The Delta Creeks, Women’s Engagement and Nigeria’s Oil Insurgency


Oriola, T. 2012. “The Delta Creeks, Women’s Engagement and Nigeria’s Oil Insurgency.” British Journal of Criminology 52 (3): 534–55. doi:10.1093/bjc/azs009.

Author: T. Oriola


The on-going insurgency in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria continues to have serious consequences for oil workers, corporations and the global oil market. In spite of the growing interest in arguably the greatest existential threat to the Nigerian state since the Civil War of 1967–70, scant scholarly attention has been paid to the Delta creeks and the fundamental roles performed by women in the insurgency. This paper interrogates the space represented by the creeks as the home territory of insurgents in Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta. Using interview and focus group data garnered from 42 insurgents and five other sets of actors, I analyse the operational significance and symbolism of the creeks and its processual social sorting. In addition, I demonstrate the dichotomous relationship of women to the creeks. Women constitute a major source of reconnaissance, spiritual fortification, among other roles, but are concurrently considered eewo or abomination by male insurgents. Although academic analysis has been overwhelmingly concerned with the supportive roles and nonviolent protests of women, the Delta women are actively engaged in the on-going violent repertoires of protest.

Keywords: Niger Delta, insurgency, oil struggle, Nigerian women, Niger Delta creeks


  • Women mediate between insurgents, the state and TNOCs, exercise “sexual power” (see Turner and Brownhill), are sometimes employed as gunmen, act as emissaries for insurgents (seduce security guards for information, etc.), and provide spiritual fortification.


"I argue that, although scholarly attention has been overwhelmingly concerned with the supportive roles and non-violent protests of women, the Delta women are actively engaged in the on-going violent repertoires of protest in various capacities as gun-runners, combatants, mediators and emissaries of insurgents, amongst others.” (2)

“It is hardly surprising that the United States considers African oil—a major part of it Nigerian in origin—as a commodity of ‘strategic national interest’ (Klare and Volman 2004: 227). The continued provision of arms and ammunitions to the Nigerian state in its war against insurgents is part of the wider securitization of oil in Nigeria by the American and British governments (Lubeck et al. 2007) amid incursion into the Nigerian oil industry by countries like China (see Obi 2008).” (8)

“Focusing on the role of women in the domestic domain inadvertently feeds into the patriarchal ideological underpinnings of the Nigerian society. By establishing key areas in which women participate in the Delta insurgency, I aim to demonstrate that women are an essential part of the violent forms of protest just as they have been active participants in non-violent protest.” (10)

“Women benefit from the facticity of femininity and occupation of a socio-cultural space that construes (Delta) women as somehow less dangerous than men.” (11)

“In the case of the Delta insurgency, female insurgents perform influential roles that the society accords them. However, the young women are perceived as wayward and unsuitable as wives and mothers. Their participation is also largely marginalized. When the federal government of Nigeria granted amnesty to all interested insurgents, for instance, women were among the last set of participants to go through the process of rehabiliation because male insurgents received priority attention. Women’s participation in the insurgency and the rehabilitation exercise seems devalued and relegated to the fringes.” (18)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Development, Economies, Extractive Industries, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-State Armed Groups, Multi-National Corporations, Political Participation, Weapons /Arms Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Nigeria

Year: 2012

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