Key issues facing the Niger Delta Today

Conflict, security, and stability

Instability and insecurity in the Niger Delta result from a lack of development, but also obstruct development progressing. For example, companies may be put off investing assets in the region if they fear losing them. Competition for resource and political control, particularly over the revenue and related benefits which can be derived from the of the oil and gas industry, contributes to conflict. Government attempts to resolve conflict often include an overly militarised approach to policing that tends to provoke tensions and do little to reduce the high levels of cult, militancy, gang, and communal violence in the Niger Delta.

SDN’s work aims to persuade the Federal Government and oil companies to:

  • reduce their reliance on short-term solutions and political settlements (including militarised approaches).
  • increase long-term social and development interventions to tackle security and development challenges in the Niger Delta.
  • address the underlying causes of conflict.

SDN also seeks to increase dialogue, and the potential for mediation, between groups involved in conflict. See SDN’s reports on what people living in the Niger Delta consider to be the biggest security threats.


When we talk about governance, we mean how decisions are made and implemented, and how those responsible can be held accountable. Weak political and institutional governance in the Niger Delta has led to the misuse of public resources, poor service delivery, and the poor enforcement, of the law. This has led to a breakdown in trust between citizens and the government. Political power is commonly gained through patronage and violence, largely funded by the embezzlement of revenues from the oil sector. Most aspects of politics are almost completely dominated by men, a trend continued in the 2019 Nigerian elections with women securing just 6% of positions voted on.

SDN’s aims to build closer relationships between citizens and their political leaders, and improve the ability of civil society organisations to scrutinise and publicly hold leaders to account. We work to ensure:

  • information on government and the oil and gas industry is available and accessible to the public, and to support use of this to hold government and the oil industry to account.
  • to promote free, fair and credible elections.

to advocate for a government that listens to, and works with, people living in the Niger Delta to meet their needs—especially currently excluded social groups.

106 men elected. only 8 women

Economic diversification

Pollution from oil spills has damaged many traditional agricultural and fishing livelihoods whilst a lack of development – due to over dependence on the oil and gas industry and mismanagement of public funds – has provided few alternative options to secure livelihoods. The lack of economic opportunities is a cause of financial poverty in the Niger Delta, and has pushed people, particularly young men, to become involved in illegal, and often violent, activities to create livelihoods to support themselves or their families. These activities can weaken security and stability, undermining what legitimate economic activity that exists, and discouraging private investment, creating a spiral leading to an unemployment rate that regularly exceeds 35%.

A lack of infrastructure (including a lack of access to energy) to support a more diverse range of livelihoods, multiple taxation systems, and general instability also discourages private investment and makes for a poor business environment.

SDN’s work aims to create a more diverse economy in the Niger Delta, and focuses on:

SDN also supports those involved in illicit and precarious livelihoods to find routes to safe, viable, and dignified employment in the digital economy, farming, and livelihoods that promote environmental sustainability, protection and recovery.


Oil spills and gas flaring are major sources of environmental damage and habitat loss in the Niger Delta, affecting local populations dependent on agriculture and fishing for their livelihoods. The erosion of these traditional livelihoods reduces the ability for people to recover from economic and environmental shocks, such as flooding. Pollution of air and water sources also damages the health of communities living nearby affected areas and recent research estimates that children are twice as likely to die in their first month of life if their mother lived near an oil spill before conception. This pollution is a result of poor operational standards from oil and gas companies, poor regulation and enforcement by government, pipeline sabotage, and crude oil theft.

SDN’s work in this area aims to ensure:

  • the legal and regulatory provisions are in line with international standards and are effectively implemented to prevent and manage pollution from oil spills and gas flaring.
  • that government has the capacity to respond to environmental damage from oil spills.
  • the implementation of pollution clean-up activities.
  • that all citizens can benefit from environmental resources, particularly access to clean energy.

Published: 29.01.2020