“A Sea of Troubles”: Oil Theft, Crude Economy and the Business of Organised Energy Crime in the Gulf of Guinea
Main Article Content
The menace of oil theft in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) has evolved into a ‘syndicated enterprise’ which mirrors underlying economic principles of formal business operations. The involvement of organised crime groups in primordial resource appropriation has altered dramatically the region’s energy landscape, accelerating a transition from an economy of greed to an economy of crime, underpinned by organised socio-economic structures which exploit the fragility of a manifestly troubled Gulf. The objective of this study flows from a resurgence in oil theft in the Niger Delta region,
threatening energy-dependent economies like Nigeria and the wider Gulf of Guinea. The study submits that oil theft is an enterprise crime, and the resurgence of criminality particularly in Nigeria is a corollary of the entrenchment of organised crime in the region’s energy landscape and the availability of a flourishing crime environment in the Gulf of Guinea. The study concludes that oil theft poses a significant and growing threat to national and regional security, and combating criminality requires a cocktail of measures anchored on a robust appreciation of the nature of organised crime and the context within which it is nourished in the region.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors hold the copyright of all published articles except otherwise stated.
century scramble for Africa. Socrates 98, 98-115.
Adesanya, O. P. (2018). Oil and the security implications of external interests in the
Gulf of Guinea for Nigeria. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Obafemi Awolowo
University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
Adesanya, O. P. (2012). The good, the bad and the ugly: Extra-African interests
and Africa’s development. Journal of Arts and Contemporary Studies 4, 55-
Albini, J. (1971). The American mafia: Genesis of a legend. Connecticut: Appleton-
Alemika, E. O. (2013). The impact of organised crime on governance in West
Africa. Abuja: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Amuwo, K. (2013). Oil and gas: National sovereignty, foreign interests and local
bunkering in the Gulf of Guinea. Covenant University Journal of Politics and
International Affairs (CUJPIA) 1 (2).
Asuni, J. B. (2009). Understanding the armed groups of the Niger Delta. Council
on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/report/
Attah, T. (2012, December). Oil theft and artisanal (illegal) refining in Nigeriascale,
impacts and the need for a multi-dimensional response. Paper presented
at the Gulf of Guinea Security Conference, Chatham House, London.
Badmus, I. A. (2010). Oiling the guns and gunning for oil: Oil violence, arms
proliferation and the destruction of Nigeria’s Niger-Delta. Journal of
Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences 2 (1), 323-363.
Balogun, W. A (2018). Crude oil theft, petro-piracy and illegal trade in fuel: An
enterprise-value chain perspective of organised energy-maritime crime in the
Gulf of Guinea. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Lancaster University, Lancaster,
Balogun, W. A. (2021). Why has the ‘black’ market in the Gulf of Guinea endured?
Australian Journal of Maritime & Ocean Affairs 13(3). https://doi.org/10.1080/
Beare, M. E (2017). Transnational organised crime. Oxfordshire: Routledge.
Boris, O. H. (2015). The Upsurge of oil theft and illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta
region of Nigeria: Is there a way out? Mediterranean Journal of Social
Sciences 6 (3).
Bueger, C. (2016). Security as practice: Routledge handbook of security studies.
Burchard, S. M. (2015). Peace at a price: Nigeria’s presidential amnesty plan.
Retrieved from https://www.ida.org/~/media/Corporate/Files/Publications/
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (2015). World FactBook. Retrieved from https:/
Chatham House. (2013). Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. London: Chatham
House. Retrieved from https://slidelegend.com/maritime-security-in-the-gulfof-
Council of the European Union. (2014). EU strategy on the Gulf of Guinea: Foreign
affairs Council meeting. Brussels: Press. Retrieved from https://
De Andres, A. P. (2008). West Africa under attack: Drugs: Organised crime and
terrorism as the new threats to global security. Revista Unisci 16. Retrieved
Dryad Global. (2020). Gulf of Guinea Piracy. Retrieved from https://
DW. (2020). Nigeria: Greek crew held hostage after kidnapping off West Africa.
Retrieved from https://www.dw.com/en/nigeria-greek-crew-held-hostage-afterkidnapping-
Edelman, P. (2017). Not a crime to be poor: The criminalisation of poverty in
America. New York: The New Press.
Ejibunu, H. T. (2007). Nigeria’s Niger Delta crisis: Root causes of peacelessness.
EPU research papers 7(7).
Etim, O. E. (2015, November). Buying with a conscience: Curbing crude oil theft
in Nigeria. Paper presented at the 2015 policy week, University of Manchester,
Finckenauer, J. O. (2012). Mafia and organised crime: A beginner’s guide. London:
Finckenauer, J. O. (2005). Problems of definition: What is organised crime? Trends
in organised crime 8 (3), 63-83.
Fox, L., & Ghandi, D. (2021). Youth employment in sub-Saharan Africa progress
and prospects. African Growth Initiative (AGI), Brookings Institute. Retrieved
Gottschalk, P. (2009). Entrepreneurship and organised crime: Entrepreneurs in
illegal business. Cheltenham/Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Ibaba, I. S., & Ikelegbe, A. (2010). Militias, pirates and oil in the Niger Delta:
Militias, rebels and islamists. In W. Okumu & A. Ikelegbe, (Eds.), Human
insecurity and state crisis in Africa (pp. 219-253). Pretoria: Institute for Security
Ikoh, M. U. (2013). Organised crime in the Gulf of Guinea with a focus on Nigeria.
In E. O. Alemika (Ed.), The impact of organised crime on governance in West
Africa. Abuja: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
IMB Regional Piracy Center. (2020). IMB annual piracy report. Retrieved from
International Crisis Group (ICG). (2012). The Gulf of Guinea: The new danger zone.
Africa Report 195. Retrieved from https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/westafrica/
International Energy Agency (IEA). (2014). Africa energy outlook: A focus on
energy prospects in sub-Saharan Africa. France: International Energy Agency
(IEA). Retrieved from https://www.icafrica.org/fileadmin/documents/
Jablonski, R. S., & Oliver, S. (2013). The Political economy of plunder: Economic
opportunity and modern piracy. Journal of Conflict Resolution 57 (4).
Kamal-Deen, A. (2015). The anatomy of Gulf of Guinea piracy. Naval War College
Review 68 (1), 93-118.
Kashi, E. (2008). Curse of the black gold: 50 years of oil in the Niger Delta.
Brooklyn: Powerhouse Books.
Katsouris, C., & Aaron S. (2013). Nigeria’s criminal crude: International options
to combat the export of stolen oil. London: Chatham House. Retrieved from
Kemedi, D. V. (2006). Fuelling the violence: Non-state armed actors (Militia, Cults,
and Gangs) in the Niger Delta. Niger Delta Economics of Violence (Working
Paper No. 10). Retrieved from https://gradebuddy.com/doc/1893302/fuellingthe-
Kenney, D. J., & Finckenauer, J. (1995). Organised crime in America. Ohio:
Lampe, K. (2016). Organised crime: Analysing illegal activities, criminal structures
and extra-legal governance. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications Inc.
Lopes, C. (2016). Africa’s blue economy: An opportunity not to be missed. OECD.
Retrieved from https://oecd-development-matters.org/2016/06/07/africas-blueeconomy-
Malaquais, A. (2012, March 29). Ask the expert: The growing threat of oil pirates in
West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea. ACSS News Spotlight. Retrieved from http://
Newbum, T. (2017). Criminology. New York: Routledge.
Newsom, C. (2011). Conflict in the Niger Delta: More than a local affair. USIPS.
Retrieved from https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/resources/
Nwajiaku-Dahou, K. (2012). The political economy of oil and ‘rebellion’ in Nigeria’s
Niger Delta. Review of African Political Economy 39 (132), 295-313.
Nwgu, E. C. (2014). Political economy of crude oil production and Nigeria’s
downstream sector. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Nigeria, Nsukka,
Obasi, N. K. (2011). Organised crime and illicit bunkering: Only Nigeria’s problem?
In M. Roll and S. Sperling (Eds.), Fuelling the world – failing the region: Oil
governance and development in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea (pp. 55-72). Abuja:
Obenade, M., & Amangabara, G. T. (2014). The socioeconomic implications of oil
theft and artisanal refining in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. International
Journal of Science and Research (IJSR) 3 (7), 2390–2394.
Omeje, K. (2008). The state, conflict and evolving politics in the Niger Delta, Nigeria.
ROAPE 31(101), 425–440.
Onuoha, F. (2007). Poverty, pipeline vandalisation/explosion and human security:
Integrating disaster management into poverty reduction in Nigeria. African
Security Studies, 94-108.
Onuoha, F. C. (2012). Piracy and maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria as
a Microcosm. Aljazeera Centre for Studies Report.
Onuoha, F. C. (2013). Piracy and maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea: Trends,
concerns, and propositions. Journal of the Middle East & Africa 4 (3), 267-
Onwuemenyi, O. (2012, June 4). Oil bunkering undermining Nigerian economy.
Osaghae, E., Ikelegbe, A., Olarinmoye, O., & Okhonmina, S. (2008). Youth militias,
self-determination and resource control struggles in the Niger-Delta region
of Nigeria. No. 5. CODESRIA. Research Report. Retrieved from https://
PIND. (2021). Niger Delta weekly: Highlighting the resurgence Retrieved from
Punch Newspaper (2022, February 28). Persistent crude oil theft scandalous.
Retrieved from https://punchng.com/persistent-crude-oil-theftscandalous/
Reuter, P. (1983). Disorganised crime: The economics of the visible hand.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Reuter, P. (1985). The organisation of illegal markets: An economic analysis.
Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.
Ridley, N. (2014). Terrorism in East and West Africa. Cheltenham/Northampton:
Edward Elgar Publishing.
Savona, S., and Williams, P. (2012). The United Nations and transnational
organised crime. New York: Routledge.
Smith, D. (1980). Paragons, pariahs, and pirates: A spectrum-based theory of
enterprise. Crime and Delinquency 26 (3).
Starr, S. (2014). Maritime piracy on the rise in West Africa. Combating Terrorism
Centre 7 (4). Retrieved from https://ctc.usma.edu/maritime-piracy-on-the-risein-
Statista. (2022). Monthly crude oil production in Nigeria from September 2019 to
March 2021. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1171788/
Tepp, E. (2012). The Gulf of Guinea: Military and non-military ways of combating
piracy. Baltic Security and Defence Review 14 (1).
ThisDay. (2014, October 14). Nigeria: Pipeline vandalism and culpability of security
agents. Retrieved from https://allafrica.com/stories/201410140258.html.
Transparency International. (2021). Corruption perceptions index 2021. Retrieved
Ugor, P. (2013). The Niger-Delta wetland, illegal oil bunkering and youth
identity politics in Nigeria. Postcolonial 8 (3).
Ukeje, C., & Ela, W. M. (2013). African approaches to maritime security: The Gulf
of Guinea. Abuja: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
Ukeje, C. (2009). From oil rivers to the Niger Delta: The paradoxes of domination
and resistance in colonial Nigeria. In T. Falola & A. Paddock (Eds.),
Environment and economics in Nigeria. London: Routledge.
UNCC (2020, October). Climate Change is an Increasing Threat to Africa. UNCC.
Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/news/climate-change-is-an-increasingthreat-
UNDP. (2022). New Threats to Human Security in the Anthropocene: Demanding
Greater Solidarity. UNDP. Retrieved from https://www.ssc-globalthinkers.org/
system/files/2022-02/New%20threats%20to %20 human%20 security%20in%
20the%20Anthropocene %3A%20Demanding%20greater%20s olidarity_0.pdf.
UNODC. (2005). World drug report 1. UNODC. Retrieved from https://www.unodc.
UNODC. (2013). Tracking transnational organised crime in West Africa. Retrieved
Uzoma, J. K. (2022, April 24). Illegal Oil Bunkering: Over 100 Burnt In Imo. Tribune.
Retrieved from https://tribuneonlineng.com/illegal-oil-bunkering-over-100-
Vanguard Newspaper (2013, July 19). Presidency indicts IOCs in oil theft. Retrieved
Watts, M. (2007). Petro-insurgency or criminal syndicate? Conflict & violence in
the Niger Delta. Review of African Political Economy 34 (114), 637-660.
Watts, M. (2009). Crude politics: Life and death on the Nigerian oil fields. Niger
Delta economies of violence. Working paper No.25. Institute of International
studies, University of California, Berkeley, USA.
World Bank (2015). Equatorial Guinea- Country Analysis. Retrieved from https://
World Bank (2016). Heavily indebted poor country (HIPC) initiative. Retrieved
World Bank (2022). Poverty Perception Index. Retrieved from https://