Perceptions and Grievances: Impact of Resource Governance on Protracted Conflicts in Nigeria's Niger Delta

Date of Submission

Spring 5-9-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in International Conflict Management (Ph.D. INCM)


Dr. Akanmu Adebayo

Committee Member

Dr. Charity Butcher

Committee Member

Dr. Brandon Lundy



During the past two decades, Nigeria’s Niger Delta has been the setting of conflicts associated with crude oil production and the distribution of proceeds from petroleum rents, royalties, and taxes. In the mid-1990s, grievances and protests against perceived unfair allocation of oil resources started peacefully among the Ogoni and a handful of communities in the Niger Delta. Within a decade, it took violent dimensions and spread to other communities in the region. Summary killings, kidnappings of local and expatriate oil workers for ransom, takeover of oil platforms, and the invasion of oil fields and flow stations by armed youths became rampant. These escalated to violent agitations, insurrection, militancy, smuggling, and unauthorized drilling and sale of crude oil by armed youths. Armed groups took over the creeks of Nigeria’s Niger Delta and controlled local and international waterways. They extorted huge sums of money from ships and other merchant vessels, disrupted crude oil supply routes, and shut down oil operations of transnational oil corporations, notably Shell and Chevron. In spite of some government policy measures like the Amnesty program, the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission, and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the conflicts continue although with varying degrees of intensity. This study focuses on understanding why the conflicts continue to linger, what the perceptions of the stakeholders are about the sharing of proceeds from oil resources, and how the character and environment of conflict, identities of actors, and the impact of the conflicts on the livelihood of the local communities have changed over the decades. The study engages the Resource Governance school of thought and Azar’s theory of Protracted Social Conflict (PSC) to argue that the political system, social relations, stakeholders, key actors, elite networks, institutions, and government regulations are critical to understanding and managing the Niger Delta conflicts. The methodology involves the analysis of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and other databases, government documents, the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs’ (NIIA) collection on the Niger Delta conflict, and semi-structured interviews. Findings indicate that resource governance is the most robust analytical tool to explain the protracted conflict in the Niger Delta. The study also finds that conflict actors, conflict management agents, and those interested in understanding and proffering solutions to the Niger Delta conflicts would need to channel energies to the complex nature of resource governance and its impact on conflicts in the region.

Keywords: Resource governance, protracted social conflict, grievance, perception, Nigeria, Niger Delta, crude oil.

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