Due to my work and my spare-time-activities, I wasn’t able to write new articles on my weblog. That’s so sad, to be honest, as there are so many topics I want to discuss..Well..Nevertheless I’m trying to hop into the time machine and go back to the future 😉
As I am part of the Certificate Program of the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, I also attend to the so called Lunchtime Colloquium. Not only that we getto discuss themes and topics between several researchers, we also listen to a researcher’s research.
This time, it was Mr. Jonathan Agbonifo from Nigeria. A very interesting topic, as I myself made deep research within the topics of peace and conflict studies.
So, here you get my short impression of Mr. Agbonifo’s talk:
Environmental governance and civil society in Nigeria
Civil society the best for effective overall development, including better management of environmental resources.
Expansion of c s groups led to a deepening of environmental crises.
It seems to Mr. Agbonifo that the hope evinced by the architects of the new liberalism was misplaced.
How do we reconcile the apparent contradiction between a growing an activist growing evtl movement and deepening of envtal crises in Nigeria?
Mr. Agbonifo focuses his work geographically at the Niger delta, which is the largest wetland in Africa (70000 square km). It has huge mangrove swamps (6000 square km) and is the home for 30 million people of various ethnicities. Regarding exploitable goods, the Niger delta is rich in oil and gas reserves.
The exploitation of these resources began in the 1950s, which had and still have an enormous impact on humans and the environment, e.g. deforestation, river pollution, gas flaring or the destruction of local economy. The trickle-down-effects were minimal, so that the people had no real advantage of the exploitations. To manage the environmental intrusions, the state established several regulations, which created no real impact in practice.
The modern environmentalism began due to two events that happened between the late 1980s and the early 1990s. In 1987, an italian company dumped chemical wastes at the Koko port in Nigeria, some of which contained radioactive materials. 26 workers suffered chemical injuries due to radiation exposure.
Aggrieved communities in the Niger Delta, that suffered for decades from environmental devastations, mobilized themselves to protect the environment.
The environmental movement is not a homogenous entity. JA thereby defines three groups:
A Government group (technical and managerial solutions, awareness, educated, but elitist, specialized, they do not question injustice, do not back protest against government)/
e.g. Nigerian Environmental Society
An emancipatory group (they question injustice, reject cultural codes and adopt public protest) / Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People
Finally, hybrid groups exist. (technical and managerial solutions critical but seek reform more than protest). Community mobilization e.g. Environmental Right Action
Why has civil society concern with the environment not translated into improved environmental outcomes?
- What is the nature of relations between the Nigerian State and the environmental movement?
- What are the contributions of the environmental movement to environmental governance in Nigeria?
Following JA, the modern state has three basal core imperatives: Maintain order, international competition and the raise of revenue for the first two.
Although the modern state is created for peoples benefit, there are moments, the state turns into an authoritarian state, in such a way that it limits the emergence of social and environmental movements. Furthermore, it does not create the opportunity to link the local interests and movements to a bundled and common outcome to become a threat to state government.
Based on Dryzek et al., the state can be inclusive (actively or passively) or exclusive actively or passively), dependent on the grade of threat the government is faced to.
In relation with Nigeria, the state has a sixth and decisive core imperative, which obstructs the emergence of a powerful environmental movement.
The postcolonial Nigerian state serves the interest of global capital through establishment, especially by protecting and expanding the conditions of capitalist accumulation. So, facilitating capitalist accumulation becomes a core imperative of the Nigerian government, which the state has to save through active or passive action.
This sixth imperative is a result of the colonial influence in the state-design. Consequently, the state is developed to accumulate global capital and the politicians in the government are compromised.
Relating to the Niger Delta, the state facilitates the legal dispossession as well as the exploitation of land in benefit of oil companies. Furthermore, environmental regulations are not enforced and severe dangers are taken into account to serve international companies.
Following Mr. Agbonifo, the general main objectives of the governance groups are to protect the biodiversity, promote the use of resources in a sustainable manner and to advocate for action that minimizes pollution. Their strategy is policy-driven and therefore in deep connection with the state. So, their main goals are to create awareness regarding environmental problems and to educate people. Therefore, scientific management is needed. As the governance groups cannot force the government in any way, they are not in conflict with the state’s imperatives, so that the groups are actively included and collaborations are established between them and the government.
Emancipatory groups want a right to control and use the Ogoni resources in a fair way, towards a better development of the Ogoni environment, as well as to stop the degradation of the landscape. Therefore they created a Bill of Rights, adopted public protest, but also disrupted operations of oil companies in Ogoniland. In addition, the protest was internationalized. As reaction, the state initially ignored these groups (passively exclusive), later on tried negotiations (active inclusion), but as the groups demanded more inclusion, the state reacted with active exclusion through military repression and killings.
Finally, the hybrid group’s objectives are to establish oil spill regulations through lobbyism, create an awareness for environmental issues. As a typical hybrid group, NACGOND is mentioned. A national coalition of several foundations, movements and interest groups in order to enhance operator’s compliance to local and international standards regarding spills and gas flaring in the Niger Delta. Nevertheless being such a presumed huge player, neither the state nor the oil companies seem to be impressed by NACGOND’s efforts. So, the state’s response towards hybrid groups is passively exclusive and passively inclusive depending on the specific case.
In summary, the Nigerian state responds as the occasion demands in different ways. Because if this, Mr. Agbonifo defines the state as mainly elusive. The fate of the environmental group depends on their position towards the state and government. As long as the group matches with the state’s core imperatives, it will not be in danger. Though, does the environmental group resort to violence either towards the state or the international companies, the state itself will be actively exclusive, mainly by violence.
Aggravating, the different environmental groups are inhomogenous, so that they do not confederate with each other, as well as coalition talks between the groups from different categories are not considered.
Maybe the interconnection of different groups could be a promising starting point, as they all have one task to solve: Establishing a sustainable environment for all the Nigerians. Local knowledge could be linked with the knowledge of the epistemic community – as you could call the first group, the governance group. Groups tending to guerrilla warfare should be isolated, so that the movement and the idea as a whole does not run into mischief. Anyhow. Due to its strategy, the government is like a monster, as Mr. Agbonifo said in the Q&A. At the moment you seem to be dangerous, it will eat you. Therefore, the international community should be taken into responsibility, at least because the established political system was designed by economic ideas established by western masterminds.