Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Char Miller

Reader 2

John Jurewitz

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Rights Information

© 2012 Julia Pitkin


Oil extraction in Nigeria has caused extensive environmental degradation and health problems in many Nigerian communities, particularly in the ecologically sensitive Niger Delta where nearly all of the oil extraction takes place. The reasons for this are complex and have roots in Nigeria’s colonial past. The Nigerian economy is largely reliant on its petroleum resources which, in conjunction with governmental corruption and high international demand for Nigerian oil, has created a system where environmental externalities are largely ignored. Multinational oil companies with little stake in the development and environment of Nigeria are responsible for most of the extraction projects and subsequent environmental damage. However, the Nigerian federal government has failed to effectively regulate these projects. Communities in the Niger Delta bear nearly all of the environmental burden of oil extraction, but see very little of the economic benefits.

The main environmental impacts of oil extraction are oil spills, land use change, and gas flaring. Oil spills are very common in the Niger Delta. Cleanup efforts are often inadequate, resulting in loss of delicate ecosystems as well as fisheries and farmland. Large tracts of rainforest and mangrove ecosystems have been cleared or degraded by the oil extraction process. Nigeria flares more gas per barrel of oil extracted than any other country in the world, contributing to global warming and creating serious health hazards for communities located near gas flares.

Diversification of the Nigerian economy would help to alleviate many of the factors that lead to environmental degradation, including the dependence of the government on oil revenues, high unemployment, and rampant oil theft. Curbing government corruption is also vital to effective regulation of oil extraction. International consumers can help Nigeria head towards a less petroleum-driven future through an increased awareness of the origins of their oil and pressure on the Nigerian federal government and the multinational oil companies to extract oil more conscientiously or even to discontinue oil extraction. But most importantly, the solution to Nigeria’s economic concerns must ultimately come from Nigerians as international influence has been a major contributor to the environmental degradation in the first place.