International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Realizing and Enforcing the Constitutional Right to a Healthy Environment in the Niger-Delta: Lessons from India
Nsikan-Abasi Odong

The right to a healthy environment is a fundamental right that is yet to be realized in the Nigerian legal system. This is because the constitution has not accorded it a full justifiable right status it has accorded other rights. One of the effects of this is that the Niger Delta environment, biodiversity and ecosystem has been degraded and destroyed with no hopes of redress. This is accompanied by the inevitable loss of life and reduction in the quality of lives of the indigenous people of the Niger Delta. The environmental degradation of the Niger Delta area has severely impacted on the fundamental rights of the people. The lives of the people in the region are gravely threatened by the environmental conditions in which they live. Besides the imminent threat to the life itself, conditions of living have derogated from the right to life. The pollution to the atmosphere and resultant diseases, the destruction of the means of livelihood, the depletion of biodiversity, the devastation of ecosystems that support life etc., all derogate from the right to life.Using the Comparative Methodology, this study compares the Nigerian situation with the Indian situation, which has similar constitutional provisions on the environment. The Paper reveals that the Indian environmental legal system has been able to overcome the constitutional constraint through creative “harmonious construction” by the courts of the right to a healthy environment, alongside the constitutionally guaranteed, and enforceable fundamental rights provisions in the Indian Constitution. The paper, therefore, advocates for creative recognition and enforcement of the right to a healthy environment by Nigerian Courts using the Indian template, by creatively interpreting it into, or as auxiliary to other rights and by public interest litigations to challenge the government and oil companies for their actions and policies that have negative environmental impacts. This way, an environmental law regime will be developed that recognizes and enforces the right to a healthy environment and strengthens the chances of the Niger Delta environment and ecosystem, and the constitution may even be subsequently modeled after the system as developed.

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