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Oil Thieves of the Niger Delta

Nigeria may lose $8 billion a year to oil theft, but in the Niger Delta, stealing crude is a shadow industry
“It’s not OK for us to be doing this, we know, but the government is not looking after us at all,” says Daniel Sekibo (pictured). “There were no jobs here, so what do we do?”
“It’s not OK for us to be doing this, we know, but the government is not looking after us at all,” says Daniel Sekibo (pictured). “There were no jobs here, so what do we do?”Photograph by George Osodi for Bloomberg Businessweek

As night falls on a recent evening in the mazelike creeks of the Niger Delta, several oil thieves plunge into the dense, green mangroves along the Nun River.

Above the forest, black coils of smoke rise to the sky. The river hums with outboard motors as skiffs carry residents to communities in the web of Nun offshoots. The boats halt at military checkpoints, barges manned by idle soldiers. Silhouetted passengers raise their hands to show they are unarmed and not transporting stolen oil.