Although numerous studies have been conducted in recent years on energy transitions, they have been predominately developed and applied in industrialized countries. It is however important to examine the applicability of transition theories, as they are currently formulated, beyond OECD countries. This paper analyses renewable energy transitions in Africa, using Nigeria as a case study, to elucidate the analytical and methodological challenges that sustainability transition studies are facing in developing countries, particularly rentier states. In doing so, the paper employs the lens of the multi-level perspective (MLP) on socio-technical transitions - a well-established theory that emphasizes the role of ‘niches’, ‘regimes’ and ‘landscapes’ in instituting transitions. Based on a detailed analysis of Nigeria, we argue for a more nuanced enquiry of the construct ‘regime’ that better accounts for the rentier character of the state including the role of political elites and prevalent client-patron relationships. As such, our paper makes an important contribution to the further refinement and enrichment of the MLP by focusing on the political dimensions of energy transitions.