This article looks at four cases of youth‐led identity‐based social movements in Benin City and in the Annang area of southern Nigeria. It shows how each of these movements — youth associations, ‘area boys’, vigilantes and campus cults — draws on different, older repertoires of discourse and organization, and enters into relations with state authority that combine elements of complicity, insurgency, monitoring and disengagement. It argues that their activities, mobilized around resource control and community security, can be understood as a response to the Nigerian ‘politics of plunder’, endemic since the beginning of the oil boom, but locally perceived as having intensified from the 1990s onwards.

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