The Niger Delta in Southern Nigeria is home to the direst cases of environmental injustice in the world. It holds the world’s third largest mangrove forest and pockets of some of the most environmentally devastated regions and ecosystems. The reality of coastal communities of the Niger Delta surrounded by water bodies yet without access portable drinking water, testifies to Nigeria’s fledgling attempt at democracy.
Democracy in Nigeria has failed to serve its benefits to a mostly underdeveloped and impoverished Niger Delta due largely to political corruption. Political corruption thrives because political leaders increasingly play on fears that human rights are a Trojan horse. The central argument being that the patrimonial character of the Nigerian state enables a powerful leadership facilitate rights violations through corrupt practices as a means of self-preservation. The proceeds from the sale of Nigerian crude oil as an instance are shared between the three tiers of the Nigerian Government, with not much to show for in terms of development of the Delta region where oil is derived. Public funds end up in private pockets enabling conflict and agitation by the Niger Delta ethnic minorities against the Nigerian Government and Oil multinationals.
Conflict by way of militancy, criminal tampering of oil installations (oil spills and further damage to the environment) leading to general insecurity, loss of lives and properties have turned the Niger Delta to an epicenter of environmental injustice and human rights violations.
The current thinking that the Niger Delta will continue to be a hotbed of rights violations and by extension, a snag to the Nigerian body polity (given its history of conflict and agitation) is misplaced. The Nigerian Government is presently implementing anti-corruption laws. However, it must be a genuine attempt to punish offenders, and invest the proceeds of recovered loot in development projects that impact citizens like the ethnic minorities in the impoverished Delta region who suffer disproportionately from human rights violations.