It is the view that petroleum, a natural resource of value accruing to a people should be a blessing to them, but that presupposes that among other things it does not end up impairing the ability of future generations to live minimum standards of life that recognise the importance of the nexus between people, economy, environment and enterprise (described as the Es). It is a disconnect between Petroleum exploration, production and management on the one hand, and the sustainability of the three Es that has led to the coined expression – “the oil curse”. Therefore the concept of sustainable development emerged as the link between petroleum development activities on one hand and ensuring the ability of present and future generations to meet their socio economic and environmental needs on the other hand.
In the last two dacades, the concept of sustainable development has emerged strongly in national policies and international law in recognition of the fact that human development activities are the major concern of sustainability. Almost every policy document in the developed economies of the world contains sustainable development agenda. Various corporate organisations have also developed some kind of sustainable development strategy. Whether it is a government agenda on sustainable development or corporate strategy on sustainable development, common features are that human development activities are at the centre of sustainability concerns and that actions needs to be taken to ensure development that is sustainable. The Rio Declaration on Environmental and Development rightly noted that in order to achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, states should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.
Upstream oil and gas exploration and production are human development activities that raise major sustainability concerns particularly in the oil producing areas of Nigeria. This book examines the concept of sustainable development in relation to the Nigeria oil and gas industry as it poses considerable sustainability issues. The concept of sustainable development has been defined variously but the often most cited definition is that preferred by the Report of the Brundtland Commission that is: “development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generation is given restricted interpretation as referring to environmental protection alone. This book shows that sustainable development can be understood properly in the real sense of the words – ‘sustainable’ and ‘development’ and that it is much more than environmental protection.
This book therefore examines sustainable development as an umbrella concept that embodies various principles that could be operationalized in the Nigerian petroleum industry. The book highlights the relevance of the various principles to the petroleum industry and shows greater understanding that sustainable development is based on a set of principles that would profoundly
affect national and international governance. The book presents a balanced understanding of sustainable development which is intended to protect and restore the environment without compromising the benefits of traditional development which is centered on economic and social development. In essence, upstream oil and gas development activities in Nigeria can be carried out in a sustainable manner whereby ecological carrying capacity of the environment can be maintained, economic development and social progress are promoted.
The book has eleven chapters, three apprendices and a comprehensive bibliography. It is divided into four interrelated parts. Part 1 examines generally the Nigerian oil and gas starting from the discovery of oil and gas, ownership of oil and gas in Nigeria, participants in the Nigeria oil and gas ownership. Part II analysis the concept and principles of sustainable development with special emphasis on the oil and gas industry. Part III examines the legal framework for sustainable development in the Nigeria oil and gas industry. The major factor in the assessment of the international oil and regime and the domestic oil and gas legal framework is to ascertain the extent to which they embody the various principles of sustainable development as regulatory tools and strategies. It is important to note that international oil and gas regime is not designed to deal with economic, social and environmental issues that arise from upstreams oil and gas development activities in the oil producing areas of Nigeria. Therefore Nigeria through its domestic legal framework has the responsibility of ensuring sustainable oil and gas exploration and production.
Part IV makes assessment of progress towards sustainable development in the Nigerian oil and gas industry and offers recommendations that will promote sustainable development in the industry. The recommendations are based on the following: better regulatory or legal regime that is backed by effective and efficient enforcement mechanisms, cooperation of the oil companies through the use of corporate social responsibility, clean development mechanisms and commitment to sustainable development. The book recommends that the local communities should be law abiding and play participatory roles in this journey towards sustainable oil and gas exploration and production. The input of civil society group is not left out in the recommendation.
The need for the application of the concept of sustainable development in the Nigerian upstream oil and gas industry is therefore predicated on the fact that the concept is all encompassing and seeks to promote better environmental protection, encourage economic development and promote social wellbeing. Positive impact of sustainable oil and gas exploration and production in the Nigerian oil and gas industry will have a positive multiplier effect on the larger national society: be it economic development, social progress or environmental protection.
All of these have brought depth and meaning to this book on petroleum Law and Sustainable Development. The book lays no claim to perfection, and we therefore take full responsibility for errors of omission and commission that may be found herein.
Dr Fabian Ajogwu, SAN
Dr Oscar Nliam
Victoria Island, Lagos
June 1, 2014