“Green” or “Red”? Reframing the Environmental Discourse in Nigeria

Akin Iwilade

Abstract


This paper investigates the role of environmental social movements and NGOs in the struggle for democracy in Nigeria. In particular, it examines how environmental issues, specifically in the oil-rich Niger Delta, have come to symbolise the Niger Delta communities’ craving for greater inclusion in the political process. The paper argues that because of linkages to the nature of economic production, environmental crises have been particularly useful in driving the democracy discourse in Nigeria. By linking environmental crisis to democratisation and the interactions of power within the Nigerian federation, NGOs and social movements have been able to gain support for environmental causes. This may, however, have dire implications for the environmental movement in Nigeria. Because ownership, not necessarily sustainability, is the central theme of such discourse on resource extraction, social movements may not be framing the environmental discourse in a way that highlights its unique relevance. The paper concludes by making a case for alternative methods of framing the environmental discourse in a developing-world context like that of Nigeria.

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