Oloibiri, a community in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, is pivotal to oil exploration in Nigeria. The historic community is a place where crude oil was first discovered in commercial quantity in Nigeria on January 15, 1956.
The Royal Dutch Shell was said to have produced more than 20 million barrels of crude oil from Oloibiri oil field, which hosted about 21 oil wells in the period that spanned 20 years before the oil field was finally abandoned in 1978.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Oloibiri in 1956 changed Nigeria’s economic status for the better as a flurry of oil and gas activities thrived since then.
The Oloibiri oil field started with an initial export of about 5,000 barrels of crude oil per day in 1958 when the drilling operation actually commenced in earnest, but it later peaked to over 2 million barrels of oil per day, thereby positioning Nigeria in the league of top 10 economies in the world in terms of oil export.
The Oloibiri oil field was, however, abandoned in 1978 when the wells were said to have dried up.
According to the people of Otuobagi, the community that hosts Oloibiri oil field, despite the huge economic contribution to the country’s wealth, successive governments in Nigeria have neglected the historic community, which at the moment lacks basic social amenities.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the administration of the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1983 and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001 all took steps to establish a national monument at Otuobagi, the community that hosts Oloibiri oil field, but much was not achieved until the Federal Executive Council under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari recently approved a N117 billion contract for the construction of the Oloibiri Oil Museum and Research Centre in the area.
The project, which the president has already performed the groundbreaking ceremony, is to be jointly executed by the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Bayelsa State Government.
Already, indigenes of Otuobagi have expressed appreciation to God and the federal government for remembering their contribution to economic development of Nigeria, decrying that over the years, the area is still undeveloped.
The chairman, Otuobagi Council of Chiefs, Chief Kenny Clinton, and the chairman of the Community Development Committee, Omounkorigha George Adionin, explained that the actual location of the oil field was in Otuobagi, but since there are in Oloibiri district, Shell had named the field after Oloibiri, which was the headquarters of the clan.
They said, “It is a very great joy to us the people of Otuobagi because this is a long awaited project. Some of our fathers who were eager to see this lasting legacy by the government have died without seeing it, so those of us that have the opportunity to see the commencement of the project are filled with joy.
“The oil and gas museum will remain as a historical mark. And it will bring development to Otuobagi community because despite our huge contribution to Nigeria’s economy, you can see that several decades after, we are still surrounded by bush. Several governments at the centre have made promises to us without fulfilling it, but the Muhammadu Buhari government has shown signs of sincerity to us. We are very happy.
“In Ogbia we are divided into clans, or you may call it districts. Otuobagi is in Oloibiri district, so when Shell discovered oil here in Otuobagi in 1956, they named it after the district instead of naming it after the very community the oil field is located. Oloibiri community is very far from this oil field. We are not even a boundary community.
“We call on all sons and daughters of Otuobagi to be peaceful. We should see this project as a welcome development in this community and every Otuobagi indigene should protect this project so that it comes to stay,” the community leaders said.
Obanobhan of Ogbia Kingdom, King Dumaro Charles Owaba, lamented that after 20 years of massive oil exploration and export, the federal government and Shell left the oil field and the host community without any trace of infrastructural development, but expressed appreciation to President Buhari for commitment in ensuring that the community is given its right of place.
He said, “Oloibiri oil field is the forerunner of the SPDC, the pioneer oil exploration in Nigeria. The export continued until 1978 when the oil field, which has about 21 oil wells, was abandoned after 20 years of massive oil production, leaving the oil field and the host community without any trace of infrastructural development.
“However, in 1981, the civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari conceived the idea of Oloibiri oil Museum to at least preserve the history of Petroleum Development in Nigeria.
“But recently, we received the news of the award of contract for this project with excitement, praying towards to the day the project will commence. And to the glory of God, we are here today witnessing the groundbreaking of the Oloibiri Oil and Gas Museum and Research Centre. It is our conviction that after today, the project will commence in earnest because the fund for the project has been earmarked and the contract awarded to Julius Berger.
“The people of Ogbia Kingdom lack words to express our appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for remembering Oloibiri and Ogbia people for their contribution to the economic development of Nigeria. We also appreciate him for appointing one of us, Dr Samuel Ogboku as the managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). We also thank Chief Timipre Sylva, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, for facilitating the approval of the project.”
Performing the groundbreaking ceremony for the commencement of the project recently, President Buhari urged the major contractors handling the Oloibiri Oil Museum and Research Centre to deliver the project according to specifications and timelines meant for their completion.
The president also directed Julius Berger, the contractors handling the museum, to carry their host communities along in executing the project.
Represented by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, the president noted that the federal government had put all the necessary machinery in place, including funding arrangements, to ensure a hitch-free delivery of the project.
While urging the communities to own and protect the projects, he emphasized the need for the contractors to comply with the Community Content Guidelines of the NCDMB Act.
He said, “I hereby direct the lead contractors of both projects, Julius Berger and the MegaStar Technical and Construction Company Limited to integrate the host communities and their traditional institutions and skilled youths in the various scopes of the project.
“I also expect that you would build capacities where necessary to ensure a hitch-free project delivery. Specifically, I recommend that the contractors should study the Community Content Guidelines issued by the NCDMB.”
Also speaking, the executive secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Simbi Kesiye Wabote, an engineer, said feasibility studies, environmental impact assessment (EIA), site clearing and architectural design had already been completed.
He acknowledged the support of the Bayelsa State Government to the project, stressing that the contractors were carefully selected to ensure they put up edifices that would stand out as world-class oil and gas tourism destinations.
The Bayelsa State governor, Senator Douye Diri, expressed gratitude to the Buhari-led federal government for acceding to one of the demands of the state, where the first oil well was struck in Nigeria in 1956.
The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, posited that most of the agitations in the country, including the Niger Delta question, would not have arisen if resources were equitably distributed.