Crude oil has had profound impact on the world civilization than any single natural resource in recorded history. Oil has become a very decisive element in defining the politics, rhetoric and diplomacy of states. This fact is adumbrated in a public lecture entitled “Oil in World Politics” delivered by a former secretary of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the late Chief M.O.Feyide, when he asserted that “All over the world, the lives of people are affected and the destiny of nations are determined by the result of oil explorations.
Oil keeps the factors of the industrialized countries working and provides the revenues, which enable oil exporters to execute ambitious national and economic development plans. The march of progress would be retarded and life itself would be unbearable if the world is deprived of oil. That is why oil has become the concern of governments, a vital ingredient of their politics and a crucial factor in the political and diplomatic strategies”i Yet behind this deification of oil, nothing is said about its impact on the environment.
Nigeria joined the league of oil producing nations on August 3rd, 1956 when oil was discovered in commercial quantities and today ranks as the leading oil and gas producer in Africa and the 6th largest oil exporter in the world. Nigeria is also Africa’s most populous nation with 140 million peoples as announced for the recently conducted National Census in 2006.
As oil was struck in commercial quantities in Nigeria, it also signaled the beginning of a profound transformation of Nigeria’s political and economic landscape. Since the 1970s, oil has accounted for 80% of the Nigerian government’s revenue and 95% of the country’s export earnings. Interestingly, all of Nigeria’s oil and gas resources come from its Niger delta region occupied by a mosaic of indigenous nationalities. The Niger delta sustains the largest wetland in Africa and one of the largest wetlands in the world The Niger delta consists of a total landmass of approximately 70,000 square kilometers with the third largest mangrove forest in the world, a most extensive fresh water swamp, coastal ridges, fertile dry land forest and tropical rainforest characterized by great biological diversity. Seasonal flooding and sediment deposits over thousands of years have made the land fertile. The immeasurable creeks and streams have in the past, provided habitat for an abundance of fish and marine wildlife. Today the Niger delta is home to approximately 20 million people grouped into several distinct nations and ethnic groups, amongst which is the Ogoni.