Can revenue sharing of resource rents be a source of distributive conflict? Can cohesive institutions avoid such conflicts? We exploit exogenous variation in local government revenues and new data on local democratic institutions in Nigeria to study these questions. We find a strong link between rents and conflict. Conflicts are highly organized and concentrated in districts and time-periods with unelected local governments. Once local governments are elected these relationships are much weaker. We argue that elections produce more cohesive institutions that help limit distributional conflict between groups. Throughout, we confirm these findings using individual level survey data.