Exploitation of natural resources and mining processes have caused environmental damages, which include the destruction of natural flora and fauna, ecological disturbances, pollution of air, instability of soil, rock masses, land, and water, landscape damage, desertification, and global warming. The environmental degradation has in turn caused wastage of fertile land and damage to trees and agricultural crops. Since much of the damage is unavoidable if the natural resources have to be developed, both the natural resource industry and the Nigerian government must implement precautionary measures, which can reduce the negative impacts of natural resources exploitation. The focus must shift from the disposal of waste to its minimization through recycling, sorting, forestation, sewage treatment, bioremediation, and pollution control. Therefore, the Nigerian government should implement appropriate legislation with the necessary sanctions and continue with the projects it has already started to implement. The enforcement of policy laws is of paramount importance. The gas and oil industries, mining sector, and other natural resources exploitation companies must focus on mandatory precautions, compensation, and remedies for damage done.
Keywords: exploration, extraction, exploitation, natural resources, oil and gas, degradation, deforestation, legislation, policy, pollution, mining.
Analysis and Impacts of Natural Resources Extraction in Nigeria
Extraction of natural resources is necessary for the existence of humanity. The history of mankind’s development shows that humans have exploited natural resources to produce th goods they required to satisfy the growing needs of human populations. This system refers primarily to the economic development and food production, though many other raw materials from the environment have been exploited. Natural resources are essential materials for social development and a stable natural economy. Urbanization and industrialization have created a huge demand for natural resources, and their consumption and exploitation at a large scale have resulted in deterioration, exhaustion, and weakening of these resources. Nigeria with its poor economic foundation and large population is moving towards increased urbanization. The current inefficient economy, low rate of economic development, and a high level of resource consumption continue to threaten the lasting utilization of mineral and natural resources.
The current paper examines the impact of oil, mineral, and natural resources exploitation on the Nigerian economy and assesses the damage done to its environment and geological supplies. The paper also highlights to what extent the Nigerian governmental policies have been effective in controlling, protecting, and maintaining the ecological balance while pursuing economic objectives and societal needs of its population.
Impact of Deforestation
In the 1990s, the total forest area in Nigeria occupied one-third of the country’s land area or nearly 360,000 square kilometers (Ismawi, Gandaseca, & Ahmed, 2012) . Statistical data collected by Ismawi, Gandaseca, and Ahmed (2012) showed that annual yield of sawn timber from high forest area was nearly 1.8 million cubic meters, which require a minimum of 30 - 35 years to denude the forest to obtain matured timber. Urbanization and population growth have led to an increasing demand for domestic timber for building and construction purposes. It will take nearly fifteen years to extract the forest of timber resources (Ismawi, Gandaseca, & Ahmed, 2012).
Deforestation is a process whereby trees are cut down for varied purposes, but without any simultaneous replanting for social and economic reasons. It can lead to negative effects on the environment, causes soil erosion, loss of wildlife and biodiversity ecosystems, and converts habitable land into desert, among many other factors. Deforestation also impacts the social aspects of Nigeria, especially agriculture, crops, economic issues and, most significantly, quality of life. The destruction of forests for the use timber in furniture making and as a source of energy has raised concerns among environmentalists, because deforestation greatly reduces soil PH, water, and major macro-nutrients (Ismawi, Gandaseca, & Ahmed, 2012).
Deforestation poses a serious problem in Nigeria with massive loss of forests occurring at a rate of 3.5 percent per year (Ismawi, Gandaseca, & Ahmed, 2012). Since 1995, the government has reported a loss of over 36 percent of its forest area. The biodiversity ecosystem and the tropical forests have disappeared at a faster rate between 1995 and 2015; 89 percent of large forests were lost since 2000. The nation continues to lose an average of 14 percent of its forest cover each year, while the current year does not show improvements to prevent deforestation either (Ashraf et al., 2015).
Impact of Mining on the Nigerian Environment
Although mining offers large socio-economic advantages, its environmental costs, if not dealt with carefully, can be huge in terms of land degradation and conversion, habitat alteration, as well as air and water pollution. In Nigeria, the mining sector is viewed as the primary source of pollution after agriculture, because this sector is resource intensive and produces high concentrations of effluents and waste. Mining exploration has a serious impact on the environment. This impact happens through the value of chain activities such as prospecting exploration, ore extraction, development of sites, smelting, refining/metallurgy, mineral dressing, transportation, as well as indirectly caused degradation on the social development of communities (Twerefou, 2009).
In short, degradation that arises from mining includes: water and air pollution, forest and land degradation, liquid and solid waste disposal of toxic materials, noise pollution, and socio-cultural problems, such as health complications, alcoholism, conflicts, communal clashes, and inequality among citizens. All these factors produce negative consequences for sustainable development and demand urgent attention of the Nigerian government.
Impact of Petroleum Exploration
In the early 1970s, Nigeria as a developing economy had been engaged in the extensive extraction of natural resources to stimulate its economic growth. Nigeria started oil exploration in 1976 and after 30 years oil and gas account for nearly 83 percent of its national GDP, 82 percent of state annual revenue, and 95 percent of its total export (Aghalino & Enyinla, 2009).
It is beyond doubt that the Nigerian oil industry has impacted the nation in many ways. On the one hand, it has led to a remarkable economic growth for the nation. However, petroleum exploration has adverse impacts on the environment caused by oil spills, loss of farms and soil fertility, extensive deforestation, gas flaring, erosion, gas flaring, contamination of rivers and streams, effluent discharge, and conflict between host communities and oil companies.
The petroleum department reports that an estimated 3.55 million barrels of petroleum were discharged into Niger delta between 1990 and 2015; the total of 2.9 million barrels discharge resulted in 5,625 incidents. The report also highlighted that there had been 6,815 oil discharges between 1995 and 2011, which accounted for a loss of 3.5 million barrels of oil, out of which more than 75 percent was not recovered. Most of the spills, approximately 69 percent, occurred offshore (Ashraf et al., 2015).
Nigeria Ecological, Environmental, Geological, Societal and Political Evolution
In Nigeria, there are anthropogenic and natural calamities of different magnitudes and frequencies. Thus, the Nigerian government focuses on its environmental, geological, and ecological problems. The environmental problems in the recent history of Nigeria can be identified as geologic, atmospheric, climatic, wildfire, and biological incidents. On the other hand, they can be grouped into anthropogenic and natural types based on their causative characteristics. Natural hazards are not as highly extensive in Nigeria as anthropogenic hazards. Some examples of natural hazards include geological ones, such as avalanches, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, sinkholes, and lahars. Considering the damage to ecological balance arising from the exploration of petroleum and gas, substantial contamination of water and soil is expected. With a high water table and frequent rains, the oil contamination has been carried down the delta through the streams, contaminating river sediments and surface water. The contamination of surface and ground water and soil, in turn, has produced negative ecological impacts on fisheries, soil erosion, wildlife, and agriculture. The environmental challenges in Nigeria are anthropogenic. They occur due to human interference with the environment. Anthropogenic hazards can be classified as societal, transportation, technical, and others, caused by human activity or ineffective political environment. Key examples of societal problems are juvenile delinquency, crime, arson, civil disorder, the arms race, war, and terrorism. Most of the technical environmental challenges are caused by inefficient and ineffective political environments, corruption, and bribery in government agencies tasked with protecting the environment. Some of these challenges are industrial pollution, power outages, fire, water contamination, household waste, and dangerous agricultural practices (Saviour, 2012)
Utilization of Nigerian Ecological Sphere
One of the most significant spills happened in Ogoniland on August 28th, 2008. The Trans-Niger pipeline suffered a lapse and, as a result, Bodo Creek became contaminated. The oil spilled into the swamp and creek for months, covering the huge area with a thick layer of oil, impacting the marine life and killing the fish, which Nigerians caught for food and earnings. The Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development reported that the oil discharge had caused damage or death to a number of species of fish, which provide for the basic protein needs of the local population. Video coverage of the site proves the widespread damage that included mangroves, which were essential for fish breeding (Eneh, O.C. (2011).
The case of water hyacinth seen on Nigerian waters nearly ten years ago caused a serious ecological threat to the nation. Tran boundary water hyacinth was caused by interstate movement of the water weed on a large scale. The water hyacinth travelled from Lagos State to Ogun, Bendel, and Oyo States. When the water hyacinth was noticed in the Lagos Lagoon, the Government swiftly took action. Investigations disclosed that the pollution of the aquatic ecosystem arrived from the Benin Republic. The weeds were removed, but they returned three months later to carpet the Lagos Lagoon, which caused a threat to the ecological balance and marine-life (Aghalino, 2010).
Nigerian Government Policies to Current Situation
The current environmental policy of the Nigerian government consists of a framework of standards, regulations, legislations, and guidelines adopted to control the activities that could damage the country’s environment. A framework of environmental legislation is a single law that includes comprehensive laws for environmental protection. Such legislation includes the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) Act 1988 amended in 2005; Nigerian Regional Planning and Urban Act, the Harmful Wastes Act 1988 that includes special criminal provisions and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act 1992. Besides, the Sectoral legislation controls specific aspects of human and exploration activities and includes the Oil Pipeline Act 1958, Mineral Act 1956, Petroleum Exploration Safety Act 1972, Oil in Navigable Waters Act 1969, and Deforestation Act 1989 (Eneh, 2011).
The environmental policy covers conservation and utilization of the natural resources for the benefit of Nigerians, as well as maintaining, enhancing, and restoring ecosystems and environmental processes necessary for the preservation of the biosphere and the protection of biological diversity. The policy aims at community involvement in improving the nation’s environment. Moreover, the government coordinates with international organizations to derive the optimal use of natural resources and abatement or prevention of trans-boundary environmental pollution (Saviour, 2012).
Extraction, exploitation, and exploration of natural resources and minerals are the backbone of the Nigerian economic growth. However, the potential dangers posed by the exploitation of natural resources are a serious concern to the Nigerian government. Factors, such as population growth and urbanization, place greater demands on the government and stretch the utilization of natural resources to the maximum.
The government realizes that extraction of the natural resources at a rate faster than nature’s capacity to restore them results in ecological disturbances, environmental degradation, destruction of flora and fauna, air and water pollution, desertification, and global warming. Hence, it has formulated effective environmental policies to control and maintain the ecological balance and protect the nation from environmental degradation.