In addition to being Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria is also the continent’s largest producer of petroleum.
The Niger Delta, which sits directly on the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean, is the epicentre of oil activity. Exploration in the region began in the 1950s; and today, some two million barrels of crude oil are extracted daily.
The Nigerian government relies heavily on the revenue from oil and gas production. But the largely unregulated processes attached to extraction, such as flaring of natural gas, have resulted in serious environmental devastation and health problems for the populace.
“Infant mortality rates in the region are very, very troubling. We have problems with poisoned waters. The challenges are tough. Laws are made at the Federal level and are designed to protect the oil industry as it’s the main source of government revenue.”
SOAS graduate Joy Baderin (pictured left, Abuja) is an architect working in the Niger Delta. Since 2012 she has worked as the Assistant Director at the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Wanting to return to studies, she originally felt that a postgraduate degree in environmental studies was her ideal choice but decided that, as a passionate conservationist, sustainability was where she really wanted to dedicate her time, energy and skills.
“How do we bring it back?
“The main occupation is farming, fishing – but due to the spills, you can’t farm, you can’t fish. So what do you do when that’s your livelihood? The result is that many people have to migrate from those regions.
“So we need to look at education. We have to teach people how to manage the environment better. When you have knowledge of what sustainable development is all about, it transfers into every facet of life. And then we can begin solving these problems between communities, government and the oil-exploration companies.”
Joy studied an online and distance learning degree in Sustainable Development with SOAS.
“I did learn a lot from studying with SOAS. I was exposed to a lot of issues: climate change, environmental impact assessments, environmental auditing and economics.
“A lot of developing countries rely on grants. And we need to change this. Grants don’t make people self-reliant. If you can teach somebody to fish it is a better way of helping than simply providing the person with a fish every day.”