Article Open Access
West Africa piracy is the most profitable in the world. Well-organized gangs steal refined oil in contrast to Somali pirates who hold crews and ships for ransom. Like piracy elsewhere, the origins and potential solutions to West African piracy are found ashore—largely in Nigeria. This article argues that oil states in the developing world are shielded from the domestic and international pressures that can bring down their non-oil neighbors. The current international system which makes international recognition, not internal legitimacy or functionality, the key to state authority works to their benefit. It encourages those parts which are valuable to industrialized powers—and to the domestic elites who facilitate and benefit from international legitimization—to function well enough for resource extraction to continue. The security of the state generally matters less than the security of key enclaves— including ships and offshore platforms—which support elite interests.