Oloibiri is a small community in Ogbia LGA located in Bayelsa State, in the eastern Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The inhabitants of Oloibiri community are mainly fishermen and farmers. This is the first place Oil was first discovered in Nigeria.
The oilfield in Oloibiri was discovered on Sunday 15 January 1956 by Shell Darcy and is about 13.75 square kilometres (5.31 sq mi) and lies in a swamp within OML 29. Oloibiri Oilfield is named after Oloibiri, a small, remote creek community, where it is located. In Nigeria, oilfields are usually named after the host community where it is located or a local landmark. Sometimes, oilfields are also given names taken from indigenous languages. this discovery ended 50 years of unsuccessful oil exploration in the country by various international oil companies and launched Nigeria into the limelight of the Petro-State. Oloibiri is a historic town to the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
The discovery of oil in Oloibiri changed Nigeria’s economic status for the better as a flurry of activities: investments, tourism, oil exportation, etc., came to be. And with an initial production of 5,000 barrels of oil per day (which would later become as much as 2,000,000), Nigeria became the 6th largest oil producer on the chart of the Organisation of petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC. Following the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Oloibiri, Shell stepped up exploration in the Niger Delta and By 1958 Shell Darcy had discovered oil in twelve areas in the Niger Delta of which Oloibiri, Afam and Bomu were the most promising.
The Oloibiri field is currently operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC).The field was originally operated by Shell Darcy. On 30 April 1956, Shell Darcy changed its name to Shell-BP Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited to reflect BP‘s interest. In 1979, it changed its name again to Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) following the nationalisation of BP’s interest by the government.
Oloibiri well was the first commercial oil well in Nigeria. Oloibiri Oilfield was the first commercial oil field in Nigeria as well as West Africa. Nigeria exported its first crude oil in February 1958 from the Oloibiri oil field. Nigeria’s first crude oil export came from Oloibiri field in February 1958. Nigeria’s first crude oil pipeline was laid from Oloibiri oil field to Port Harcourt on the Bonny River (Bonny Export Terminal).
Today, inasmuch as Oloibiri town was the ‘birthplace’ of oil in Nigeria, it is a sight for sore eyes. The place is under-developed, the people are poor peasants, the epidemic rate is off the charts, the unemployment rate is alarming, and their land has suffered deadly blows from oil spills. The oil in Oloibiri has since dried up but there is nothing to show that it was the place where Nigeria’s oil breakthrough started. In plain terms, it could be said that the town of Oloibiri was used and ‘dumped’ after the oil explorers found no more use for it. The Federal Government of Nigeria once promised to build a museum in Oloibiri, but till date, that promise has not been fulfilled.
Over the years, the people have lived in conditions that are intolerable. From time to time, gross neglect and under-development snowball into pockets of protests and agitation for resource control because successive administrations at the centre and in some states glossed over sustainable development of the region.
While other regions are being developed in infrastructure and human capital, the reverse has been the case in the Niger Delta. This is has begged the question and agitations in the mind of every citizen of the locality. Is this the same to you? What do you think? Has oil exploration in the region been a blessing or a curse?