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The Essentials of Sustainable Development of Urhoboland in Nigeria

By Dr. Emmanuel Ojameruaye1, being a paper presented at the 11th Annual Convention of the Urhobo National Association of North America (UNANA) at Newark International Airport Marriot Hotel, New Jersey, USA, on Saturday, September 4, 2004.


Over the past fifty years, there have been significant changes in Urhoboland leading to a gradual but alarming deterioration in both the environment and the economy of the area. Unless appropriate remedial actions are taken now, the future appears gloomy and our children may not be able to enjoy the same quality of life like us and our forebears. This paper examines the environment and economy of Urhoboland and presents some of the essential actions that are needed now in order to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable Development

There are currently over sixty definitions of sustainable development (SD) (or sustainability) but the standard (and original) definition is that of the Brundland Commission (1987) which defined SD as:

development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

In other words, SD is about satisfying the needs of the present generation without compromising or diminishing the ability of future generations to satisfy their own needs. By causing irreparable damage to the natural environment or depleting available natural resources, we limit the access of future generations to these resources and thereby compromise their ability to meet their own needs. Thus, SD is the interplay of the economy and environment (ecology) and how to manage both to ensure inter-generational equity.

Before the early 1980s, mankind pursued the quest for economic growth without minimizing its impact on the environment and acknowledging the right and ability of future generations to meet their own needs from the finite resources of the environment. The Brandt Commission (established by the United Nations in 1977 under the Chairmanship of Mr. Willy Brandt, former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany) was the first major independent global panel to examine the connection between the environment and international development. The first report of the Commission, titled “North-South”, noted for the first time that:

important harm to the environment and depletion of scarce natural resources is occurring in every nation of the world, damaging soil, sea, and air. The biosphere is our common heritage and must be preserved by cooperation, otherwise life itself could be threatened

In 1987, the Brundland Report (Our Common Future, by the World Commission on Environment and Development) took a close look at the interplay between economic development and the environment and came up with the concept of sustainable development with the definition cited above. In 1992, the first Earth Summit (Rio Summit or the UN Conference on Environment and Development) took place in Brazil . The Summit took the Brandt proposals and the Brundland Report a step further, placing the model of “sustainability” at the center of all global planning for development. In 2002, the Second Earth Summit (The World Summit on Sustainability Development, WSSD or the Johannesburg Summit) took place in South Africa to review the progress made since the Rio Summit and to progress the SD agenda. One of the key recommendations of the conference was for each country to prepare its plan of action for sustainable development (i.e. its National Sustainable Development Plan-NSDP).

Today, there are very many organizations interested in SD and the UN has established various agencies to look at various aspects of SD. Thus the body of literature on SD is now overwhelming. Economists and environmentalists continue to put heads together to find out how to use natural resources and modify our life styles in order to achieve sustainability. The environmental factor has added a new dimension to the pursuit of economic growth and development. The promise of intergenerational equity in the use of natural resources, based on the principles of sustainability and combination of economic and environmental reforms has been one of the hallmarks of international development during the past two decades.

3. The Environment and Economy of Urhoboland

3.1 Location, Size & Physical Features

The Urhobo people live in the western part of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The Urhobo homeland (Urhoboland) is bounded by latitudes 5° 15' N and 6° N and longitudes 5° 40' E and 6° 25' E with an area of about 5,000 square kilometers2 With an estimated population of 1.12 million in 1991 (about 1.5 in 2002)3 the Urhobo people rank as one of Nigeria’s 10 largest ethnic nationalities, constituting about 55% of the population of Delta State. Much of Urhoboland is flat land under 50 meters above sea level. There are many rivers including the Ethiope, Warri and Kiagbodo rivers which drain into the Atlantic Ocean.

3.2 Vegetation

The natural vegetation is rain forest with swamp forest in some areas. The forests are rich in timber trees, rubber tree, palm trees as fruit trees. Unfortunately much of the rain forest has been destroyed as a result of farming (especially shifting cultivation), preponderance of rubber plantations and commercial lumbering. Much of the countryside is now dominated by secondary re-growth vegetation of palm trees, rubber trees, and patches of swamp forest along rivers. However, the is still a fairly large area of swamp forest vegetation especially in Okpe forest reserve, south of Sapele, and in the lower sections of the Jamieson and Ethiope rivers. In the swamp forest, raffia palms are the dominant trees.

3.3 Soil

The soils in most areas of Urhoboland are heavily weathered, nutrient-deficient, loose and poorly aggregated due to low levels of clay and organic matter and heavy rainfall. There are a few patches of clayey soil which provide valuable raw material for the pottery industry.

3.4 Occupations

The occupations in Urhoboland include farming, fishing, trading, lumbering and manufacturing.

3.4.1 Farming

Farming is the major occupation in the rural areas. The main food crops include cassava, white guinea yam, water yam, plantains, bananas, maize, cocoyam and groundnuts. These crops are usually inter-cropped with three or more crops grown on the same field. The main farming system is shifting cultivation (also known as rotational bush fallowing) but permanent or continuous cultivation is increasingly being practiced in some areas, especially in the outskirts of the towns. In the past, the fallow period was about 5 years but it has been reduced to about 3 years during the past two decades as result of rapid increase in population and the increasing pressure on available land. The shortening of the fallow period has resulted in a general decline in soil fertility. Consequently, yams which were widely cultivated in the past have been largely replaced by cassava which is more tolerant of less fertile soils. Plantains, paw-paw, guava, mango, avocado pear, oranges, coconuts, pineapples are usually cultivated perennially in home gardens. Occasionally yams are also planted at the back of homes. There has however been a decline in home gardening in past two decades due to rapid population growth and the increasing conversion of agricultural land to residential use.

The main cash crops are rubber and oil palm. Attempts to cultivate cocoa in the past proved unsuccessful because the soils are unsuitable for the crop. On average, about 50% of the arable land is under rubber production. Plots of rubber trees stretch almost uninterrupted along both sides of roads, giving the impression of plantation. There are a few commercial rubber plantations near Sapele. Most of the rubber trees were planted between 1950 and 1965. The size of the rubber plots of individual farmers are relatively small (5-10 hectares) but they are contiguous, giving the impression of continuous plantations. The rubber trees are tapped daily and the latex processed into rubber sheets or lumps. In the past, most of the rubber produced was exported but they are now used locally to produce shoes, tyres and mattresses by local factories. Most of the rubber trees have become old and latex yield has declined considerably due the age of trees, declining soil fertility and bad tapping techniques.

Oil palm trees are also ubiquitous throughout Urhoboland but most oil palm groves have become old and unproductive. The oil palm is a source of vegetable oil and the fibres and hard shells of the oil palm fruits are used as fuel for cooking and heating, and the fronds for making brooms and baskets. The tree is also tapped for wine. The bulk of palm oil produced comes from wild palms in peasant holdings using manual (old-fashioned) methods. In recent years some farmers have established some oil palm plantations. There are also a number of oil processing factories and mills. However, palm oil and kernel production has declined significantly with Nigeria moving from the position of the world's leading exporter of palm oil and kernels in the 1950s and early 1960s to a net importer of vegetable oil since the 1980s. The Federal Government has however taken some measures in recent years to revitalize the palm oil industry in some states (Abia, Akwa Ibom and Cross River) but Urhoboland has been left out. Some farmers produce palm wine from Raffia palms and oil palm trees. The palm wine is either consumed while fresh or distilled to produce a local gin known as "agbakara" or “ogogoro” (or “illicit gin” by the colonialists who tried to prohibit its production to prevent it from competing with imported gin from Europe).

Many fruits grow wild or are cultivated including oranges, mangoes, guava and pineapples. Some of these fruits can be commercially processed for juice or canned. Thus plantations of these fruit trees can be established as well as agro-based industries to process the fruits.

3.4.2 Livestock

Livestock farming is very limited due to the absence of extensive grazing fields in Urhoboland. In the villages, however, people keep a few goats, sheep, pigs and poultry to complement crop farming. A few poultry are kept in rural areas as sources of meat. Commercial poultry production is growing in the outskirts of large towns such as Warri, Ughelli and Sapele.

3.4.3 Fishing

In the past, fishing was an important occupation along the rivers and streams. The catch consists mainly of tilapia and catfish. However, there has been a significant decline in fishing activities as a result of increasing pollution of streams and rivers and the importation of cheap fish (frozen or iced fish).

3.4.4 Lumbering

Lumbering used to be an important activity but there has been a decline during the past 30 years due depletion of the extensive forests by excessive and uncontrolled lumbering and failure to plant replacement trees as well as excessive use of fuelwood. However, there are still many sawmills in Sapele and Warri. A few decades ago, the African Timber and Plywood (AT&P) company in Sapele was one of the largest factories of its kind in West Africa. Today, the factory has closed down and the lumbering industry is dying gradually.

3.4.5 Commerce

The major cities (Warri, Sapele and Ughelli) are the main centers wholesale and retail trade but they cannot compete with towns like Onitsha, Aba, Kano, Benin City, etc. In fact, traders from Urhoboland travel to Onitsha and Lagos to buy their wares. Before the early 1980s, Warri and Sapele were major coastal ports in Nigeria but the Sapele port has since been closed down (and replaced by a Naval Base) while the Warri port is now a shadow of its former glory. Very few ships berth in Warri port these days due to the decline in economic activities in Urhobo hinterland and neighboring areas as well as communal conflicts, insecurity and activities of pirates/illegal oil “bunkerers” along the waterways. If the ports in Warri and Sapele were functioning well, these two towns would have been commercial centers serving the whole of Delta State and many of the neighboring states (Edo, Anambra, Enugu, Kogi, Niger, etc).

The smaller towns and villages have markets that hold periodically rather than on a daily basis. When it is a "market day" in a particular village, itinerant traders travel from nearby villages to sell their wares. Farmers also transport their crops to the rural periodic markets for sale.

3.4.6 Mining

The main mineral resources are crude oil and gas. Oil was discovered in Urhoboland in the early 1960s and exploration is still taking place in parts of the area. There are numerous oil fields in Urhoboland (e.g. at Ughelli, Kokori, Sapele, Udu ). During and immediately after the civil war, Ughelli was a major operational base of Shell before it was relocated to Warri. Today, Shell still has a significant presence in Ughelli where it’s UQCC is located. Shell also has its Gas Plant at Utorogun and several flowstations in Urhoboland. The First Urhobo Economic Summit which took place on the 27th and 28th of November 1998 at the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun reported at least 64 million barrels of crude oil is produced annually in Urhoboland, representing about 10% of the total national production.4 The Summit also noted that:

at an average price of $14 per barrel, the oil produced from Urhobo land fetches approximately $900 million annually or N76.5 billion, at the autonomous exchange rate of N85 per dollar, for the Joint Venture partners. The total value of oil produced in Urhobo land to date amounts to over $25.7 billion or N2,185 billion with little or nothing to show for it

Crude oil exploration has had both positive and negative effects on the people and economy of Urhoboland. Occasional oil spills have resulted in destruction of farmland, rubber plantations and aquatic life. While some of these spills are due to corrosion and technical problems, a large number are due to sabotage – deliberate cutting of oil pipelines to either generate spills (for compensation demand purposes) or to steal crude oil. Sometimes, spills occur when thieves remove oil facilities such as pumps and “christmas trees” to sell in the black market. Some of these spills have resulted in fires and have caused extensive damage (e.g. at Ekakpamre and Jesse). Continuous gas flaring at some oil production facilities tend to destroy nearby vegetation and scare away wildlife. However, the oil companies have made significant contribution to the development of Urhoboland through their community development programs and the employment opportunities they provide or generate for the people.

There are deposits of clay in parts of Urhoboland which local people use for pottery production. There are also deposits of silica, especially near Ughelli where two glass factories have been established to utilize the silica to produce bottles, tumblers and other glass materials.

3.4.7 Tourism

The tourism industry is very weak. There are only a few tourist attractions and recreation facilities but there exist potentials for the growth of tourism. A small tourist industry is developing along the Ethiope River at Abraka where which is good for swimming and other water-based recreational activities. River-based tourism can also be developed around Ughoton, Amukpe and elsewhere. A modern gold course and recreational facility has been developed near Abraka (The Turf Club). Some good hotels have been established in Effurun. With proper management and improvement in facilities, the PTI Conference Center can host major local and international conferences. The Ibru Center at Agbraho can also host small conferences. The airport at Osubi has made transportation by air to Urhoboland easy but the airport needs to be upgraded to take larger aircrafts and thus reduce the cost of flying to Urhoboland. However, most people, including the rich, still do not appreciate tourism and recreation.

3.4.8 Industry

The few industries in Urhoboland are located mainly in or near the cities. With a population of 218,000 in 1991, Warri 5 is important for boat building, oil refining and petro-chemical industry. The development of Warri is however hampered by conflicts between the three main ethnic nationalities (Urhobo, Itsekiri and Ijaw) that claim ownership of the city. Many oil companies have relocated from Warri as a result of frequent violent ethnic clashes. The Delta Steel Company located at Ovwia- Aladja at the outskirts of Warri has been moribund for over 10 years and is now up for sale.

Sapele is the second important industrial town in Urhoboland with a population of 110,000 in 1991. It was noted for the AT&P company and rubber-processing factories. Most of these factories have closed down but there are still many small and medium and small-scale industries/enterprises (SME) located in the town. The Sapele Thermal (Gas and Steam) Plant was commissioned by NEPA in 1980 and upgraded in 1985 and currently has a total installed capacity of 1,020MW.

Ughelli is the third industrial town in Urhoboland with a population of 54,000 in 1991.There are also many SMEs in Ughelli. The Sparking Brewery and Olo Drinks located in Warri have shut down. There is an Asphalt Plant at Agbarha-Otor, near Ughelli. There two glass factories near Ughelli but only one (Beta Glass Co. Ltd) is operational. The Delta Power Plant (I, II and III) near Ughelli was built by NEPA in the early 1970s, In 1991, the Delta Power IV Thermal Plant was commissioned. Today, the total generating capacity of the Delta Power plant is 600MW.

As at 1998, the Sapele and Ughelli power plants had a total installed capacity of 1,620MW representing about 27% of NEPA’s total installed capacity of about 5,958MW. However, due to technical problems, the average daily power generation of both plant for the week June 6 to June 12, 2004 was 518.7MW representing 21.8% of NEPA’s average (2,379.38MW) for the period. Thus Urhoboland with only about 1.6% of Nigeria ’s population accounts for more than 20% of Nigeria ’s electricity production. Yet, darkness still envelopes many parts of Urhoboland. Power supply to Sapele and Ughelli, like elsewhere, is still erratic. In fact, the area does not enjoy any preferential treatment in terms of power supply.

4. Impact of Economic Activities on the Environment and Quality of Life

4.1 Reduction in Soil Fertility

There has been a significant reduction in soil fertility due to the dominance of rubber trees (which has destabilized the natural rain forest ecosystem and the efficient cycling of soil nutrients), the reduction in the fallow period under the shifting cultivation system (from about 5 to 3 years), and the neglect of the cultivation of leguminous crops, especially cowpea and groundnuts. To restore the fertility of the soil will require generous application of fertilizers. However, it is unlikely that farmers will be able to afford to apply the required quantities of fertilizers in the near future because of the high cost of imported fertilizers and the difficulty of obtaining locally produced fertilizers.

4.2 Loss of bio-diversity

There has also been a significant loss of biodiversity due to frequent burning of vegetation through shifting cultivation. Many useful trees that were common in three or more decades ago are now becoming rare or extinct. There has been a gradual deforestation of Urhoboland resulting in loss of plant species and wildlife. Animals such as elephant, lion, chimpanzee, leopard and hippopotamus have almost become extinct in Urhoboland. Even rabbits, antelopes, grass-cutters and monkeys are becoming rare.

4.3 Erosion

The preponderance of rubber trees has also increased the rate of erosion. In addition, cultivation of field crops such as cassava and maize contribute substantially to erosion because they do not provide adequate protection for the soil, unlike the native rain forest. Also, frequent flooding adversely affect crops such as cassava and guinea yam which have to be harvested before maturation. Flooding during the rainy season is also hindering the use of the savanna patches for sheep and cattle grazing.

4.4 Migration

The decline in agricultural productivity has increased the rate of rural-urban migration resulting in shortage of farm labor and accelerated decline in food and cash crops production. There has also been an increase in migration from Urhoboland to greener pastures in Lagos, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and overseas. Today, there are perhaps more Urhobo professionals and Urhobo-owned large-scale businesses in the Diaspora than at home. Many young, talented and enterprising youths continue to migrate from Urhoboland.

4.5 Pollution

Over the past three decades, there has been a significant increase in the level of pollution in Urhoboland, especially in the urban areas and oil producing communities. In the urban areas, the absence a urban sewer systems and waste management/disposal systems means that each home or compound has to have its own “soak-away” pit and make its own arrangement to dispose of its refuse, usually at dumpsites or along the streets or outskirts of the towns. In some cases, the refuse is incinerated. Due to the non-existence or unreliability of public water supply, most people now install their private boreholes or wells. In the rural areas, people get water from well, rivers or streams and in some cases, boreholes. The practice of burying people at homes (rather than in cemeteries) is may compound the problem of ground water pollution in the immediate future if it has not started already. There has also been a significant increase in air pollution resulting from old and rickety automobiles and motor-cycles, use of generators (due to unreliable public power supply). The refinery and petrochemical plant in Warri is causing significant air pollution around the plant just as oil spills and gas flares in oil producing areas have increased air and water pollution.

4.6 Quality of Life

Although there are no statistics on the quality of life in Urhoboland, 6 there are strong indications that the quality of life has deteriorated over the past three decades despite the opulence of a few. Using the poverty data on Delta state as a proxy for Urhoboland, one can infer that about 46% of the people live below Nigeria ’s poverty line. Unemployment, especially among the youths, is very high while the educational and health institutions as well infrastructure remains in an appalling state.

4.7 Security

The poor environment and economy have worsened the security situation in Urhoboland. The rate of crime and armed robbery has increased as well as gangsterism and extortion of property developers by youth groups under the guise of “development levies”. Recently, banks in Ughelli and Sapele have been attacked by armed robbers killing several people.

It is clear from the above review that both the environment and economy of Urhoboland are currently in a deplorable state. If appropriate remedial actions are not taken now, the prospects appear bleak and the quality of life of our people will continue to deteriorate in the years ahead. This will accelerate the exodus of enterprising Urhobos to greener pastures and increase crime and restiveness at home. In other words, the prospect for sustainable development in Urhoboland land is bleak unless appropriate corrective actions are taken NOW.

5.0 Essentials of Sustainable Development of Urhoboland

5.1 Establishment of a Pan-Urhobo “Quasi Government” (PUG)

It will be difficult to solve most of the problems of highlighted above under the current political arrangement. The establishment of an Urhobo state 7 with committed and accountable leadership is thus a critical success factor in addressing the problems of sustainable development in Urhoboland. Since this is not likely to happen soon, we need an arrangement that will galvanize some elected Urhobo representatives and the organized private sector to form a body that will act as an all-Urhobo “quasi government” to direct and guide actions that will ensure sustainable development in Urhoboland. Members of this body should include the Senator representing Urhoboland (i.e. Delta central senatorial district, as chairman), elected Urhobo members of the House of Representatives, State House of Assembly, the Chairmen of all Urhobo LGAs, Urhobo Ministers and Commissioners, the President-General of UPU and about five other very important persons from the private sector and academia. The body should meet at least once a quarter to review developments in Urhoboland and take necessary decisions and actions that will ensure sustainable development in Urhoboland. The body should be apolitical. It should set up committees to handle specific projects and tasks. Any Urhobo person with requisite competencies can be appointed to serve in any of the committees. Action Party: UPU or The Senator Timing: ASAP but not later than March 2005.

5.2 Preparation of a Sustainable Development Plan (SDP) for Urhoboland

Soon after its formation, the PUG should appoint a Committee of experts to prepare an actionable long-range SDP for Urhoboland. The plan should draw on available plan documents such as the NDDC’s master plan. It should clearly identify the resources and action parties for implementing the various programs/activities in the plan. Among other things, the plan should address the items listed below. Action: PUG/SDP Committee Timing: ASAP, before October 2005.

5.3 Restoration of Soil Fertility

This is a necessary condition for improvement of agricultural production. Aweto (2002) has suggested the integration Urhobo traditional agriculture with agro-forestry as one of the ways of achieving this. Secondly, farmers should be encouraged cultivate leguminous crops (e.g. cowpea and groundnuts) as cover crops to reduce soil erosion and to replenish soil nitrogen.

5.4 Replacement of Rubber Trees

Aweto (2000) has also suggested the replacement of the vast unproductive rubber tree plantation with plantations of indigenous trees that will provide raw materials for fruit drinks industry and enhance bio-diversity and make nutrient cycling more efficient. Given the amount of resources required for this and fact that the rubber plantations are owned by poor farmers, there is need for government support in cutting down the rubber trees. A few productive rubber plantations should however be left or be replanted.

5.5 Rejuvenation of the timber industry through re-planting of trees and halting indiscriminate lumbering and promoting alternatives to the use of fuelwood.

5.6 Rejuvenation of production of major cash and food crops including rubber, palm produce, cassava, plantain and banana. Consider the setting up of commodity boards to support this process.

5.7 Establishment of agro-based export industries such as cassava-processing and starch manufacturing factories, palm-oil and cake industry and fruit drinks/beverages industry.

5.8 Formation of a joint Urhobo Investment Corporation by all the Urhobo local government councils to manage pan-Urhobo investments, similar to the Odua and Arewa/Northern investment entities.

5.9 Setting up Urhobo Chambers of Agriculture, Commerce and industry (UCACI)

5.10 Initiating a system of systematic data collection and analysis of the economic condition and resources in Urhoboland.

5.11 Reactivation of the moribund industries in Urhoboland, e.g. ATP Sapele, the breweries, the glass factory, rubber processing plants, salt factory at Ogharefe, the Delta Steel Company at Ovwian-Aladja.

5.12 Setting up export processing zones in Sapele and Warri.

5.13 Setting up of industrial estates, self-sustaining business development centers, business incubators skills acquisition centers in major towns.

5.14 Transformation of Sapele, Warri, Ughelli and Abraka/Eku to major commercial centres.

5.15 Promotion of small and medium-scale industries as well as micro-finance institutions.

5.16 Encouraging investment at home by Urhobos living in the Diaspora.

5.17 Ensuring security and peace, e.g. through community policing to weed out armed robbers, and establishment of peace and conflict resolution committees.

5.18 Ensuring easy and cheap access to land for property development, agriculture and industry. E.g. by halting disruptive/extortionist youth activities under the guise of “development levies”.

5.19 Improving transportation: Develop an integrated transportation plan and do the following:

5.20 Expand/upgrade the Osubi airport (built by Shell Nigeria) from the status of an “airstrip” to a full-fledged domestic airport and ultimately to an international airport like that of Port Harcourt. This will make it possible for larger aircrafts (including cargo planes) to use the airport and thus reduce the high cost of flying to Osubi. It will also enhance tourism, commerce and industry.

5.21 Upgrade and continuously maintain the road network in Urhoboland. The Benin-Warri dual-carriage road (expressway) should be completed as soon as possible. It is a shame that after over 15 years since work started on this road, the Urhobo portion of the road seems to have been abandoned. The Warri-Port Harcourt Road as well as Ughelli-Asaba Road and Effurun-Agbor and Sapele-Eku Roads should also be expanded and dualized. There is also an urgent need to ensure security and safety along these roads.

5.22 Restore the inland water-ways. Dredge and restore the network of inland waterways in Urhoboland to enhance water transportation and natural drainage and deal wiith the menace of water hyacinth.

5.23 Restore Sapele Port and relocate the Naval Base, NNS Umolokun. Also establish smaller ports or large jetties at Oghara, Eku, Abraka and along the major rivers.

5.24 Extend the Ajaokuta-Aladja railway line (at least the part of it in Urhoboland land or Delta State) to several towns (e.g. Sapele, Oghara, Warri Port, Ughelli) for passenger and commercial traffic. 8 Alternatively, new railway lines can be constructed. This will be very expensive, but we can start the planning now and it can be done over a long period of time. According to the Chinese adage, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.

5.25 Environmental Management

Halt illegal tapping of crude oil and petroleum products, sabotage of oil production facilities including deliberate rupturing of pipeline. Community policing will assist with this.

Stop or minimize gas flaring at oil flowstations and at the Warri Petrochemical Plant at Ekpan.

Control automobile emissions/pollution, especially by motor cycles and rickety taxis and minivans/buses by imposing a ban or heavy fines on polluters. Either the state or local governments should set up Emission Inspection Services as part of the Environmental Quality Management System. Any vehicle that is more than 5 years old must pass the equipment and emission tests (engine off/cranking, engine running tests, smoking test) as a condition for annual renewal of vehicle license. This service may be costly initially but it can be self-financing from the service charges and will also provide employment in addition to ensuring that only environmentally-complaint vehicles are registered to ply our roads. The major problem will be with enforcement and corruption by officials.

Town Planning: This should be enforced in all major towns.

21. Population and Environment

Urhoboland is among the most densely populated areas of Nigeria and this has created significant pressure on resources and the environment, including arable land. Thus land is increasing becoming a scare resource (hence costly). The high population growth rate and high fertility rates also translates into high dependency ratio (number of dependants per working adult) thus putting pressure on the economically active population, reducing savings and investment, and longevity. Therefore the appropriate authorities and non-governmental organizations must promote awareness of the dangers of rapid population growth and implement programs to curb population growth.


In this paper, I have examined some of the problems of sustainable development in Urhoboland. Despite the non-availability of required data, a cursory examination of the past and present condition of the economy and environment of Urhoboland clearly indicates that the area has since strayed way from the path of sustainable development. Thus if the current trend continues, the future generations (both immediate and distant) in Urhoboland are very likely to have a worse economy and worse environment, and hence a reduced ability to meet their needs and hence again, worse conditions of living than the already poor conditions of the past and current generation.. Thus, the current generation owes it as a sacred duty to bequeath a better environment and economy for the future generations in Urhoboland. We have no other land we can call our own even if we decide to remain in the Diaspora. Now therefore is the time to act. In this paper, I have also set out some of the essential actions that should be taken now in the immediate future in order to put Urhoboland on the path of sustainable development.


  1. Aweto, A.O. (2000): Agriculture in Urhoboland. In www.waado.org
  2. Aweto, A.O. (2000): Outline Geography of Urhoboland. In www.waado.org
  3. Darah, G. G. (2004): Urhobo and the Mowoe Legacy. The Guardian, August 11, 2004.
  4. Delta State Ministry of Commerce and Industry (undated): Land of Abundant Investment Opportunities.
  5. Pinstrup-Andersen, P and Pandya-Lorch, R, ed (2001): The Unfinished Agenda – Perspectives on Overcoming Hunger, Poverty and Environmental Degradation. International Food Policy Research Institute.
  6. The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (2000): Information Brochure - Agricultural Projects and Extension Service.
  7. The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria. Annual Reports (Various Issues)
  8. The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria. Stakeholders Workshop Reports (Various Issues).


  • 1 Dr. Emmanuel Ojameruaye, an Economist, is on loan from Shell International with the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help, an NGO based in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • 2 See Aweto (2000)
  • 3 In a recent article in the Vanguard of June 07, 2004, Prof. B. Ekuerhare stated that the population of Urhobos is 2.5million.
  • 4 In 1998, Nigeria ’s total production of crude oil was 776million. Thus the 64million reportedly produced in Urhoboland represented 8% of national production, and not 10% as reported by the Summit. Oil production in Urhoboland is likely to decline in future due the ageing of the oil fields, community “disturbances” and increase in offshore oil exploration and production by oil companies.
  • 5 The author acknowledges that the ownership of Warri is still in dispute. A significant number of industries are located in the Urhobo areas of Warri metropolis as well as in Effurun and Ovwian and Aladja.
  • 6 It is only recently that the DSG launched a household survey to measure poverty and track progress towards the millenium development goals (MDG).
  • 7 In a recent article in the Guardian of August 11, 2004, Dr. G.G. Darah noted that the “ultimate trajectory of Urhobo nationalism is to attain the status of an all-Urhobo state in Nigeria…
  • 8 The construction of the Ajaokuta-Aladja railway has shown that it is possible for the Nigerian government to expand the railway network in the country for both commercial and passenger traffic. Already the Odua Group is considering building an Ibadan-Lagos railway line.


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