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Since the discovery of oil in Nigeria in 1956, reports of plunder, corruption and primitive
accumulation of capital have dominated the management of oil resources by the Nigerian state
in alliance with oil corporations, excluding the people from benefit of oil wealth. This study,
therefore, is an examination of how centralised management of oil resources which concentrated
the benefits of oil wealth in the hands of a very few privileged persons, led to chronic
opportunism and criminality in the form of illegal oil bunkering in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region
between 1999 and 2011. It set as its objectives the task of interrogating the nexus between
allocation of oil blocks to members of the ruling class and oil banditry in the Niger Delta; the
connections between protests over oil exploitation and environmental degradation and the
proliferation of illegal refineries and oil transactions in the region; and the relationship between
security leakages in the control of illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta and sustenance of an
international market for illegal oil trade in Nigerian coastal waters. The study adopted the
political economy theoretical framework. Data were generated through the qualitative
descriptive methodology and applied the
ex-post-facto research design. The study found that
patronage allocation of oil blocks in ways that enriched the ruling class and provided oil
corporations with hefty profits led oil host communities in the Niger Delta to engage in oil
banditry. Protests over oil exploitation and environmental degradation gave rise to the
proliferation of artisanal refining of stolen crude oil and illicit oil transactions in the region.
Leakages in the security control of illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta sustained an
international market for stolen crude oil and petroleum products in Nigerian coastal waters. The
study recommended, among others, government increase of the percentage allocation of oil
revenues to the Niger Delta states from the current 13% to 25% derivation and the development
of a comprehensive database of oil blocks awarded since the discovery of oil in Nigeria.

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