The film opens in a Warri prison in the Niger Delta where a noose is being set up to hang Ebiere (Mbong Amata). It switches to Los Angeles, California; Tom Hudson (Mickey Rourke), CEO of Western Oil is kidnapped on his way to the airport by a movement group tagged “United People’s Front for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta People of Nigeria”. The kidnap is carried out by Tamuno (Enyinna Nwigwe – the leader of the movement, Timi (Wyclef Jean), Opuwei (Akon), Timi (Razaaq Adoti) and Pere (Robert Peters) after orchestrating an accident near the second street tunnel. Also kidnapped is a reporter, Kristy (Kim Basinger) and her cameraman. Tom Hudson, his wife (Kristin Peterson) and Kristy, together with several others at the accident scene are captured and held hostage within this tunnel which has already been closed off on both sides by the group. Seven hours, no communication is heard from the tunnel – the police, the anti-terrorism unit and the general public have no idea who the “terrorists” are or what they want. Meanwhile in the tunnel, Tamuno tells Tom that they are in Los Angeles to save Ebiere and declares that if Ebiere is eventually hung in Nigeria, then the “truly guilty” ones should go with her. He releases the women and children and instructs Kristy to record what is happening in the tunnel.
The film flashes back to 21 years earlier during military era as Tamuno narrates their ordeal to the public via Kristy’s camera. Ebiere (Mbong Amata) is born in Warri during the Military era; she concludes high school and is offered scholarship by Western Oil to study oversea. A few years later, an oil pipe in the Niger Delta bursts and the people of the community go to fetch petrol from the pipe, Dede (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), a fisherman discovers that fishes in the river have been killed by the oil spillage. The police arrive at the spillage site and demand that the Villagers vacate the area, but no one listens to them. Ebiere arrives in the village – her home, and is told her mother and siblings are getting fuel from a spillage site. On her way to the site, the site explodes killing her mother and siblings. The explosion appears to have been an accident, caused after one of the police officers sent to disperse the oil collectors lights a cigarette after having failed to do so. He is killed as well. Ebiere speaks up at a consolation visit of Western Oil staff (An oil rig American company based in Warri) and is applauded by members of the Community. This establishes her as one of the speakers for the Niger Delta Community, she is approached by Kate Summers (Sarah Wayne Callies), a reporter who likes her speech and says Ebiere is different from the rest of the community people, Kate becomes one of Ebiere’s friends and supporters. Ebiere starts to organize peaceful protests and mass rallies for their voice to be heard, fighting for the Niger Delta to be cleaned up and well maintained – they are sometimes beaten, killed and/or arrested by the Military in the process. Ebiere is offered bribes severally by Western Oil representatives to stop her from instigating the people, but she always declines.
Dede, whose wife and only child died in the explosion however believe protests will never solve anything and that the Government can only listen through violence. Dede starts to have people on his side (including Tamuno, who was a dedicated Police Officer) after an incident in which the Army invades their village and rapes their women, right in front of them. Ebiere continues with her protests while Dede forms a militant group, showing their displeasure through violence, vandalism and kidnapping Western Oil officials. Western Oil eventually convinces Ebiere (who is now Dede’s love interest) to help ask Dede and his group for dialogue with government. It turns out to be a ploy to get them arrested. A shoot-out occurs, leading to Dede and his group being killed.