Much of the piracy that affects West Africa is a product of the disorder that surrounds the regional oil industry. A large share of the recent piracy attacks targeted vessels carrying petroleum products. These vessels are attacked because there is a booming black market for fuel in West Africa. Without this ready market, there would be little point in attacking these vessels. There are indications that oil may also be smuggled outside the region.
This paragraph is from one of several summaries found at UNODC | Transnational Organized Crime in West Africa: A Threat Assessment.
The section on "Maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea" provides a very good backgrounder on the environment surrounding the surge in Gulf of Guinea sea piracy:
From the press release announcing the main report availability:
A report released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows that transnational organized crime markets and the vast profits they generate continue to fuel instability and hinder development in West Africa. The report, Transnational Organized Crime in West Africa: a Threat Assessment, analyses the dynamics of key crime markets and provides recommendations for the international community to tackle these problems.Yes, it is.
"Transnational organized crime is clearly a serious threat to West Africa", says Pierre Lapaque, UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa. "State institutions and the rule of law are weak in most of these countries, and unless these organized crimes are tackled, instability is likely to persist and increase".