The COVID-19 lockdown: An opportunity for conducting an air quality baseline in Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Nenibarini Zabbey*, Kabari Sam, Christopher A. Newsom, Peace B. Nyiaghan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nigeria is among the world's leading gas flaring nations. High concentrations of contaminants, including Particulate Matter (PM2.5, and PM10), carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx), affect air quality in the Niger Delta region – the hub of oil and gas production in Nigeria. The COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown of Port Harcourt provided an opportunity to assess air quality to ascertain baseline levels for carbon dioxide, temperature, humidity, PM2.5 and PM10. Low-cost air quality monitors (LCMs) were deployed in residential, industrial, and commercial areas to provide air quality baselines for different zones in Port Harcourt across a five-day period (April 18 to April 22, 2020). The results indicated that Borokiri area (on a 24 h Mean) had the highest PM2.5 (304 0 μg/m3), while Nkporlu had the highest PM10 (575 μg/m3). When compared to the WHO 24Hrs Mean standards, the results across the assessed locations indicated that citizens within the Port Harcourt Metropolitan area are exposed to potential respiratory and cardiovascular health risks due to poor air quality. Respiratory and cardiovascular diseases have been identified as underlying illnesses that enhance the lethal effects of and vulnerability to COVID-19. The results also indicate that during periods of restricted movement and low industrial activity Port Harcourt can experience quite low levels of air pollution, as well as highlighted that limited sources of air quality impairment (e.g., generators used for power, gas flaring and artisanal refining of oil) persist despite the lockdown of economic and transport activities. The study provides a starting point for further research that aims to broaden understanding of the trends and patterns in air quality impairment in Port Harcourt and other parts of the Niger Delta. It also highlights the urgency for remedial contextual regulatory policy, legislation, informed advocacy, and citizen stewardship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-256
Number of pages13
JournalExtractive Industries and Society
Issue number1
Early online date16 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Artisanal refining
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Gas-flaring
  • Particulate matter
  • Soot

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