The Niger Delta region of Nigeria has a plethora of natural resources, but it is unable to achieve sustainable development, and its future is uncertain due to environmental degradation brought on by oil and gas exploration activities. The condition in the region has been exacerbated in recent times by the sporadic rise in illegal bunkering and illegal artisanal refineries. This paper reviews existing literature that focuses on the environmental consequences of illegal crude oil refining. The study reveals a region with a severely impaired ecosystem characterized by the destruction of mangrove forests, loss of biodiversity, air pollution, contaminated groundwater, depletion of fisheries resources, degradation of farmland, and a broad range of social-economic and health issues. It is therefore imperative that a multidimensional and environmental management approach be required to address these issues; this should include standardizing the local refining practice by creating a lower-cost license category for artisanal refineries instead of branding them illegal and enacting legislation for sustainable handling of recovered crude oil and refined products by security operatives.
Keywords: Bunkering, Artisanal refinery, Environmental degradation, Biodiversity, Niger Delta.