The Niger Delta Agitation for Resource Control: Making Sense of Common Law Private Property Ownership Principles in the Management and Control of Oil Resources in Nigeria

Hemen Philip Faga, Rita Abhavan Ngwoke


The agitation for resource control in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region has frequently snowballed into violence and militancy. Although the demand for resource control borders on the transfer of ownership and management and control of the processes of exploitation of crude oil found abundantly in the region, the exact parametres of the demand are not defined by the agitators. This paper examined the various variants of resource control demanded by the different groups of agitators in the Niger Delta. It particularly argued that the common law private property ownership principles of Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos, and Quic quid plantatur solo, solo cedit be adopted to transfer ownership of natural resources, including crude oil to the indigenous inhabitants of the oil rich Niger Delta region in line with the principles of true federalism. The paper recommended the restructure of the Nigerian federal system to devolve more powers to the states and repeal of certain existing laws that inhibit the rights of the people to own land and natural resources beneath those lands, which belong to them, their ancestors and children yet unborn.


resource control; private property; ownership; common law; oil; Niger Delta

Full Text:




Abdulkarim I., Trust Law and the Administration of Real Property in Nigeria, “International Journal of Advanced Legal Studies and Governance” 2011, vol. 2(1).

Ajiboye O., Jawando J., Adisa W., Poverty, oil exploration and Niger Delta crisis: The response of the youth, “African Journal of Political Science and International Relations” 2009, vol. 3(5).

Ako A., The Struggle for Resource Control and Violence in the Niger Delta, [in:] Oil and Insurgency in the Niger Delta: Managing the Complex Politics of Petro-Violence, eds. C. Obi, S. Rustad, London 2011.

Ako R.T., Nigeria’s Land Use Act: An Anti-Thesis to Environmental Justice, “Journal of African Law” 2009, vol. 53(2).

Ako R.T., Omiunu O., Amnesty in the Niger Delta: Vertical Movement Towards Self-determination or Lateral Policy Shift?, “Afe Babalola University: Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy” 2013, vol. 1(1).

Al-Qasem A., Principles of Petroleum Legislation: The Case of a Developing Country, London 1985.

Amaize E., Resource Control: Anger Everywhere, “Vanguard Newspaper (Nigeria)” 2005 (July 3).

ANEEJ, Oil of Poverty in the Niger-Delta, A publication of the African Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, 2004.

Asein J.O., Introduction to Nigerian Legal System, Lagos 2005.

Asimea O.A., Aigbe A., The Impact of Oil and Gas Exploitation on Forestry Resources in the Niger Delta, [in:] Book of Reading in Forestry, Wildlife Management and Fisheries, eds. A.A Aiyeloja, H.M. Ijeoma, Lagos 2011.

Auty R.M., Sustaining Development in Mineral Economies: The Resource Curse Thesis, London 1993.

Ayodele-Akaakar F.O., Appraising the Oil & Gas Laws: A Search for Enduring Legislation for the Niger Delta Region, “Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa” 2001, vol. 3(2).

Ayodele-Akaakar F.O., Oil and Gas – the Issue of Ownership and the Nigerian Situation, “FJRSB (FIDA Journal)” 1999, no. 2.

Blackstone W., An Analysis of the Laws of England, Oxford 1756.

Bradbrook A.J., The Relevance of the Cujus est Solum Doctrine to the Surface Landowner’s Claims to Natural Resources Located above and Beneath the Land, “Adel. L.R.” 1988, no. 11.

Bubou G.M., Brent A.C., Tredoux C., Towards Assessing The Social Sustainability Performance of the Petroleum Industry in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, “South African Journal of Industrial Engineering” 2009, vol. 20(1).

Chukwuemerie A.I., New Dimensions in Commercial and Oil and Gas Laws, Port Harcourt 2007.

David A., Ufiem M.O., Ethnic and Regional Violence in Nigeria: Implications for National Security, “Journal of Politics and Law” 2014, vol. 7(3).

Douglas O., Discussion, [in:] The Niger Delta Question, ed. T.N. Tamuno, Port Harcourt 1999.

Ejibunu H.T., Nigeria’s Niger Delta Crisis: Root Causes of Peacelessness, “EPU Research Papers” 2007, no. 7.

Ely N., Legal History of Conservation of Oil and Gas: A Symposium Source, “Harvard Law Review” 1940, vol. 53(6).

Etiosa U., Matthew A., Coping with Climate Change and Environmental Degradation in the Niger Delta of Southern Nigeria, Community Research and Development Centre Nigeria (CREDC) Nigeria 2007, no. 6.

Faga H.P., Taming the Tiger in the Niger Delta; The Role of Law in the Niger Delta Question: Whither?, “Akungba Law Journal” 2008, vol. 1(2).

Fagbohun F.O., Dividends of Democracy of the Rural Population: The Case of the Niger Delta in Nigeria, [in:] Fresh Dimensions in the Niger Delta Crisis in Nigeria, ed. V. Ojakorotu, Delray Beach 2009.

Farah D., Nigeria’s Oil Exploitation Leaves Delta Poor, Poisoned, “Washington Post” 2001, A22 (March 18).

Fekumo J.F., Does Land Use Act Expropriate? – A Rejoinder, “Journal of Private & Property Law” 1988, vol. 8/9.

Foundation J., No End in Sight: Violence in the Niger Delta and Gulf of Guinea, “Terrorism Monitor” 2013, vol. 11(5).

Gallagher B., Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources, Toronto 2012.

Hamley W., Resource Development and Aboriginal Rights in the Canadian Northlands, “The London Journal of Canadian Studies” 1995, vol. 11.

Hunt M.W., Mining Law in Western Australia, Lechhardt 2001.

Hutchful E., Oil Companies and Environmental Pollution in Nigeria, [in:] Political Economy of Nigeria, ed. C. Ake, London 1985.

ILO/ACHPR, Nigeria: Constitutional, Legislative and Administrative Provisions Concerning Indigenous Peoples, Geneva 2009.

International Crisis Group, Nigeria: Want in the Midst of Plenty, Africa Report no. 113, 19.07.2006.

Jamestown Foundation, No End in Sight: Violence in the Niger Delta and Gulf of Guinea, “Terrorism Monitor” 2013, vol. 11(5).

Jike V.T., Environmental Degradation, Social Disequilibrium, and the Dilemma of Sustainable Development in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, “Journal of Black Studies” 2004, vol. 34(5).

Joel B., Niger Delta Youths Dump Resource Control, “Sunday Punch Newspaper” 2000 (February 24).

Kaniye E., Niger Delta Oil, Development and the New Development Initiative: Some Reflections from a Socio-Legal Perspective, “Journal of Asian and African Studies” 2008, vol. 43(2), DOI:

Kaniye E., Oil and the Niger Delta People: The Injustice of the Land Use Act, “Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law Policy Journal” 2001, vol. 9.

Kio-Lawson D., Dekor J.B., Militancy Crises and the Challenge of Rural Development in Post Amnesty Rivers State, Nigeria, “World Environment” 2014, vol. 4(1), DOI:

Konaszczuk W., Cybersecurity Threats in the Sectors of Oil, Natural Gas and Electric Power in the Context of Technological Evolution, “Studia Iuridica Lublinensia” 2021, vol. 30(4), DOI:

Lauterpacht H., International Law Reports, Cambridge 1989.

Mahler A., Nigeria: A Prime Example of the Resource Curse? Revisiting the Oil-Violence Link in the Niger Delta, GIGA Research Programme (Violence & Security) Working Paper 2010, no. 120.

Mbamalu G., Mbamalu C., Durett D., Environmental Justice Issues in Developing Countries and in the Niger Delta, Paper delivered at the International Conference on Infrastructure Development and the Environment, Abuja, Nigeria, 10–15 September 2006.

Mestral A.L.C. de, Reference Re Ownership of the Bed of the Strait of Georgia and Related Areas and Reference Re Newfoundland Continental Shelf, “Mcgill Law Journal” 1985, vol. 30.

Najibo N.B., Nwiline B., Relative Deprivation and Hostage-Taking in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Region, [in:] Fresh Dimensions in the Niger Delta Crisis in Nigeria, ed. V. Ojakorotu, Delray Beach 2009.

Nwapi C., A Legislative Proposal for Public Participation in Oil and Gas Decision-Making in Nigeria, “Journal of African Law” 2009, vol. 54(2), DOI:

Obi C., Rustad S., Conclusion: Amnesty and Post-Amnesty Peace, Is the Window of Opportunity Closing for the Niger Delta?, [in:] Oil and Insurgency in the Niger Delta: Managing the Complex Politics of Petro-Violence, eds. C. Obi, S. Rustad, London 2011.

Obiora A., Symbolic episodes in the quest for environmental justice, “Human Rights Quarterly” 1991, vol. 21(2).

Ogbuigwe A.E., The Law and Environment: The Niger Delta Challenge, “Port Harcourt Law Journal” 1999, vol. 4.

Okonta I., Douglas O., Where the Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Right and Oil, London 2003.

Omeje K., High Stakes and Stakeholders: Oil Conflict and Security in Nigeria, Durham–London 2006.

Omorogbe Y., Oil and Gas law in Nigeria, Lagos 2001.

Omotola J.S., Does the Land Use Act Expropriate?, “Journal of Private & Property Law” 1985, vol. 3.

Onorato W.T., Park J.J., World Petroleum Legislation: Frameworks that Foster Oil and Gas Development, “Alberta Law Review” 2001, vol. 39(1), DOI:

Onu K.O.N., A Critical Appraisal of the Legal Regime of Ownership of Petroleum and Land use in Nigeria, LL.B Project, Faculty of Law, Ebonyi State University, 2010.

Osaghae E.E., Ikelegbe A., Olarinmoye O.O., Okhomina S.I., Youths Militias, Self Determination and Resource Control Struggles in the Niger-delta Region of Nigeria, Dakar 2011.

Osamolu S.A., Oduwole O.T., Oba C.O., Real Property Law and Conveyancing Practice in Nigeria, Abuja 2008.

Otite A., Niger Delta Ruling Elite and the Under-Development of the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, [in:] Fresh Dimensions in the Niger Delta Crisis in Nigeria, ed. V. Ojakorotu, Delray Beach 2009.

Otubu A., The Land Use Act and Land Administration in 21st Century Nigeria: Need for Reform, “Afe Babalola Univ. J. Sust. Dev. & Pol’y” 2018, vol. 9(1), DOI:

Otubu A.K., The Land Use Act and Land Ownership Debate in Nigeria: Resolving the Impasse, “Ife Law Juris Review” 2015, vol. 3.

Otubu T., Land Reforms and the Future of Land Use Act in Nigeria, “Nigerian Current Law Review” 2010, vol. 3.

Riley T., Wrangling with Urban Wildcatters: Defending Texas Municipal Oil and Gas Development Ordinances against Regulatory Takings Challenges, “Vermont Law Review” 2007, vol. 3(2).

Sachs J., Warner A., The Curse of Natural Resources, “European Economic Review” 2001, vol. 45(4–6).

Sagay I., Ownership and Control of Nigerian Petroleum Resources: A Legal Angle, [in:] Nigerian Petroleum Business: A Handbook, ed. V.E. Eromosele, Lagos 1997.

Salai-i-Marta X., Subramanian A., Addressing the Natural Resource Curse: An Illustration from Nigeria, “IMF Working Paper” 2003, no. 03/139.

Sandor I., The Legal Institution of the Trust in the Economy and Law of Eastern European Countries, “European Scientific Journal” 2005, vol. 11(10), DOI:

Sinden A., An Emerging Human Right to Security from Climate Change: The Case against Gas Flaring in Nigeria, [in:] Adjudicating Climate Change: Sub-National, National, and Supranational Approaches, eds. W.C.G. Burns, H.M. Osofsky, Cambridge 2008.

Smith E.E., Dzienkowski J.S., A Fifty-Year Perspective on World Petroleum Arrangements, “Texas International Law Journal” 1989, vol. 24.

Smith I.O., Practical Approach to Law of Real Property in Nigeria, Lagos 1999.

Sprankling J.G., Owning the Center of the Earth, “UCLA Law Review” 2008, vol. 55(4).

The Niger Delta: Phoenix of Nigerian Democracy, Vanguard Book Series, “Vanguard Newspaper” 2000 (January 22).

Usman N., The Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Mineral Resource Development: Global Trends and the Nigerian Question, PhD Thesis, Dundee 2003.

Utuama A., The Niger Delta Crisis: The Legal Dimension, [in:] Fresh Dimensions in the Niger Delta Crisis in Nigeria, ed. V. Ojakorotu, Delray Beach 2009.

Utuama A.A., Nigerian Law of Real Property, Lagos 2012.

Yusuf H.O., Oil on troubled Waters: Multinational Corporations and Realising Human Rights in the Developing World, with Specific Reference to Nigeria, “African Human Rights Law Journal” 2008, vol. 8(1).

Zabbey N., Babatunde B.B., Overview of Environmental Pollution and Toxicology, [in:] Book of Reading in Forestry, Wildlife Management and Fisheries, eds. A.A. Aiyeloja, H.M. Ijeoma, Lagos 2011.


African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Report of the African Commission’s Working Group of Experts on Indigenous Populations/Communities. Adopted by the African Commission at its 28th Ordinary Session, November 2005, [access: 5.04.2021].

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Report of the African Commission’s Working Group of Experts on Indigenous Populations/Communities, adopted by the African Commission at its 34th Ordinary Session, November 2003, [access: 19.09.2019].

Amnesty International, Nigeria: Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta, Index: AFR 44/017/2009, [access: 5.04.2021].

Amnesty International, Oil in the Niger Delta,‐031105‐action‐eng [access: 15.11.2009].

Angaye G., Who Owns Papa’s Land and Oil in Nigeria?, 2002, [access: 5.04.2021].

Dafinone D., Resource Control: The Economic and Political Dimension, 2001, [access: 5.04.2021].

Douglas O., A Community Guide to Understanding Resource Control, 2001, [access: 4.04.2021].

Duru O., Nationalization, Expropriation or Confiscation: A Critical Overview of the Pro and Contra Arguments Regarding the Effect of the Land Use Act on Land in Nigeria, 2012, [access: 25.09.2019].

Energy Administration Information, Country Analysis Briefs – Nigeria, [access: 5.11.2021].

IRIN, Analysis: Niger Delta still Unstable Despite Amnesty, [access: 11.11.2015].

Kaiama Declaration, 11 December 1998, [access: 9.10.2010].

Mailula D.T., Protection of Petroleum Resources in Africa: A Comparative Analysis of Oil and Gas Laws of Selected African States, LL.D Thesis, Faculty of Law, University of South Africa, 2013, [access: 17.01.2021].

Makgabo T., Inside Africa: Current Events on the Africa Continent, 2004, [access: 5.04.2021].

Mckenna A., Goodluck Jonathan, [in:] Encyclopaedia Britannica: Goodluck Jonathan, 2015, [access: 5.04.2021].

Mogues T., Agricultural Public Spending in Nigeria, Washington 2008, [access: 4.04.2021].

Moore M.C., An Energy Strategy for Canada, 2015, [access: 5.04.2021].

Niger Delta, [access: 8.11.2021].

Nigerian Conservation Foundation, WWF UK and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, with Federal Ministry of Environment (Abuja), Niger Delta Natural Resources Damage Assessment and Restoration Project Scoping Report, 2006, [access: 4.04.2021].

O’Neill T., Curse of the Black Gold: Hope and Betrayal in the Niger Delta, 2007, [access: 3.03.2021].

Obi C., Youth and the Generational Dimensions to Struggles for Resource Control in the Niger Delta: Prospects for the Nation-state Project in Nigeria, 2006, [access: 4.03.2021].

Ofehe S., Resource Control Set to Tear Nigeria Apart, 2005, [access: 4.03.2021].

Ogoni Bill of Rights, [access: 6.01.2009].

Ojameruaye E.M., Quo vadis (Oil) Resource Control in the Niger Delta?, 2010, [access: 21.02.2021].

Ojameruaye E.M., The Off-Shore/On-Shore Oil Dichotomy Abolition Act: Matters Arising, 2004, [access: 5.04.2021].

Omotola S., The Next Gulf? Oil Politics, Environmental Apocalypse and Rising Tension in the Niger Delta, 2006, [access: 5.04.2021].

Onduku A., The Lingering Crisis in the Niger Delta: Field Work Report, 2001, [access: 5.04.2021].

OPEC, Annual Statistical Bulletin, Nigeria Facts and Figures, 2015, [access: 3.04.2021].

Savigny F.C. von, Of the Vocation of Our Age for Legislation and Jurisprudence, 1831, [access: 23.01.2021].

Singer R., The state of Nigerian democracy, 2006, [ access: 18.06.2009].

The Climate Justice Programme & Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Gas Flaring in Nigeria: A Human Rights, Environmental, and Economic Monstrosity, 2005, [access: 10.11.2021].

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Niger Delta Human Development Report, 2006, [access: 3.04.2021].

Utuama A., Challenges of Democracy and the Rule of Law, (access: 21.08.2010].

Wurthmann G., Ways of Using the African Oil Boom for Sustainable Development, 2006, [access: 9.03.2021].


Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

Land Use Act 1978 (Now Cap. L5 LFN 2004).

Oil in Navigable Waters Act 1968 (Now Cap. O6 LFN 2004).

Oil Pipelines Act 1956 (Now Cap. O7 LFN 2004).

Petroleum Act 1969 (Now Cap. P10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria LFN, 2004).


Attorney-General of Federal of Nigeria v. Attorney-General of Abia State & Ors. [2002] 6 NWLR (Pt. 764) 542.

Centre for Minority Rights Development (Kenya) and Minority Rights Group International on behalf of Endorois Welfare Council v. Kenya (276/2003) (Kenya).

INEC v. Musa (2003) 10 W.R.N. 1 at 40–41.

Kankakee County Bd. of Review v. Prop. Tax Appeal Bd., 871 N.E.2d 38, 52 (Ill. 2007).

Orr v. Mortvedt, 735 N.W.2d 610, 616 (Iowa 2007).

R. v. Earl of Northumberland (Case of Mines), (1568) 1 Plowden 310, 75 Eng. Rep. 472.

Salubi v. Nwariaku (2003) 20 W.R.N. 53 at 66.

South Atlantic Petroleum Ltd v. Minister of Petroleum Resources (2006) 10 CLRN 122. (Nigeria).

United States v. Causby 328 U.S. 256 (1946).

Data publikacji: 2021-12-17 19:45:09
Data złożenia artykułu: 2021-08-30 12:19:10


Total abstract view - 2181
Downloads (from 2020-06-17) - PDF - 0



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Hemen Philip Faga, Rita Abhavan Ngwoke

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.