Nigeria’s law and order problem in its oil bearing South-South region is well known. From militancy to pipeline vandalism, law enforcement has been patchy and on many occasions unsuccessful. This range of activities also includes the artisanal oil industry or the theft of crude oil for onward sale.

An enduring feature of the artisanal industry is the practice of local refining—small production ‘camps’ that use relatively low technology to crack crude oil into products like petroleum, diesel and kerosene. These sites have been the most difficult to root out despite military activities to shut them down. Based on research conducted by SOAS-ACE and SDN Nigeria this short film explores the reasons for the durability of this activity.

First, the refining camps provide remunerative employment to the youth around the community and even from afar, something that is unlikely to be found in the local formal economy. Second, community members around the camp benefit from the economic opportunities created by it. Finally, the fuels produced help the local communities fire up their generators, given that electricity in Nigeria is hugely under-supplied. Taken together little incentive exists for the local population to support law enforcement.

Watch our short film: