This article evaluates conflicting ownership claims to crude-petroleum resources by the Nigerian State and by ethnic minorities of the Niger Delta. It details the colonial origin of the state's control of oil resources and the political context of the conflict. Using theoretical principles drawn from classical and modern liberals, the article considers the grounds on which each side makes its claims and rejects the sovereignty argument that Nigeria belongs to its entire people and so do the resources within it. Instead it shows that the multiethnic makeup of the country has prompted the adoption of a differentiated political community: the national and sub-national. This requires the sharing of jurisdictional rights within the country that will also include rights to mineral resources.