26 Nov 2020

Organised oil crime in Nigeria: the Delta paradox – organised criminals or community saviours?

The Niger Delta is a global focal point for oil crime that has devastated Nigeria's environment, land, air and water.

Niger Delta oil crime is one of the most serious natural resource crimes globally, with the systematic theft, sale and illegal refining of up to 20% of Nigeria’s oil output. Illegal bunkering and artisanal refining have increased exponentially over the past decade. This paper draws on qualitative interviews with Niger Deltan citizens, and government and community experts, to examine the impact on society. While state security forces continue to treat the crime with ‘extreme prejudice’ – destroying illegal camps and transportation – Niger Deltan citizens have normalised it, justifying it as an economic, energy and employment necessity despite its health and environmental toll.

About the authors

Robin Cartwright is a Senior Fellow at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI_TOC) and was an executive director in UK Government Investments advising on governance. Robin was a partner for 14 years in the Global Strategy Team of business adviser KPMG LLP, where he developed a capability to measure and counter illicit trade, recognised by WCO and EC. He began his career in security and intelligence for the UK Ministry of Defence. Robin has researched, written and presented papers on the private sector’s response to organised crime and counterfeit pharmaceuticals in Africa, and is on the technical reference group for GI_TOC’s Organized Crime Index for Africa (2019).

Nicholas Atampugre is an independent consultant based in Accra with 30 years’ international development experience. He began his career in 1991 with UK-based international development organisations and joined the UK Department for International Development (DfID) from 1997 to 2003, working out of Nigeria. He has worked as a consultant on governance issues, monitoring and evaluation, organisation development and research. He has worked in over 20 countries and published extensively on a wide range of issues, including environment and development, aid effectiveness, civil society, and development. He has extensive knowledge of Nigeria and the Niger Delta region.

Delta field interviews coordinated by Chris Newsom and Timipere Allison

Photo © Adobe Stock – wildarun

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