Oil Wealth and Insurgency in Nigeria

Oil Wealth and Insurgency in Nigeria

Oil Wealth and Insurgency in Nigeria

Oil Wealth and Insurgency in Nigeria


Omolade Adunbi investigates the myths behind competing claims to oil wealth in Nigeria's Niger Delta. Looking at ownership of natural resources, oil extraction practices, government control over oil resources, and discourse about oil, Adunbi shows how symbolic claims have created an "oil citizenship." He explores the ways NGOs, militant groups, and community organizers invoke an ancestral promise to defend land disputes, justify disruptive actions, or organize against oil corporations. Policies to control the abundant resources have increased contestations over wealth, transformed the relationship of people to their environment, and produced unique forms of power, governance, and belonging.


The federal government of Nigeria derives more than 90 percent of its revenue from oil. The Niger Delta region, located in the southern part of the country, is rich in oil and other natural resources, but it is also economically challenged because of the consequences of oil exploration in the region. The Delta comprises nine of the thirty-six Nigerian states: Rivers, Edo, Abia, Cross River, Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Imo, and Ondo. These states are inhabited by a variety of ethnic groups, including the Ijaws, Itsekiris, Urhobos, Ikwerres, Efik, Ibibio, Isokos, Igbos, and Yorùbás. Their communities, from which this oil comes, are suffering from environmental degradation and poor living conditions. In other words, they see none of the wealth that their land generates. Thus, despite the diversity of the ethnic groups of the Niger Delta, they share one unifying factor: oil. Wherever you go in the Niger Delta, oil is always a central concern. Oil unifies communities as much as it creates a wedge within them. I found that oil creates unity when it comes to making claims of ownership; it is when the discussion turns to who should derive benefits from the oil that the wedge appears.

In deciding where to begin my study of the Niger Delta, I became interested in where those unifying factors and wedges are most prominent. Thus, all of my ethnographic examples come from the Niger Delta states of Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, and Ondo. These four states account for the majority of the oil that the Delta is noted for and, unsurprisingly, they are also hotbeds of militancy, as well as the sites of many environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and of the operational headquarters of many of the oil corporations in Nigeria. Ondo State is unique because it is the only Yorùbá-speaking state included in what I describe as the economic Niger Delta, while Bayelsa State is the only one in which the Ijaws constitute the majority ethnic group. This book reflects my many years of engagement with the people and organizations of Nigeria.


This research was inspired by my interest in environmental issues, social justice, and community engagement with oil corporations. As an undergraduate at what was then Ondo State University in the city of Ado Ekiti, majoring . . .

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