The Petroleum Industry Bill 2012 and the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria: Panacea or Placebo?



Nigeria is a major oil and gas producing country. With the current production level of 2.48 million bpd (representing 2.9 % of the world total daily production), Nigeria is the 11th largest world producer of crude oil and Africa’s largest. It is estimated that Nigeria had produced 27 billion barrels of crude oil within the past fifty years. What is striking about Nigeria’s oil and gas industry is that all of her oil and gas are currently produced from land and swamps in the Niger Delta and from deep-water reserves some 120 kilometres off the coast of Nigeria.  Oil was first struck in commercial quantities by Shell B-P at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta in 1956 and Nigeria successfully joined the ranks of oil-producing nations with her first shipment of crude oil in 1958 when the Oloibiri oil field came on stream producing 5,100 bpd. The Nigerian state has earned several trillion dollars from oil and gas from the Niger Delta. However, the Niger Delta region whose oil wealth sustains the whole country remains a portrait of poverty, infrastructural decay, social dislocation, and environmental degradation. The criminal neglect of the Niger Delta by successive federal administrations under a centre-dominated federal system and the abysmal poverty of its peoples have spurred ethnic nationalism and agitations for resource federalism in the region. The Petroleum Industry Bill, 2012 was supposedly introduced in the National Assembly to stimulate the economic, social and infrastructural development of the region and stem the spate of environment degradation arising from oil and gas exploration and exploitation.  However, it is argued that the Bill does not address the core of the Niger Delta agitations which is the participation of the oil-producing states in natural resource development and governance. It is also argued that the principle of vicarious criminal liability of oil-producing communities, local government areas and states for acts of sabotage and vandalism of oil facilities by unknown third parties introduced in the bill is not only punitive and neo-imperialistic but also subversive of the intention of the legislature to provide a new legal framework for addressing the developmental and environmental challenges of the Niger delta region. Arguably, therefore, the Petroleum Industry Bill 2012 does not offer any panacea for the Niger Delta crisis.

Keywords: Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) 2012, Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, oil and gas, vicarious criminal liability of oil-producing communities


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