The coastal area of the Niger Delta is the home to oil explorations and exploitations in Nigeria. Oil spill incidents are common along the Nigeria. The main sources of oil spill on the Niger Delta are: vandalisation of the oil pipelines by the local inhabitants; ageing of the pipelines; oil blow outs from the flow stations; cleaning of oil tankers on the high sea and disposal of used oil into the drains by the road side mechanics. By far the most serious source of oil spill is through the vandalisation of pipelines either as a result of civil disaffection with the political process or as a criminal activity.
To reduce the rate of oil incidents along the Nigerian Coast particularly as a result of vandalisation, the Federal Government through an act of the National Assembly created the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Part of the responsibilities of the commission is to develop a master plan for the development of the Niger Delta, provide infrastructure and create an enabling environment for industrialisation and employment. There are also several other laws dealing with issues related to oil pollution in the environment. Also, standards for the development of the environmental sensitivity index maps for the coast of Nigeria have been developed by the Environmental Systems Research institute (ESRI). These standards are to be used by all the oil companies to prepare ESI maps for their areas of operations in Nigeria. Furthermore, apart from the mechanical and chemical oil spill cleaning methods that have been used in managing oil spill problems, oil spill models have on several occasions being used to manage oil spills on the Nigerian Coast.
A number of Federal and state agencies deal with the problems of oil spill in Nigeria. The agencies include: the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Federal Ministry of Environment, the State Ministries of Environment and the National Maritime Authority. There is also the “Clean Nigeria Associates” which is an umbrella through which the Oil companies tackle major oil spills.
There is a need to create serious awareness among the populace on the implications of oil spill incidents on the environment. Governments must assist the rural communities in claiming their rights on oil spills and ensure that digital ESI maps are readily available for managing oil spill maps. Government should have strict rules for local oil tankers that would ply our coastal and inland waters as a result of the new cabotage law that is just being passed into law in the country.