PRESS COVERAGE OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION IN THE NIGER DELTA. A CONTENT ANALYSIS OF THE GUARDIAN, VANGUARD, DAILY SUN AND THISDAY NEWSPAPERS
Since man’s activity is done in the environment and the resultant effect is either negative or positive to man, the press as the watchdog of the society is expected to draw attention of all and Daily Sundry to environmental issues around them; one of which is environmental pollution. Hence, the study investigated press coverage of environmental pollution in the Niger Delta region by content analyzing four national newspapers: The Guardian, Vanguard, Daily Sun and Thisday with the view to finding out whether the Nigerian presscover environmental pollution in the Niger Delta, the extent of their coverage, the nature of news coverage given to environmental pollution in the region and forms of environmental pollution prevalent in the region as covered by the four newspapers. This study reveals that little coverage and low interpretation was given to the subject matter. Also, that no story on the subject matter made the front or back pages of the newspapers studied within the 9 months study period. Finally, that the most reported aspect of environmental pollution in the region is oil pollution and related activities. The findings led to the suggestions that media organizations should assign beat reporters to cover environmental issues in the country especially in the Niger Delta region. Also suggested is the introduction of environmental education in the school curriculum from primary to tertiary institutions to inculcate in the masses environmental friendly attitudes. Again, that government should ensure strict compliance to environmental laws in the country.
1.1 Background of Study
One of the greatest problems facing the Niger Delta region in Nigeria is that of environmental pollution which causes great damages to the earth. Environmental pollution takes place when the environment cannot process and neutralize harmful by-products of human activities in due course without any structural or functional damage to its system.
Pollution occurs when the natural environment is unable to decompose the generated elements and on the other hand, when man fail to decompose these pollutants artificially. This has negative impacts on crucial environmental services such as provision of clean water, air and arable land without which life on earth as we know it would be difficult.
Environmental pollution is a problem both in developed and developing countries. Factors such as population growth and urbanization invariably place greater demands on the environment and stretch the use of natural resources to the maximum. Such overuse of natural resources often results in nature‟s degradation.
Human environment is made up of the following aspects: The physical, social, economic, political and technological. The physical environment consists of air, land and water; the social environment consists of the relationships existing among them; the technological environment consists of experiences and practices required for constant adaptation and survival; while the political environment is defined by the degree of authority exercised by some over others.
The environment is said to be polluted when there is substantial alteration in form and function of the components of the physical environment which in turn produces harmful effects on human beings. The key word here is “substantial”, which is used to show that no component of the physical environment can be considered to be polluted until it has been altered in form or function in such a way that it can immediately or potentially harm human being directly or indirectly.
Environmental pollution may cause short term or long term detriment to the earth‟s ecological balance which lowers the quality of life. Pollutants may cause primary damage with direct identifiable impact on the environment or secondary damage in form of minor changes in the delicate balance of the environment that are detectable over a long period. With the increase in waste production, indiscriminate discharge of untreated industrial and domestic wastes into water ways, the spewing of thousands of tones of particulates and airborne gases into the atmosphere, the “throw away” attitude toward solid wastes, and the use of newly developed chemicals without considering the potential consequences have resulted in major environmental disasters which will eventually force governments, groups, organizations and individuals to undertake more effective environmental planning and adopt more effective anti-pollution measures
In Niger Delta, one of the threatening environmental problems prevalent in the area is environmental pollution caused by oil exploration and related activities. As an oil producing region, oil spillage is one of the most outstanding causes of water and land or soil pollution while air pollution is mostly caused by gas flaring and industrial effluents. The direct impact of oil exploration in the region has been felt by everyone living in the area. Some of these issues include ecological degradation, environmental pollution,
associated human rights abuses, high inflation and loss of livelihood. It could only be fair if these groups of people are appropriately compensated.
Niger Delta, according to Ashong and Aniefiok(2007), is of two classifications, namely: physiographic (core) Niger Delta and oil producing Niger Delta. The core Niger Delta includes states like Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ondo and Rivers. The Niger Delta as currently defined by government comprises Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers states with a total of 185 local government areas and a combined population of over 28million persons. Such inclusion of other oil producing states from other geo-political zones Ekpo (2004) sees as a measure of administrative convenience adopted by the government.
The resulting ecological devastation as a result of oil exploration and related activities are enormous. Oil film in water prevents natural aeration killing fish and other aquatic lives, farm lands are lost, drinking water and air are made unsafe for human consumption. The resulting impact on the residents is enormous, yet the amounts of wealth generated from these areas are not reinvested in order to lessen these environmental impacts. This clearly could culminate into environmental racism and discriminatory acts, a systematic denial of rights.
The mangrove forests of the Niger Delta are important ecological resource as they provide essential ecosystem including soil stability, medicines, healthy fisheries, wood for fuel and shelter, tannins and dyes, and critical wildlife habitats. Oil spills contributes to degradation and destruction of the mangrove forests. Endangered species such as Delta elephant, the white monkey, the river hippopotamus, and crocodiles are increasingly threatened by the activities of the oil companies.
During creation, God made the earth a beautiful place for man to inhabit. In the book of Isaiah 45:18, it reads, “for thus said the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited”. Unfortunately, man‟s action and inaction is destroying the mother earth which is meant to sustain life. Hence, there is the need to put structures in place to minimize the risk or negative effects of necessary actions of man on the environment and aid effective information dissemination on environmental friendly attitudes.
It is pertinent to note that nature sustains its inhabitants and the fate of nature depends in human hands. Therefore, mans survival depends on how the mother earth is sustained. This calls for adopting an environmental friendly attitude capable of entrenching a healthy environment able of meeting human needs, as well as support healthy living. Such environmental friendly attitude can be achieved through environmental education and strict adherence to environmental laws and regulations in the country.
Man‟s activities on the environment upon which he exists calls for caution from different organization, convention and institution at local and global levels as intervention measures aimed at checking man inhumanity to nature. Such abuse by man upon the environment is termed environmental degradation or environmental pollution.
The issue of man‟s insensitivity to his environment was considered so important by the United Nation General Assembly that in 1984, it set up a body known as the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) to formulate a global agenda for a positive change in this area. Back home in Africa, the first African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) held in Cairo, Egypt came up with what they
called the Cairo Programme for African Co-operation, which among other things emphasized the need for backing environmental degradation or pollution (Onumonu, 1986)
In Nigeria there exist several regulations aimed at achieving friendly activities in our environment. Some of these laws are:
The Mineral Oil (safety) Regulation of 1967 which asserts that pressure vessels used in oil field and platform installations should not standard speculated by the Department of Petroleum Resources in line with international standard. Also, it requires that noxious or inflammable gases should be discharged safely (Adeyanju 2004).
Oil in Navigable Water Act of 1990: The Act prohibits the discharge of oil into the territorial or navigable inland waters from land or any apparatus used for transferring oil from or to a tanker ship (Adeyanju Supra).
Petroleum (Drilling and production) Regulation of 1969 amended in 1973 which holds that the licensee or leasee shall adopt all practical precautions to prevent the pollution of inland rivers, water course, the territorial water of Nigeria or the seas by oil, mud or other fluids or substances that might cause harm to fresh water or marine life. (Adeyanju, 2004).
Oil Pipeline Act of 1990: This provides for a compensation to be paid by a holder of a license to any person whose land or interest in land is injuriously affected by the exercise of the right conferred by the licence provided such damage or injury is not an account of the sufferers‟ own default or on account of the malicious act of a third party.
Such continued negligence on the environment prompted the setting up of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) charged with global environmental monitoring and regulation. Similarly, in Nigeria, Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA)
was established by decree No. 58 of 1998 to ensure the protection of the environment from the abuse of the oil companies. This led to the setting of similar agencies in the states of the federation. The Agency (FEPA) became a full fledge Ministry- Federal Ministry of Environment in 1999 saddled with the responsibility of protecting Nigerian environment and conserving her resources as well. Other institutions set up by the government include: Department of Petroleum Resources charged with the responsibility of ensuring compliance to various regulations on oil (Adeyanju, 2004).
These bodies are charged with maintaining environmental friendliness through monitoring and coordinating human activities at the international, national and local levels. They are to sensitize and persuade individuals, groups and organizations on dangers of less environmental friendly attitudes and to regulate man‟s activities on the environment as well.
However, the problem still remains how the activities of these bodies, agencies and ministry are reported upon or gets to the publics to achieve the intended results. Thus, the study attempts to find out if Nigerian press do cover environmental pollution in the Niger Delta, analyze the quantity and the nature of coverage or reportage given to environmental pollution in the Niger Delta region of the country from September, 2010 to May, 31 2011 (nine months) using four selected national newspapers and suggest environmental education as a means of reducing environmental pollution in the Niger Delta.
Despite all the efforts of the earlier mentioned bodies and organizations, many industrial outfits disregard the environmental laws to make man pay more of socio-economic price than the monetary price of their products or services. This socio-economic price is what man pays for exhibiting less environmental friendly attitudes. Man must
therefore desist from all activities that tend to change the balance of nature either for profit or development purposes since the bill for every intervention may come decades later and sometimes even to a different address, but environmental damages definitely have to be paid for by someone, somewhere, sometimes.
Continued pollution of the environment in form of air, water or land pose much threats to life. It has become so serious that rain water is no longer fit for human consumption due to the contamination of rain (acid rain) and ground water unsafe equally due to waste disposal and oil spillage. Also, air pollution causes breathing and respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases etc. On the other hand, soil contamination can alter metabolism of micro-organism and arthropods in a given environment which may destroy layers of primary food chain.
Human activities and the environment are inter-related. This is because any activity of man is done in the environment and the resultant effect is either positive or negative to man. The press as the watchdog of the society is expected to draw attention of the public, the government and organizations to environmental problems around them; one of which is environmental pollution. It is against this backdrop that the study seeks to investigate press coverage of environmental pollution in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria using content analytical research method. The study spans from September 1, 2010– May 31 2011.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Years of insensitivity to environmental issues or near complete lack of attention to environmental concerns have turned the Niger Delta into one of the most endangered ecosystems in the country. Various forms of ecological activities go on in the region. Prominent among them is oil exploration. This has led to springing up of industries whose
activities also generate wastes which are not properly managed and result in environmental pollution.
Successful environmental pollution management is dependent on successful enlightenment campaign to educate, sensitize and mobilize the populace in the struggle to ensure a safe and sustainable environment. However, socially responsible media are expected to serve as a tool / means to inform, educate, persuade and provide environmental surveillance, correlate societal responses to the environment, transmit and aid policies for a behavioural change. However, behavioural change communication can be effective through advocacy, beat reporting and embedded approaches that will provide regular, adequate and up-to-date information and opinions on the environment.
Since there is a great link between awareness or knowledge and action, socially responsible media in their reporting can make issues to be seen as important at a given time in a given society by placing emphasis on issues. This could be through frequency of reports, prominence given to report and analysis of issues in their reportage. Thus, the study seeks to content analyze the press coverage given to environmental pollution in the Niger Delta from September 1, 2010– May, 31 2011 using four selected national newspapers.
1.3 Objectives of Study
1. To find out if Nigerian press covers environmental pollution in Niger Delta region.
2. To find out the extent of coverage given to environmental pollution in the Niger Delta region.
3. To find out the nature of news coverage given by the Nigerian press on environmental pollution in Niger Delta.
1.4 Research Questions
The following research questions provide more focus to the study;
1. Does Nigerian press cover environmental pollution in the Niger Delta?
2. What is the extent of coverage given to environmental pollution in the Niger Delta?
3. What is the nature of reportage (straight news, features, editorials and cartoons) given to environmental pollution in the Niger Delta by the Nigerian press?
4. What are the types of environmental pollution prevalent in the Niger Delta?