From Grievance to Greed: How Political Elites Escalated the Niger Delta Crisis in Nigeria


Greed and grievance are arguably among the most frequently employed concepts in framing the causes and drivers of violent conflicts, especially conflicts involving natural resources, even if they tend to be pitted against each other as opposing explanations for violent conflicts. While scholars such as Collier and Hoeffler (2004, 2005) argue that violent conflicts are mostly caused by high dependence on natural resources and the ensuing weak governance and looting opportunities, Langer and Stewart (2013) counter that violent conflicts are caused by aggrieved identity groups protesting inequitable distribution of economic and political resources. A third school has emerged which argues for a combination of both factors for a wholistic examination of conflict; in other words, both elements of greed

and grievance could be present in the same conflict. As Ballentine and Nitzschke(2005)haveobserved,the motivation to take up arms against the state could change as the conflict progresses, thus “justice-seeking” rebels could become “loot-seeking” along the way, or both. Both scholars also highlight the rebel-centric blind spot of both the greed and grievance approaches.

It is against this backdrop that I wish to evaluate the Niger Delta crisis as explicable by both greed and grievance and more. While there are genuine concerns about environmental degradation caused by oil exploration in the region, and skewed revenue allocation by the Nigerian government(Koos2017); oil theft and bunkering, kidnapping for ransom and massive corruption have also besieged the Niger Delta (Watts 2009; Obenade and Amangabara 2014).


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