The coastal sedimentary basin of Nigeria has been the scene of three depositional cycles. The first began with a marine incursion in the middle Cretaceous and was terminated by a mild folding phase in Santonian time. The second included the growth of a proto-Niger delta during the late Cretaceous and ended in a major Paleocene marine transgression. The third cycle, from Eocene to Recent, marked the continuous growth of the main Niger delta. A new threefold lithostratigraphic subdivision is introduced for the Niger delta subsurface, comprising an upper sandy Benin formation, an intervening unit of alternating sandstone and shale named the Agbada formation, and a lower shaly Akata formation. These three units extend across the whole delta and each ranges in age from early Tertiary to Recent. They are related to the present outcrops and environments of deposition. A separate member of the Benin formation is recognized in the Port Harcourt area. This is the Afam clay member, which is interpreted to be an ancient valley fill formed in Miocene sediments. Subsurface structures are described as resulting from movement under the influence of gravity and their distribution is related to growth stages of the delta. Rollover anticlines in front of growth faults form the main objectives of oil exploration, the hydrocarbons being found in sandstone reservoirs of the Agbada formation.