Water of My Land: The Niger Delta's Illicit Fuel Trade / Samuel James

February 2013

Exhibit opening, screening, & talk
Tuesday February 12, 2013, 7:30 PM
Moderated by Stacey D. Clarkson, Art Director at Harper's Magazine


Fires from hundreds of illicit fuel refineries burn every night throughout the Niger Delta. Rogue syndicates engaged in industrial-scale crude-oil theft, known locally as bunkering, sell the stolen oil in remote creeks and swamps, where makeshift refineries distill it to diesel, then ship it downriver to be sold on the black market. The delta's refinery workers labor in envinronmentally toxic conditions, and are under constant threat from government authorities and local militias trying to assert control over the bunkering trade. Shut out of the multibillion-dollar industry that extracts oil from their land—Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa and the fifth-largest supplier of oil to the United States—many residents of the delta resort to the clandestine fuel trade to survive.


SAMUEL JAMES, a photographer and educator from Ohio, is based in New York City and Lagos. Since 2008, he has pursued extensive documentary work in Nigeria, independent projects, and assignments for a variety of publications. He teaches nonfiction storytelling at Tufts.


All photos © Samuel James.