The implication of oil pollution for the enjoyment of sexual and reproductive rights of women in Niger Delta area of Nigeria
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Oil is a major source of income for Nigeria and it is the mainstay of the country’s economy. Nigeria’s intensive oil sector accounts for nearly 40% of its gross domestic product, but declined steadily to an average of 14.71% of the country’s total export between 2006 and 20111; and contributed about 80% of budgetary revenues that all tiers of government heavily depend on.2 Oil spills and gas flaring are some of the effects of the unregulated exploratory activities of the oil multinational companies that have contributed immensely to the physical and mental illness of the local inhabitants of the Niger Delta region and violated most of their rights as guaranteed under international and regional human rights instruments and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) 1999. In view of the growing threats to human health and the environment (posed by human activities), the international community has agreed to a number of treaties to respond to the health and human rights challenges posed by environmental degradation. Although Nigeria is a party to most of these instruments,3 it has done little or nothing to regulate the conduct of the oil companies that negatively impact on the health of the Niger Delta people. While the impact of oil extraction affects both men and women, the article focuses on its implications for women’s reproductive well-being. This is because women are a disadvantaged and marginalised group and have continued to experience discriminatory practices in many parts of the country, including the Niger Delta area. The article discusses the health challenges associated with oil exploitation in the Niger Delta, paying attention to the position of women. It then proffers suggestions on measures and steps that could be taken by the Nigerian government and other stakeholders in ensuring the adequate protection of the health rights of local inhabitants.