century of oil production from which over 400 Billion Dollars in oil revenue have flowed directly into the Federal exchequer, paradoxically oil-producing states in the Federation, the Niger-Delta have benefitted the least from the oil-wealth having been devastated by the Ecological cost of oil spillage and the highest Gas Flaring rates in the world.

Oil spills in Nigeria are a common occurrence, it has been estimated that between nine million to 13 million barrels have spilt since oil drilling started in 1958[6]. The Government estimates that about 7, 000 spills occurred between 1970 and 20047. Spills take outcrops and aquaculture through

contamination of the groundwater and soil. Drinking water is also frequently contaminated, and the sheen of oil is visible in many localized bodies of water. If the drinking water is contaminated, even if no immediate health effects are apparent, the numerous hydrocarbons and chemicals present in oil represent a carcinogenic risk. While offshore spills which is usually much greater in scale, contaminate the coastal Environment and cause a decline in local Fishing Production.

The people of the Niger Delta live in extreme poverty even in the face of great material wealth found in the waters by their homes. According to Amnesty international 70% of the six million people in the Niger-River Delta live off of less than 3 USD per day[7] for many people this means finding work in the labour market, which is in many instances hostile to them.

The people of Niger Delta have been greatly affected by oil spills but worthy of note is the fact that it is not only in the NigerDelta region that oil spillage occurs. Oil spillage occurs from oil tankers across the states in Nigeria, due to the breakdown of operations of refineries in the country, oil tankers transport petrol and kerosene from the Southern parts to the Northern parts of Nigeria.

Thousands of lives have been lost when oil tankers spill the product they carry and properties worth billions of Naira lost, oil-producing communities have continually lived in poverty and serious health hazard resulting from Environmental degradation caused by oil spillages.

Over the years, much civil society has called on the Federal Government to come to the aid of these communities and to curtail the excesses of oil-producing companies, to this moment little have been achieved by this call. The question then is asked, what are the liabilities of oil companies to producing communities who perpetually suffered from its activities? Who compensates them? It is an indisputable fact that Nigeria Legislations are weak and are rarely enforced thereby allowing oil companies in essence to self regulate and get away with all acts of environmental degradation as caused by their activities.

It is on this premise that this project is set out, to critically examine the activities of oil companies, to also examine various

Nigeria Environmental Laws, Judicial stand on compensation claims arising from spillage, the justifiability or otherwise of militancy and the campaigns of Environmental right activists.


Environmental degradation takes diverse forms, ranging from pollution and destruction of the Ecosystem to degraded freshwater supplies and arable land.

The constant Environmental damages as a direct result of the oil spills in Nigeria and the lack of reasonable measures of restoration to the victims is alarming. The international agenda often focuses on broad-based concerns of Environmental degradation such as desertification, climate change and Air Pollution. However, for the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized groups, issues of Environmental degradation tend to be more localized and immediate in their nature.

Environmental Degradation due to oil spillage being suffered across the country most especially in the Niger Delta usually resulted more often than not in decreased Production, for example, reduced Soil Fertility may produce lower yields and deteriorated water quality can impact Fishing. These problems are of great concern to the oil-producing local communities and have a direct impact on their livelihood, food security and health.

The cogent question to be asked at this juncture is who bears the responsibility of compensating the victims of the oil spills, would it be the oil company or the Government? So many Nigerians have lost their lives in the struggle to ensure adequate compensation to oil spill victims. How long would the local communities endure this untold hardship? Are the oil companies and the Government literarily drilling dry these local communities without giving anything in return? Thus, this project would discuss, analyze and critically examine the urgent need for a legal framework on the compensation of oil spill victims in Nigeria and by judicial review examine on whose the liabilities lie for compensation; the oil companies or the Government.


The main objective of this project is to examine problems associated with compensation of oil spill victims in Nigeria, to analyze and evaluate natural oil resources extraction, its impact on the Environment and its effect on Development in the NigerDelta communities; this would be reviewed in the context of world-system analysis and theories.


This thesis will be focused primarily on analyzing the devastating effect of oil spillage on the Environment and its effect in the oil-producing communities of the Niger-Delta region and Nigeria as a whole.

We shall also examine Nigeria legislation on oil spillage, the judicial view on compensation claims of victims of oil spillage.


This paper relies on both primary and secondary sources. The primary sources that will be relied upon are the various petroleum Laws/Act, Environmental Laws/Act and case Laws as it bothers on oil spillage and compensation claims.

This thesis also relies on secondary data that are sourced from textbooks, journals, articles, periodicals, magazines, news items and the internet.


There are quite a number of articles and journals that have been written on Environmental degradation caused by oil spillage, the suffering and neglect of the oil-producing communities but only a few make an exposition into the causes if oil spillage, Judicial attitude on compensation claims by the victims of oil spillage and the burden of proof before compensation is awarded.

LADAN M.T. in his book Biodiversity, Environment litigation, Human Rights and access to Environmental Justice[8] dwelt basically on Environmental rights, sustainable development in Nigeria and inaccessibility to Justice when it comes to Environmental matters. Adekunbi Imoseni and Nzeribe Abangwu in their article;

Compensation of Oil Spill Victims in Nigeria: The More The Oil, The More The Blood[9] focuses more on the factors militating against compensation of oil spill victims in the Nigeria oil industry, they wrote extensively on corruption in the oil industry, oil bunkering, militancy, pipeline vandalism and sabotage. Again they did not discuss the judicial standpoint on matters of oil spillage.

This study will therefore look at the adverse effect of oil spillage on producing communities, compensation claims of victims of oil spillage, who pay compensations to oil victims? the oil-producing companies or the Government? The various program of Environmental and Human rights activists, their successes or otherwise.


 The oil spill is the leakage or discharge of petroleum onto the surface of inland or coastal water. It assumes disastrous dimension when an uncontrollable well blows out or pipeline ruptures[10]

The magnitude of crude oil pollution and damages occasioned by multi-national oil companies operating in the NigerDelta region of Nigeria is incredible. The growing trend of oil discovery in many countries of Africa and news of the discovery of oil and gas deposits in the Anambra/Kogi basin is throwing attention once more in the potential of many more states within the Nigeria Federation to join the league of oil-producing states within the shortest possible time.

With this blessing comes with it an equal level of curse in the form of oil spillage, if and when oil is discovered in lake - Chad then the issue of oil spillage and Environmental degradation would yet again be a frontline discussion.

It has become paramount to look at his new development and to critically examine how the Niger-Delta communities had feared, what remedy is there for victims of oil spillage, how viable is the Nigeria legislation as it relates to environmental degradation occasioned by the oil spill and provision of compensation to oil spills victims.

This study after its conclusion will be of a great addition to literary work and be of immense assistance to Students, Lecturers, Legal Practitioners and Policymakers.

[1] Head Of The National Bureau Of Statistics, At A News Conference At The Headquarters Of NBS March 2014.

[2] http://news/bbc.co.uk/2/l/africa/784030 Retrieved 14th May 2014

[3] http//www.lubconinternational.com/history of the oil industry retrieved 14th May 2014.

[4] Adekunbi Imosemi Nzeribc Abangune, Compensation Of Oil Spill Victims In Nigeria; The More The Oil, The More The Blood Singaporean Journal Of Business Economics And Management Studies Vol: 2 No 3, 201 Pg. 30

[5] Ibid

[6] Bally J. dip shame in Africa 23, July 2010. 7 Ibid.

[7] Amnesty International (2006) Nigeria: oil, poverty and violence Retrieved May 14, 2014, from http://www.ringsto.bci-fi/saro.html

[8] LADAN M.T. Biodiversity, Environmental Litigation, Human Rights and Access to Environmental Justice Policy (2007) faith printers and Publishers.

[9] Adekunbi Imoseni, Nzeribe Abangwu: compensation of oil spill victims in Nigeria: the more the oil, the more the Blood Singaporean Journal of Business Economics, and management studies vol 2, No 3, 2013: the school of Law and securities studies, Babcock University, IIisan-Reno, Ogun state, Nigeria.

[10] Udoudoh. F.P. oil spillage aid management problems in the Nigeria Delta, Nigeria: Department of Estate Management, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom, Page 1-2011 cepa Journal

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