Environmental impact assessment in Nigeria: regulatory background and procedural framework
Nerry Echefu and .E Akpofure
As a consequence of the illegal dumping of toxic wastes in Koko, in the former Bendel State, in 1987, the Nigerian Government promulgated the Harmful Wastes Decree which provides the legal framework for the effective control of the disposal of toxic and hazardous waste into any environment within the confines of Nigeria. This was immediately followed by the creation of a regulatory body, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) in 1988. FEPA is charged with the overall responsibility of protecting and developing the Nigerian environment. To put this into action a National Policy on the Environment was developed. This is the main working document for the preservation and protection of the Nigerian environment. States and Local Government Councils were also encouraged to establish their own environmental regulatory bodies for the purpose of maintaining good environmental quality as it applies to their particular terrain.
The EIA Decree No. 86 of 1992 is an additional document with the same aim of protecting the Nigerian environment. It is particularly directed at regulating the industrialization process with due regard to the environment. By this Decree, no industrial plan/development/activity falling under the FEPA’s mandatory list can be executed without prior consideration of the environmental consequences of such a proposed action, in the form of an environmental impact assessment.
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), an arm of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, recognizing the national importance of the oil and gas industry sector to the continued growth of the Nigerian economy and realizing that the continued exploitation, exploration and production of the oil resources has serious environmental impacts, also decided to set out comprehensive standards and guidelines to direct the execution of projects with proper consideration for the environment. The DPR Environmental Guidelines and Standards (EGAS) of 1991 for the petroleum industry is a comprehensive working document with serious consideration for the preservation and protection of the Niger Delta, and thus the Nigerian environment, in the course of searching for and producing crude oil. The EIA tool is also mandatory for a greater part of the oil E&P activities.
But a detailed examination of the various statutes, and the framework for the EIA process in particular, and the entire environmental regulatory process in general, reveals that many of the statutes are very much at variance with intentions, especially as they affect the execution of functions. There is duplication of functions and overlapping responsibilities in the processes and procedures guiding the execution of the various impact assessment tasks. Consequently, serious bottlenecks and bureaucratic confusion are created in the process. The result is a waste of resources, financially and materially.
This paper examines the statutory regulatory framework for the EIA process, and the inadequacies and misinterpretations of the various statutes, which have often led to delays in the execution of EIAs in Nigeria. An attempt will be made to streamline these various responsibilities through a reorganization of the regulatory environmental framework. This way, it is hoped that the bottlenecks and wastage of resources will be eliminated.
Nigeria (Africa’s most populous nation), independent since 1960, occupies an area of 923,768 km2 with varied climates and seasons. Presently, its estimated population is over 100 million people.
Prior to oil, agriculture (before 1970) was the economic mainstay. With financial resources available from oil and no development policy, unguided urbanization and industrialization took place. Uncontrolled population growth, desertification, and deforestation led to degradation and devastation of the environment.
As desirable and necessary as development is, it became an albatross not of itself but because of the lack of appropriate policies to guide it.
There were several sectoral regulations aimed at controlling environmental degradation which were unsuccessful due to the absence of effective sanctions. Economic considerations and fundamental lack of knowledge of interdependent linkages among development processes and environmental factors, as well as human and natural resources, resulted in an unmitigated assault on the environment. However, the environment and the need for its preservation (in spite of all efforts by United Nations Environment Program [UNEP] and International Conventions which Nigeria ratified), took centre stage after the momentous and singular event of the secret dumping of toxic waste in Koko Port, Bendel State (now Delta State) in May 1988 by foreign parties. This was followed by the promulgation of the Harmful Wastes (Special Criminal Provisions) Act 1990. In its wake, international seminars and workshops were held in Abuja and Lagos and the consensus was for appropriate environmental legislation to discourage short-term plans and ‘fire brigade’ approaches to environmental issues.
An institutional framework was set up to deal with the problems of our environment. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA), established by Decree 58 of 1988 of the same name and amended by Decree 59 of 1992, was given responsibility for control over our environment and for the development of processes and policies to achieve this. Apart from publishing the National Policy on the Environment (NPE) in 1989, with the policy goal of achieving sustainable development, it published other sectoral regulations including the National Environmental Protection (Pollution Abatement in Industries and Facilities Generating Wastes) Regulation 1991 wherein EIA was made obligatory only when so demanded by FEPA and compliance was within 90 days of such demand. However in the oil industry the principal legislation is the Petroleum Act 1969 and all derivative regulations charged DPR among others with pollution abatement.
States and Local Government Councils (LG) which comprise the second and third tiers of government were encouraged under Decree 59 of 1992 to set up their own environmental protection agencies.
Separate EIA legislation, the EIA Decree 86 of 1992, was promulgated establishing FEPA as the apex regulator, making EIA mandatory for all developmental purposes (although with some exceptions). Under it FEPA has published various sectoral EIA procedures together with EIA procedural guidelines in 1995.
INSTITUTIONAL AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
Prior to the establishment of the FEPA there were sectoral environmental regulations with various significant responsibilities relating to environmental protection and improvement. Also in existence were commissions with advisory capacity in environmental matters and environmental NGOs.
Due to various activities and the complex combination of interdependent operations of the oil industry it, more than any other sector, adversely affects the environment.
In the oil industry DPR adopted remedial, though inadequate, enforcement tools which included compliance monitoring and the issuing of permits/licences. Studies indicated the extent of devastation the oil industry has caused to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and cultural and historical resources. This, coupled with the community’s dissatisfaction and agitation, especially in the Ogoni and Ijaw homelands, reinforced the need for the sector to plan, protect and enhance prudently the environmental resources for a better environment.
The need to control new installations or projects with capacity to degrade the environment was also identified. This compelled DPR to issue updated Environmental Guidelines and Standards (EGAS) in 1991 providing for the first time, together with pollution abatement technology, guidelines and standards and monitoring procedures, a mandatory EIA report as enforcement tool. There are other regulatory bodies within the sector.
FEPA, charged with the protection and development of the environment, prepared a comprehensive national policy, including procedures for environmental impact assessment for, amongst others, all development projects. Enforcement powers were also prescribed. In the National Policy on the Environment (NPE), FEPA adopted a strategy that guarantees an integrated holistic and systemic view of environmental issues that leads to prior environmental assessment of proposed activities.
The other regulators including State EPAs (unnecessarily charged with similar and identical responsibilities to those of FEPA) rather than cooperating with FEDA undermine its efforts as they demand a role in the state of the environment within their areas. This occurs particularly where FEPA involves them only at the review stage in the EIA process. This creates a lot of confusion and bureaucratic delays in implementing the EIA process leading to enormous cost and unnecessary waste of time.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT SYSTEM
The principal legislation is Decree 86 of 1992 which made EIA mandatory for both public and private sectors for all development projects. It has three goals and thirteen principles for how these are to be achieved. The goals are:
• Before any person or authority takes a decision to undertake or authorize the undertaking of any activity that may likely or significantly affect the environment, prior consideration of its environmental effects should first be taken.
• To promote the implementation of appropriate procedures to realize the above goal.
• To seek the encouragement of the development of reciprocal procedures for notification, information exchange and consultation in activities likely to have significant trans-state (boundary) environmental effects.
FEPA categorizes mandatory study activities into three categories. (see Figure 1 below):
Category 3 activities have beneficial impacts on the environment. For Category 2 activities (unless within the Environmentally Sensitive Area) full EIA is not mandatory, while Category 1 activities require full and mandatory EIA. Either listing or an initial environmental evaluation (IEE) system is used to determine projects requiring full EIA.
The minimum requirement of an EIA report includes not only the description of the activity, potential affected environment, practical alternative, and assessment of likely or potential environmental impacts, but also identification and description of the mitigation measures, indication of gaps in knowledge, notification of trans-state adverse environmental effects (if any) and a brief non-technical summary of all the above information.
Impartial and written FEPA decisions indicating mitigation measures based on a detailed examination of environmental effects identified in the environmental impact assessment (after an opportunity within an appropriate period had been given to the stakeholders and the public for their comments) is made available to interested person(s) or group(s). It provides, where necessary, that potentially affected States or Local Government Areas are notified.
PROCESS AND PROCEDURAL FRAMEWORK
The EIA process is the various stages a project undergoes from proposal to approval for implementation, resulting in the issuing of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and certificate.
The term encompasses several stages, viz:
• determining if FEPA environmental laws/regulations have been triggered;
• screening a project for potential environmental effects;
• scoping to determine the spatial and temporary dimension of environmental effects;
• carrying out detailed base line studies to determine the environmental condition prior to project implementation;
• preparing a detailed assessment report;
• carrying out a panel review of the EIA report if this is necessary; and
• obtaining authorization/approval, where appropriate.
For FEPA, the Director General/Chief Executive is the responsible officer.
The National Procedural Guidelines show practical steps from project conception to commissioning (see Figure 2). The steps are:
• project proposal
• initial environmental examination (IEE)/preliminary assessment
• EIA study
• decision making
• monitoring, and
The proponent initiates the process in writing to the responsible officer. A notification form is duly completed with all relevant information on the proposal. Using the criteria of :
• magnitude – probable severity of each potential impact;
• prevalence/extent and scope – extent to which the impact may eventually extend;
• duration and frequency – is activity short term, long term or intermittent;
• risks – probability of serious environmental effects;
• significance/importance – value attached to a specified area; and
• mitigation – measures available for associated and potential environmental effects
FEPA does internal screening (IEE) to determine the project’s category under the mandatory study activities list.
Where no adverse environmental effects exist, the EIA is issued and the project commences with appropriate mitigation and monitoring measures. Otherwise within ten working days of receipt of the proposal, the screening report is sent to the proponent for scoping and the preparation of Terms of Reference (ToR). The ToR embodies the scope of the proposed EIA study and this is examined and the scope of the study defined accordingly by FEPA. The proponent carries out the study, generally using consultants, and the draft EIA report in 15 copies is submitted to the responsible officer. For this draft report to be complete it must as an annex record the results of public participation in a public form.
Within 15 working days of the receipt of the draft report, FEPA concludes evaluation of the draft and determination of the review method which it communicates to the proponent in writing. The four methods are:
• In-house review.
• Panel review (sitting may be public).
• Public review – an elaborate display of the report for 21 working days with appropriate display venues chosen by FEPA for the convenience of the public stakeholders and communities. Through newspaper advertisement FEPA invites interested groups /persons to participate.
Within one month of the review process, review comments are furnished to the proponent. In this review stage, the public participates only when FEPA’s chosen method of review guarantees its participation.
The final EIA report, addressing and proffering answers to review comments, is submitted within six months to the responsible officer. At this early stage, and on mutual agreement, FEPA and the proponent set conditions establishing a follow-up program (mitigation, compliance and monitoring plan), a monitoring strategy and audit procedure. A ‘no project’ decision is communicated to the proponent if the review comments are adverse and/or improperly addressed in the final report and the final EIA report is unsatisfactory. The decision-making body is the FEPA technical committee chaired by the Director General/Chief Executive.
Within one month of the receipt of a final EIA report which has been adjudged as satisfactory, the committee approves and issues the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) followed by certification by the responsible officer complete with appropriate conditions and with a validity period. Armed with the certificate, the proponent commences the project subject to the conditions and specifications contained in the EIS. If the project is not commissioned within the validity period on the certificate a revised and updated EIA report becomes necessary for revalidation.
The progress of the project is monitored to ensure compliance with all conditions and mitigation measures. Environmental audit, assessing both positive and negative impacts of the project, is carried out periodically. In its exercise of discretionary powers, FEPA refers any project likely to cause significant environmental effects that may not be mitigated (or where public concern about the project warrants it) to the FEPA council for mediation or panel review.
The EIA study team usually is a multi-disciplinary panel of experts and the report is prepared using a systematic, interdisciplinary approach incorporating all relevant analytical disciplines to provide meaningful and factual data, information and analyses. The presentation of data should be clear and concise, yet include all facts necessary to permit independent evaluation and appraisal of both the beneficial and adverse environmental effects of alternative actions. The detail provided should be commensurate with the extent and expected impact of the action and the amount of information required at the particular level of decision-making.
FEPA certifies consultants and reviewers. Only research institutions and limited liability companies of proven competence are so certified.
Sadly in the oil sector, there is confusion as a result of multiple regulators. The Department of Petroleum Resources and the State Environmental Protection Agencies have enabling instruments which permit them to conduct EIA without limitation. DPR’s instrument is its regulation, EGAS 1991, which empowered it to conduct EIA, but there is no legislation so empowering it directly. The States instruments are subject to Federal enactment and other than inordinate show of relevance they are to merely monitor the process for, and on behalf of, FEPA. FEPA should as early as possible inform the relevant State EPA at its secretariat stage.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
We acknowledge that Nigeria has taken serious steps to develop effective environmental strategies by the promulgation of the EIA Decree and all the procedural guidelines. Yet there are too many regulators with similar and identical responsibilities. Harmonization and clear allocation of responsibilities has become necessary. FEPA is the apex regulator, and DPR in reliance on regulations can not usurp the responsibility of FEPA nor the State EPA when under our canon of legal interpretation, any Edict (law) in conflict with the Decree (Act) to the extent of the conflict is void. Recognition of this, and an eschewing of rivalries among the administrators, will encourage co-operation among them.
To be relevant the regulators (administrators) should be better supported and, for effective compliance monitoring and enforcement, stiffer sanctions and penalties should be prescribed and strictly adhered to. This way environmental requirements will be met and maintained. Compliance should be tied to renewal of licenses and consents and proponents should ensure that staff are highly motivated with adequate equipment and capacity building programs vigorously pursued not only by the administrators but also the proponents. The administrators should invest more in capacity building, staff motivation and provision of conducive work environments together with the necessary facilities. The government in this regard should make funds available to the secretariat. Otherwise, they become exposed to monetary inducements leaving compliance in the hands of the proponent. This is unhealthy. With basic knowledge of their responsibilities they could become more efficient and effective in improving the quality of EIA report.
The administrators should set up a databank and provide baseline data. The EIA process is in transition in Nigeria, and may take years or even decades to develop and this depends on a strong and continuous political commitment at the highest levels within and among our administrators, on the active role of an informed and involved public and on some pragmatic programs of national action and sub-regional and regional co-operation (Kampala Declaration 1989).
The natural consequence, therefore, is that experience is increasing and the need for sufficient information in the transition period is met, as has recently been undertaken by some oil companies, government and international organizations in the Niger Delta Environmental Survey (NDES). This will provide environmental baseline data for the area. We hope that it extends to other areas of the Federation.
Figure 2: Flow chart of FEPA EIA procedures
Public participation is not statutorily protected yet current realities have encouraged public involvement as the communities have become aware of the need to protect the environment. Though largely illiterate and poor, and thereby vulnerable to monetary inducement in the hands of unscrupulous proponents, nevertheless their knowledge of the locality can enhance the process. In this regard the law should be reviewed.
FEPA usually involves the State EPAs only at the review stage and it has been observed that this angers them, prompting a demand for a repeat of the EIA study by the proponent, with its attendant resources wastes. Often they refused to attend public forums as FEPA officials are usually absent from these. The illiterate public, left to the mercy of the proponent, is misled. It is suggested that FEPA should involve the relevant State EPA at the secretariat stage i.e. when the proponent submits the proposal so as to enable them to monitor and participate actively in the entire process and not only in the review. In this regard, on receipt of the project proposal, FEPA should send a copy to the other relevant agencies liaising effectively from that stage and involving the proponent. The proponent should provide assurance that the required regulations are met, using concepts of self-regulation, goal-setting and negotiated agreements to complement prescriptive legislation.
The process of accreditation by FEPA, apart from being time-consuming, cumbersome and arduous, encourages fraudulent companies to engage the services of mercenaries for the purpose of answering interview questions. We suggest that a more pragmatic and result-oriented approach should be adopted with sporadic checks of such companies. Some States insist on their own accreditation exercise despite FEPA’s creating multiple accreditation. We suggest that for the process of accreditation to be accepted by all States, which should be involved in the exercise. The efforts of the environmental NGOs ought to be stepped up in the area of continuous capacity building of their members so that they can participate efficiently and meaningfully in public forums thereby enhancing the quality of the EIA report and the decisions taken arising from them.
The Law Reform Commission and Federal Ministry of Justice in conjunction with the States, environmental NGOs and interested groups and companies, should develop an integrated, co-ordinated and comprehensive legislation on the environment, removing rivalries, bureaucratic bottlenecks and areas of overlapping, duplication and confusion.
We venture, however to add that the EIA process in Nigeria if adequately handled, with the consultants involved in capacity building and the administrators highly motivated and with the Government making funds available, will result in environmental issues being built into taxation, prior approval procedures for investment, technology choices and into all components of development policies (Kontagora 1991).
LIST OF RELEVANT PUBLISHED PAPERS AND OTHER SOURCE MATERIAL
Aina E. O. A. 1989, New Direction for Sustainable Development in Nigeria, A paper delivered at the International Workshop on the Environment and Sustainable Development in Nigeria at the NICON-NOGA HILTON Hotel, Abuja.
Achieving Sustainable Development in Nigeria. National Report for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1992).
Amid. D. Adekunle 1998, In Search of Partners in a Context of Multiple Regulators: The Perspective of an Operator in Nigeria Oil Industry. A paper presented at the International seminar on the Petroleum Industry and the Nigerian Environment Abuja Sheraton Hotel & Towers.
Anderson Brian 1996 , Environmental Issues and Management Strategies. Keynote address at the International seminar on the Petroleum Industry and the Nigerian Environment. Port Harcourt.
Ojile M. O. 1998, Answers to Technical Qualifying Questions for the EIA Studies.
Raph Mulders 1997 The State of Environmental Impact Assessment in the Developing Countries. The Hague.
Delta State Environmental Protection Agency (DELSEPA) Edict No. 5 1997.
Rivers State Environmental Protection Agency (RSEPA) Edict No. 2 1994.
Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (1991).
Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) Decree 59, 1992.
National Policy on the Environment (1989).
Environmental Impact Assessment Decree 86, 1992.
FEPA Environmental Impact Assessment procedural Guidelines (1995).
United Nations Environment Program, Environmental law Guidelines and Principles Environmental Impact Assessment (1991).
Social impact assessment: an interactive and participatory approach
E A Akpofure & M Ojile
Current policy shifts world wide are tending towards eliminating or minimizing the continuing trends of environmental degradation. Realizing the urgent need to reconcile industry and community interests in the Delta of Nigeria which had, and continues to witness, some tensions and volatile outbursts, and to ensure that development is managed so that it is both sustainable and hence contributes to industrial and community stability, development projects can only go ahead after mandatory Environmental Assessment (EA) studies of such proposed projects.
Consideration of the social impact of project development generally – let alone of oil industry development specifically – was until comparatively recently an adjunct of EIAs. It would appear to be very much so even today in Nigeria, where more emphasis continues to be placed on the biophysical environment. Nonetheless, social impact analysis is gaining ground and momentum. But even then it poses special problems which make it far more than a methodological shadow of EIA. Social Impact Assessment (SIA) represents a novel and far more complex domain.
Social Impact Assessment (SIA) studies of three different projects in three varied socio-cultural zones of the Niger Delta have yielded better socioeconomic results, utilizing the ‘participatory assessment’ methodology alongside questionnaire surveys. This way, it has been possible to assess community needs and expectations, identify priorities for development activities and successfully implement project execution strategies.
A human action such as oil exploration activities (mining) simultaneously affects both the natural and the social environment, not only displacing plants and polluting water but creating jobs and relocating people. Clearly a comprehensive assessment of mining impacts would have to consider both ecological and social effects, and the higher order cumulative effects that result from their interaction (Westman, 1985).
Yet when, in the late 1980s, environmental impact assessment studies were first being conducted, these were limited to the webwork of effects on the natural environment. It took a series of communal clashes, violence and the destruction of oil & gas pipelines and installations, on the platform of fights for territoriality and compensation, for the scope of impact studies to be gradually broadened to encompass a range of social and economic concerns. Examination of the full social and ecological impacts of a proposed action requires a ‘holistic’ approach, in the sense that examination of the effects on natural and social systems separately will not reveal the full scope of interactive effects. Hence the generic term or approach ‘integrated impact assessment’ has long been proposed for the study of the full range of ecological and social consequences of the introduction of a new technology, project, or programme.
Be that as it may, the special skills required for an assessment of ecological impacts derive from a distinct, though overlapping, set of disciplines from those required for social impact assessment. And because the consideration of the social impact of project development generally – and of oil industry development on which most developing countries like Nigeria depend – was until comparatively recently an adjunct of EIAs, the methods and techniques for effective and efficient study have tended to be less developed and understood. SIA we must acknowledge poses special problems which make it far more than a methodological shadow of EIA. SIA represents a novel and far more complex domain beyond that often applied to the assessment of the bio-geophysical environment.
Over six million people live in the 70 000km2 Niger Delta where most of Nigeria’s oil is produced, providing some 80 per cent of the federal government’s revenue. Exploration and production of this oil necessarily brings many of the oil companies into contact with more than 12 major ethnic groups divided into about 800 communities. These communities increasingly feel disadvantaged by a deteriorating economy, lack of job prospects, limited amenities and general development, environmental degradation and a very complex political situation.
Consideration of social impact assessment within the integrated impact assessment framework is even more complex when placed against the multisocio- cultural-cum-political background of a developing country such as Nigeria. To ensure that development is managed so that it is both sustainable and contributes to industrial and community stability, major policy shifts have favoured the proper assessment and understanding of community interests.
It is against the foregoing background that social impact assessments have to utilize ‘interactive and participatory methodology’ to achieve better socioeconomic results. This way, it is possible to assess communities’ needs and expectations, identifying priorities for development activities and successfully executing effective project strategies.
NATURE AND SCOPE OF ISSUES
The Niger Delta of Nigeria is the richest part of the country in terms of natural resource endowment. Ironically, in spite of the Delta’s endowment, its immense potential for economic growth and sustainable development, the region is, and continues to remain, in a parlous state; it is under increasing threat from rapidly deteriorating economic conditions and social tensions which have remained largely unaddressed by current and past policies as well as behaviour patterns. The degree of disaffection which the lack of development in the resource-endowed areas has generated has reached palpable heights.
By nature of its resource endowment, the major industrial activity to be found in the Niger Delta is oil related. Therefore, projects requiring environmental assessments are mainly field developments, flowstations, pipelines and flowline network installations, drilling activity etc. While the environmental assessments of these oil related activities are of recent development, their main focus until of late was basically the impact on the natural environment, with little or no regard to the communities within the immediate vicinities of these projects.
In any case, the wave of environmental awareness which has swept through the area, skewed towards oil pollution, has tended to generate very high feeling with, very often, some political undertones. While environmental assessment has become a major policy issue, the social conflicts which now frame an effective assessment include, but are not limited to, the obnoxious Landuse Act of 1978 which deprived or rendered communities landless in terms of economic rent, environmental degradation in the form of oil pollution and the attendant monetary compensations accruing from these. Against the sociopolitical-cum-economic backgrounds of the Niger Delta, the imperative for effective social impact assessments within the framework of EIA cannot be overstressed. A well conducted SIA must find answers to communities’ social well being by actively engaging the people for whom such assessments would benefit.
Perhaps in an attempt to forestall further environmental degradation in the resource-rich Niger Delta in particular and in the general Nigerian environment, an Environmental Policy was enacted. It is not as if the statutory framework for environmental protection did not exist in the country before 1988 when the regulatory framework was established with the all-encompassing empowering status. An overview of the existing Environmental Protection Laws in Nigeria will show that pre-1988 laws abound in many fragmented forms. Although most of these laws are not strictly environmental protection laws, they contain provisions which have a bearing on the preservation of the environment. However, 1988 marked a watershed with the enactment of Decrees 42 and 58, regulating harmful wastes management and establishing the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) respectively. Several policies and laws followed subsequently: these include in 1991 effluent limitation and pollution abatement in industries and facilities generating wastes, and Decree No. 86 of 1992 setting the framework for Environmental Assessment (EIA) as mandatory.
The FEPA EIA Decree No. 86 of 1992 made the preparation of Environmental Impact Assessments mandatory for all industry planning new projects. This involves the assessment of socioeconomic/ecological status of the project area and production of a report.
While SIA tries to find answers to the community’s social well being within the framework of EIA studies, one other law is in place which severely limits its effectiveness; the Landuse Act of 1978. The most comprehensive piece of legislation ever enacted in Nigeria on land issues, it divested individuals or communities of different forms of land ownership and tenureship which existed before its enactment. This is an obnoxious law which negates communal territorial right to land, and hence adds to the tension in the Niger Delta environment.
THE STATUTORY AND INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT IN NIGERIA.
An overview of the existing environmental protection laws in Nigeria indicate that the laws can be classified into two distinct areas: pre-1988 and the laws enacted since 1988. These laws contain specific provisions that prohibit certain activities or conduct which are detrimental to the wholesomeness and safety of the environment and impose varying sanctions for violations and non-compliance with the pertinent provisions of the respective laws.
Promulgated under the auspices of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (the national regulatory body), the EIA Decree requires the preparation of Environmental Impact Assessments by industry undertaking new projects, in order to mitigate and ameliorate the potential adverse environmental impacts of the project activities. This too involves the assessment of socioeconomic/ecological status of the project area and the production of a report.
By the same token, the petroleum industry in particular, whose activities are concentrated in the Niger Delta, although under the same regulatory framework, is supervised directly by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) of the Petroleum Ministry. The DPR 1991 Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industries in Nigeria, provide detailed statutory requirements to which the oil and gas industry is supposed to adhere. Part VIII, Section A (Environmental Impact Assessment Process), Articles 1.3 and 1.6 require that EIA study be conducted before E & P operations in order to protect and prudently enhance the environmental resources for a better environment for man. Article 1.4 gives the applicable regulations and makes the preparation of an EIA report mandatory. It is against the above statutory background and institutional framework, and the necessity to comply with the environmental laws as well as operate within the principles of sustainable development, that the EIA tool is applied by many of the E & P companies who plan new development projects.
The DPR’s environmental guidelines and standards have standardized environmental abatement procedures under which the EIA process is expressly stated. As one of two tools being used to protect and preserve the Niger Delta’s and Nigeria’s ecosystems – the other being an Environmental Evaluation (post-impact) Report (EER) – the Environmental Impact Assessment process and Report is being vigorously pursued and implemented in Nigeria.
The systematic process to be followed in preparing the report starts with a project proponent/operator determining the preliminary assessment of impacts through a screening process before an initial report is submitted to DPR. It is only when significant impacts are identified for a project or activity that full EIA studies and report preparation is commissioned. Draft EIA reports are expected to be accepted by the regulators within 21 days. And such studies and reports are supposed to be handled by persons or parties who possess a certificate of eligibility issued by the regulators themselves. EIA reviewers are expected to be competent individuals.
The EIA process and procedure do not however end with the DPR institution (i.e. oil industry and related EIAs). The national body is also a powerful regulator and it alone has authority to present all EIAs to the public for hearings and comments. Public presentations of EIAs are usually implemented by displaying such reports in designated centres/zonal offices for a period also of 21 days for the public to make reviews and offer comments on any aspect of the EIA report. Comments of significance are to be incorporated in final EISs (Environmental Impact Statements).
The DPR documents, Environmental Guidance Standards (EGS) mentioned earlier, have provisions for procedures to be followed in collecting and analyzing samples and regulating parameters of interest. Unfortunately there are no comparable guidelines for socioeconomic (social impact assessment) studies.
By necessity, social impact assessments are conducted simultaneously with EIAs. However, few companies have determined explicit guidelines for conducting SIAs, and as a result the majority of industry social assessments provide only a limited description of potential impacts and the range of alternative management practices available to a company. While it is widely acknowledged today that ‘social analysis’ must be an integral part of integrated project planning, the process of devising appropriate techniques for social analysis is still ongoing, although the SIA Guidelines/Manual of the SIEP released in 1996 tries to streamline methodologies for conducting SIAs in the oil and gas industries.
While some of the lessons of EIA are applicable, others are not, and SIA in particular represents a novel and far more complex domain. Specifically, while SIA must be concerned with the potential consequences of a project for a given human population and its way of life, it is necessarily concerned as much with the possible implications of that social environment for the success of the project itself. For unlike the natural landscape, human behaviour does not conform to simple rules (Ross, 1994).
ASSESSMENT METHODS AND APPROACHES
Environmental systems are functionally and structurally complex. This is especially true of deltas which integrate land and water systems. Not only is the Niger Delta complex but, as numerous researchers have pointed out, it is not well understood (Bourn, 1992). More importantly, the intricate social systems of the hundreds of riverine communities are equally poorly known. General policies that ignore complex details, while often appropriate at the central planning levels, should by necessity be adapted to local conditions before implementation (Ascher, 1990). By implication, it can be pointed out that ignoring this complexity, policies are frequently poorly matched to the communities and ecosystems they are intended to benefit or modify. A cascade of unanticipated side effects usually result.
On a project level, social and environmental impact assessments can provide the necessary information to maximize the net benefits from policy decisions. Social impact assessments within the general framework of environmental assessments of E & P operations, if properly conducted, are expected, to become necessary for ensuring that activities in the Delta consider the complex interrelationships that constitute the Niger Delta.
THE INTERACTIVE AND PARTICIPATORY APPROACH TO SIA STUDIES:
The Niger Delta examples
Two field development plans/projects of oil and gas were planned in two different ecological zones but essentially the same social cultural setting of present day Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta. The third case study involved a seismic lines rehabilitation/revegetation project, again in a very volatile sector of Delta State. The economy of the study areas is mainly agrarian, with farming as the occupation of over 75 per cent of the population and a third involved in subsistent fishing. Personal incomes, however, are very low in all of the study communities with a population of over 6000 people; over 50 per cent earn less than N25,000 (US$300) annually. At the other FDP, communities nearby earn even less; slightly over 21 per cent earn anything over N24,000 (US$282).
In one of the three case studies which involved seismic lines revegetation, the project schedule unfortunately coincided with a time when there were serious communal clashes.
Armed personnel were of necessity strategically located in the most visible and larger communities. However, socioeconomic data gathering was seriously hampered as tempers were hot and strangers were looked at suspiciously. The level of aggression was so high that in one of the communities consultants were almost lynched, being mistaken for an enemy.
Against the above background, representative communities and people were selected. Instead of the more generally accepted method of questionnaire surveys aided by video and photographic coverage, the interactive approach alone was used and a selected group of community representatives were contacted and information sought. Consultants were warned that they should not even walk around communities, and should not become involved in household interaction.
Realizing the logistical problems imposed by the terrain, poor information and education and the very high sensitivity of the people occasioned by the feelings of long years of neglect, strategies were planned so as to take advantage of the knowledge at hand.
Since the integration of social impact assessments in environmental assessment, project developers have come to realize that an SIA properly executed could be a strong and powerful PR strategy for soft entry/landing into the project sites. While SIAs are conducted simultaneously with EIAs, the EIA practice would be to send the SIA consultants in advance so as to soften the mood of the locals before others could come in. The SIA process includes the following steps:
• A reconnaissance survey of the project area is initiated, using the project developers’ representative/supervisor, a community liaison officer in charge of the area (CLO), the EIA team leader and the SIA consultant. At such visits, all settlements, permanent and temporary (camps) within the project area are identified.
• The traditional/cultural hierarchy is also identified and a formal request for a community forum comprising the elders, chiefs, youth and women leaders, as well as other opinion formers, is initiated for a scheduled date and time.
• Recognizing the socio-cultural heritage of the people of the Niger Delta where kola nuts and drinks are a traditional part of such occasions, adequate provision for these is made at the community’s scheduled meeting.
• At the meeting, community representatives are given details of the proposed project and study, citing the necessary statutory backing. While the SIA consultant acts both as company’s PRO and community/socio-economics studies consultant, a community’s spokesperson is at hand to interpret all that is said.
• While permission for work is being sought, peaceful coexistence and cooperation is solicited.
• At these meetings, knotty issues such as number of workers to be employed from the community, the wages to be paid etc. are reconciled. This also includes the community development/assistance project(s) to be embarked upon by contractors or major client depending on the magnitude of the project proposed. At this stage of the SIA study however, the main tools are the video and photographic cameras which are used for documentation.
• It is only after permission is granted by the community that the SIA enters its second stage. Here interviewing and questionnaire survey methods are employed to gather the necessary information. Utilizing traditional knowledge, groups of members of the community who have been identified to be knowledgeable enough about the community’s affairs are regarded as the key informants. At less formal group discussions group opinions are tapped to enrich the SIA objectives.
• Questionnaire surveys are also undertaken as the last tier of the SIA information gathering hierarchy process. Well structured open ended and closed ended questionnaires are administered to households, assisted by well trained/instructed personnel from outside and within the communities. The major drawbacks of this technique in the field are logistical (transport) and socio-cultural problems. Communities which are not contiguous are difficult to reach while people were suspicious of personnel and questionnaires. Above everything else, the low level of educational awareness compounds the situation. However, attempts are made to conduct the surveys in the most comfortable manner, choosing a representative fraction/sample which ensures that the views of important categories of the population are gathered, especially those relating to household data. Individual responses reflecting knowledge and attitudes towards the proposed projects and their impacts, including how they feel, and how the perceived negative impacts associated with the project should be handled are collected.
RESULTS AND IMPLICATIONS
Educational attainment of the inhabitants is usually less than encouraging. At Okoroba community, for example 31 per cent of the people had no formal education, over 40 per cent primary education and about 24 per cent had attained secondary education. At Diebu FDP however, with over five main communities spread within 25 km of the project site, 40 per cent of the people had attained primary school education, and about 34 per cent secondary, with some 20 per cent having no formal educational training. Against the foregoing background, one can conclude that unless a proper and much more interactive participatory approach is undertaken, attempts to improve community participation in development activities are easily hampered by poor information and education. Participation quickly becomes limited to the most articulate and well connected individuals. The divide and rule tactics or attitudes of most project developers (and especially the oil companies in the Niger Delta) have tended to increase friction between them and the rural people.
All too often, environmental surveys/assessments get trapped in the mechanical acquisition and calibration of data because they lack a clear focus on the social meaning of the exercise and a sense of its political context. Concern for people and their fate which ought to form the chief interest of all technical endeavours unfortunately is relegated to the background. In its place diagrams and equations are elevated. Rising indignation and social unrest/tension engendered by the realization of continuing neglect in the face of abundant resources by the rural people in most part of the world, and the Niger Delta of Nigeria in particular, has brought to the fore the necessity for detailed community/socioeconomic understanding within the general framework of environmental assessments. Sustainable development, as it is being espoused, encompasses all social, economic and political activities aimed at improving the quality of human life within the self regenerative capacity of the supporting ecological system. It implies community control over the natural resources of the community. This much the local people are clamouring for.
It is in the understanding of the above requirements that the participatory and interactive approach was considered most appropriate in the social impact assessment studies of E & P field development plans/projects and other related activities. The results obtained were very satisfactory and statistically appropriate for the projects needs.
In the first place, an understanding of the social and natural environment was established. With full interaction and participation of the community’s members, all interests were seen to be respected, and differing shades of opinion were sifted for better data collection, analysis and policy consideration.
It was also discovered that when communities are actively involved in the data gathering, interpretation and subsequent usage, an openness is displayed, better quality information is obtained and minimum time is expended in the process. The confidence placed in those chosen for group discussion and considered repositories of local knowledge bolstered morale and locals are always very ready to make available any information on hand. Unlike most assessments based on literature and conjecture, quality data based on facts are easily gathered and informed analyses carried out. Aware of the documentation process (video and photographic coverage), community members are more careful about the truth since they could be called upon to defend whatever they have proffered in the way of information or advice.
The use of local people in questionnaire administration (mostly teachers) also enhances the data gathering process. The capacity building potential of this methodology is obvious. Local knowledge is utilized to facilitate the impact assessment process.
Communities also fare better when this open system is adopted. The cause of social tensions in some of these communities is usually the charge of impropriety against the so called community leaders by the youth. The attitude of most project developers whereby a select few of the articulate and politically conscious are patronized, and in most cases bribed, to the total neglect of the community, is considered most unwholesome. So, to be seen to be consulting with the majority of community members is much more representative of opinions of how the communities feel about their situation.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS There is abundant evidence that a project has little chance of success if it runs counter to, or ignores, the traditions, values, and social organization of the intended beneficiaries, or if its objectives are too abstract to be understood by them or too remote from their everyday concerns. While social analysis now forms an integral part of integrated project planning, appropriate techniques have to be devised for thorough understanding.
SIA is a novel and far more complex domain. Unlike the environmental assessment of the biophysical environment, SIA, concerned with the potential consequences of a project for a given human population and its way of life, appears much more demanding. The fact is that the range of considerations is potentially vast. And when placed against an even more complex ecological system as the Niger Delta with is vast socio-cultural and environmental systems, then the tasks would appear more than daunting. Difficult as it may be to develop a satisfactory methodology for SIA with universal acceptance, which can provide credible predictive insight into the processes of social change, far more problematical is the task of drawing local people into a meaningful consultative process. While the temptation is always to regard this as a form of social management, the fact remains that it is by far the most important dimension of SIA, the aspect that is most likely to provide the needed facts and data which would inform governments and companies about local sensitivities and needs. In the words of the World Bank, credible impact assessment must be based upon ‘participatory assessment’.
Good environmental assessment practice requires meticulous handling of the socioeconomic dimensions of the study to be able to make meaningful decisions which can be cost-effective and sustainable for the companies as well as the host communities of project sites/areas. Undertaking social impact assessment in the Niger Delta must take cognisance of the politicoeconomic and social contexts and factors which may mar or make accurate studies.
By necessity a reconnaissance visit must be made to the project sites at the planning of environmental assessment studies to identify communities within the area. At such times too, minimal contact is made with the inhabitants, but enough to identify in the process the cultural-traditional hierarchies.
Interaction at these three levels is also useful – first at the community level where elders, youths and women leaders are consulted on a village-wide issues, and secondly at a group discussion level, involving key informants, to tap relevant group opinions and knowledge.
At the third level of interaction is the household which will be involved in questionnaire survey. Questions must be simple enough – closed and open ended formats preferred – to allow for individual opinions. Content analysis of a well structured questionnaires can be made easier if local personnel, well instructed, are used so that interpretation of questions and filling in of answers is enhanced.
In summary, attempts have been made for sometime now to integrate social impact assessments in the general environmental assessment framework. Until recently however, it can hardly be said that a systematic methodology or approach has been devised to undertake such studies. Several SIA techniques have been suggested. The present study tries to reinforce the notion that far more successful socioeconomic data and impact prediction can be generated and made by a combined interactive and participatory approach. By examining the prevailing environmental assessment regime, E & P operations can be more effectively executed if social analysis is undertaken with regard to the relative socioeconomic importance of an area, characterizing the diverse population as a consequence and involving the people in the study process itself.
A general recommendation in the execution of environmental assessment processes is, therefore, not to emphasize and strive for biophysical data collection alone but to establish a well integrated, interactive and participatory assessment, self-sustaining structure founded on local involvement, for the sake of gathering more accurate socioeconomic data and SIA predictions.
LIST OF RELEVANT PUBLISHED PAPERS AND OTHER SOURCE MATERIAL
Arscher, W. and Healy R. 1990, Resource Policy making in Developing Countries; Environment, Economic Growth, and Income Distribution, Duke UP. Durham, N.C.
Bourn, D. 1992, Biodiversity Focal Points for Resource Management in the West African Niger River Basin. Mission Report. UNEP Global Environment Facility, Business Needs’, Nordwijk 14-18. November, 1994.
Dale, Angela and Davies, Richard B. (Eds) 1994, Analyzing Social and Political Change. A Casebook of Methods. Sage Publications, London.
DPR 1991, Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria, Department of Petroleum Resources, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Lagos.
Rosenfeld, A.B., Gordon, D.L. and Guerin-McManus M. 1997, Reinventing the Well. Approaches to Minimizing the Environmental and Social Impact of Oil Development in the Tropics, Conservation International.
Ross, E.B. 1994, Social Impact Assessment: The Human Dimension, a position paper presented at the Conference on Integrated HSE Management Meeting. SIEP 1996, Social Impact Assessment Guidelines, HSE Manual, Shell International Exploration and Production B.V., The Hague.
Westman, W.E. 1985, Ecology, Impact Assessment, and Environmental Planning, John Wiley & Sons, New York.
World Bank 1995, Defining an Environmental Development Strategy for the Niger Delta.
E A Akpofure & M Ojile University of Science and Technology Department of Forestry PO Box 5166 T/Amadi, Port Harcourt NIGERIA