The history of the oil industry may be lost in antiquity. It is however believed to have started in 1859 when Edwin Drake successfully dried an oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania in the United states of America. Drake a retired railroad conductor, using an old steam engine, drilled a well 22 meters deep to the first crude oil.
In Nigeria, oil was discovered in 1956 at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta after half a century of exploration. The discovery was made by Shell BP, at the time the sole concessionaire. Nigeria joined the ranks of oil producers in 1958 when its first oil field came to stream producing 5,100 bpd. After 1960, exploration rights in onshore and offshore areas adjoining the Niger Delta were extended to other foreign companies.
Since the discovery of oil in Nigeria, oil pollution has since become a recurring issue to the oil producing areas in Nigeria. According to shall petroleum Development company of Nigeria (SPDC) Handbook of 1993
The number of registered oil spillage is increasing… Depending on the area, oil pollution could cause adverse impact on people (water quality), vegetable smothering mangrove trees, crops, shore Vegetable and fauna (fish, shellfish, soil fauna). This is demonstrated in several post impact on the recent or old pills sites. The 25 year mystery spill of the trunkline in the Ejama-Ebubu caused during the civil war is a well-known but not sufficiently studied yet-example.”
This quote by shell petrolum development company of Nigeria (SPDC) highlights to some extent, the degree of development and frustrations that oil production had and is still causing the people of oil and gas-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The assertion also highlights the extent of corporate negligence being perpetrated by the oil and gas based multinational corporations who delight in neglecting their primary social and corporate responsibilities towards the host communities. After several ages since the Ebubu-Ejama (located at Ekele in the Ogoni speaking area of River state, Nigeria) oil spill incident, the spill site still remains at a very bad condition and incredibly unclean.
Available records indicated that, the Niger Delta region of Nigeria experiences on the average 273 oil spills resulting to about 113, barrels of crude oil worth of US$5.64 million spilled annually to oil pollution than anywhere else in the world. These spills and other environmental threats have a tremendously impact on the fundamental rights to existence of the local communities. This is, especially, so when we consider the fact that their normal sources of sustainable livelihoods are continually being disrupted by these structures couple with the lack of the relevant legislative backings required to protect them from these man-made environmental destructions and degradations with their associated social exclusion.
Every individual needs to have definite knowledge of his environment. Adequate laws should be made also to protect the environment. The event of June 1988 when the country was literally thrown into a state of pandemonium and environmental emergency. Nigerians were woken up by the news of a dump of toxic and radioactive waste at the small port town of Koko in the Niger Delta. This “consignment of death” was freighted to Nigeria from Pisa in Italy. The fallowt of the toxic waste dump attracted a scurry of activities in the area by local and foreign journalists. This exposed Nigeria’s vulnerability to waste dump and left a question mark on the activities of Nigeria environmental authorities.
Oil spills are a common event in Nigeria. Half of all spills occur due to pipeline and tanker accidents (50%), other causes include sabotage (28%) and oil production operations (21%), with 1% of the spills being accounted for by inadequate or non-functional production equipment. Corrosion of pipelines and tankers is the rupturing or leaking of old production infrastructures that often do not receive inspection and maintenance.
Generally, oil pollution may be caused by blowouts, see pages from submarine, oil wells and efficient discharges at the refinery base. Pollution from these sources are known to have contaminated drinking water, destroyed fish and other marine life and damages agricultural lands and more visibly coastal amenities such as transportation.
Pollution of the environment occurs in every stage of the oil exploration. For example, there can be gas pollution from machine used in the exploration stage. The exploration stage involves geographical investigation, geological survey and drilling. Some of the effects recorded in this stage includes destruction of vegetation and farmlands. Noise pollution and vibration from seismic operation, oil pollution of the sea, beaches or land, destruction of breeding grounds for marine fishes, alteration of the taste of the fishes and pollution of the underground water.
Oil pollution in the Niger Delta area has caused series of damages to the local communities. The people of the Niger Delta who are mostly farmers and fishermen most often are left in a state of confusion as oil spillage pollute the rivers thereby killing aquatic animals. The people have been clamoring for adequate compensation and for the federal government to provide adequate and functional social amenities. Presently there are the issue of the Niger Delta avengers who have further contributed in polluting the area through its consistent blowing of oil pipelines. The area is vulnerable to different kinds of diseases caused by this oil pollution and therefore needs adequate and urgent attention.
Also, the damages done to the oil producing areas have subjected the indigenes of these areas to untold hardship, poverty and squalor. Little or nothing to show for their sacrifice to keep the nation afloat economically. As the geese that lay the golden egg, these communities deserve to be adequately compensated by both the government and the oil companies. Moreover, though the government has not been resting in its bid to protect the environment of the oil producing communities from total degradation, lots still need to be done by the government and the oil companies to make the environment safe and free from the hazards of oil pollution.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
As I have earlier noted in the background of this research work that the number of oil spillage is increasing depending on the area. The blowing of oil pipe by the Niger Delta Avengers in the Niger Delta Region since the emergence of president Muhammadu Buhari on 29th May 2015. Oil pollution could cause adverse impact on the (water quality), vegetable, smothering mangrove trees, crop, etc.
There are cases of sabotage by the oil communities although it is true that oil pipeline sometimes spill but there are also cases of external action which causes oil pollution. The inability of the oil companies to evolve operational method that will place emphasis on good relationship with their host communities.
The principle that the cost of pollution should be borne by the person responsible for causing the pollution  should be strictly be followed to mitigate some of the problems of oil pollution. This allocates economic obligations in relation to environmentally damaging activities to liability and the use of economic instruments and the application of the rules relating to compensation and subsidy.
From the legal perspective, the burden of proof in pollution or oil related cases is another problem. If it can be possible, the onus of proof should be shifted to polluter/defendant company and the Latin maxim “res Ipsa loquitor” should be applied in all cases of pollution in order to save the victims/applicant from losing his case on mere technicalities.
All these point to the fact that there is need to further review the laws and regulations on sustainable environment in order to make the environment pollution free. For instance the NESREA ACT that makes provision for the preservation and protection of the environment did not provide for punishment when an oil company is involved. The activities of the oil companies should also be checkmated by government policies to ensure a healthy environment. In fact the inadequate of compensation given to the oil pollution victims is not adequate enough to ameliorate the hardship occasioned by oil spills.
Finally, the problem of non justiciability of chapter two of the 1999 constitution federal Republic of Nigeria should be looked into. Section 20 provides that “The state shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wild life of Nigeria.” To solve this problem the researcher suggest that the said section should be removed from chapter two and imbedded in chapter four of the constitution which deals on fundamental human right as a breach of section 20 of the constitution can cause serious harm to human health and even death.
1.3 Research Question
The following questions are what this study aims to answer:
- What are the causes of oil pollution in Nigeria?
- What are the impact of oil pollution in Nigeria?
- What are the effort of oil companies and government polices to ensure pollution-free environment in Nigeria?
- What are the legal framework for oil pollution in Nigeria?
- What is the way forward in checkmating the numerous activities of the oil companies that bring about oil pollution?
1.4 Objective of the Study
The objective of this study is generally to ascertain the impacts of pollution vis a vis oil pollution in Nigeria and specifically to do the following:
- To determine what are the causes of oil pollution in Nigeria.
- To determine the impacts of oil pollution in Nigeria
- To highlight the efforts made by oil companies and the government to ensure pollution free environment in Nigeria.
- To appraise the legal framework of oil pollution in Nigeria.
- To make recommendations on pollution-free environment.
1.5 The Significance of the Study
The relevance of this study can be seen on the current blowing of oil pipelines and its adverse effect on the oil producing area. Therefore the significance speaks for itself. There is no doubt that the impact of pollution generally and oil pollution in specific have affected many communities in Nigeria especially the Niger Delta Region. The approach adopted in this research will help the government to new area of solutions to help checkmate oil pollution in Nigeria but also the oil companies in their activities. This study will be useful to the following persons and institution;
The government: Both the federal and state government will find this study handy as a guide to policy formulation especially in the control of oil pollution. The work will also be of immense benefits to the multinational oil companies.
Legislature and Judiciary: The impacts of oil pollution in Nigeria need to be checkmated and to do that effective methods must be put in place by the legislative arm and this work will be of immense help in doing that. It will also help the judiciary in assessing the level of compensation to the victims of oil pollution.
Students/Researchers: This work will be of tremendous help to students and researchers in this area of law. For students it will serve as a guide whenever they are faced with any problems in this area of law.
As a follow-up, law teachers will equally find this study as a useful material in preparing their lecture note in this area of law, this study has been designed in a way that it covers much on this area and this is aimed at contributing to scholarship and expansion of knowledge.
1.6 The Scope of the Study
The issue of impacts of oil pollution is a global issue especially in the oil producing countries. However, in order to appreciate the result and objective of this study, I will restrict this work on the impacts of oil pollution in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
The study on the impacts of oil pollution in Nigeria like every other discourse in law has some inherent limitations. Some of these limitations arise from the fact that this areas has not received much attention of Nigerian legal writers. Again the government and the oil companies have not been helping matter.
Time was the major constraint while carrying out this research. As the Class Representative (Course Rep) of the final year class there was no much time for me as I was always busy with other general class activities.
Again from time constraint which affects this research, finance was another limitation as I needed to get laptop and other project materials.
Furthermore, there is time table for this project and I have to combine this work with my normal academic activities, this greatly affected the fastness of this study.
The foregoing notwithstanding, I made use f the best resources within my disposal to carry out this research, so that the outcome will be satisfactory and equally add to scholarship.
1.8 Research Methodology
The issue of sustainable and pollution free environment is majorly related by laws and Acts of the National Assembly in Nigeria. Hence in this research work, much reliance was placed on the primary sources of data such as statutes and other Acts of the National Assembly including decided cases or judicial authorities.
Secondary source of data such as books, journals and online sources was helpful in clarifying some issues. Again, in this age of information technology, one cannot but exploit the numerous opportunities provided by internet order to know the current view of writers and commentators in this area of law and as well acquaint ourselves with the brand of other jurisdictions with regards to the topic.
 Awake, November 8, 2003, at p.4.
 A Report by Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria (Handbook) 1993.
 Odu C.T.I. Effective Environmental Practices in a developing Economy (N.E.S. Lagos 1986) page 4.
 Omaka L.A. Municipal and International Environmental Law Lions Unique Concepts, Lagos Nigeria (2012) p. 54.
 Baird J. (July 26, 2010). “Oil’s Shame in Africa” Newsweek 27.
 Dr. P.C. Nwilo & o. t. Badejo: Impacts of Oil Spills along the Nigerian Coast; The Association for Environmental Health and Science 2001.
 Abecasis D.W. Marine Oil Pollution University of Cambridge (1976) p. 2.
 Proof. Philippe Sands. Principle of International Environment Law. p. 279.
 1992 R10 Conference Principle 7.
 National Assembly Act No. 92, 2007.
 Constitution Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).