Oloibiri, Nigeria’s First Oil Well: A lesson for Nigeria


The small village of Oloibiri in the defunct Eastern Region, now Bayelsa State came into the world map in the 20th century following the discovery of Crude Oil by Shell Darcy (now Shell Petroleum Development Company) in June, 1958. Today, Oloibiri is known as the first place in West Africa where Oil was discovered in commercial quantity.

Before the discovery of Crude oil, the Southern and Northern protectorates were only interested in Cocoa, Groundnut and Palm Oil. These agro resources were the main drivers of the economy of Nigeria.

The University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and University of Northern Nigeria (now Ahmadu Bello University) were some of the laudable development achieved with the agro –resources.

When the Oloibiri oil was explored, the direction of the Nation economy changed from an agro-driven economy to an oil-driven economy. Today we experience the multiplying effect of the sudden directionless direction in the economy of Nigeria. Scholars have repeatedly argued that the discovery of oil in Nigeria is more of a curse than a blessing, without mincing words we all know oil discovery in Nigeria was one step forward and three steps backward. Today, we live in a country where a litre of fuel sells for N250, infact a friend told me N300 in some parts of the country.

The fuel crisis is not just about increase in fuel pump price and the fact that masses cannot afford it but the manner in which  it has crippled the nation’s economy. Anyway, that’s a story for another day.

Back to the story of Oloibiri, Crude oil, just like every other mineral resource is a nonrenewable resource which has an expiring date…. Just like the Yoruba saying…. “Odun eegun ma tan, Omo Oje nbo wa ra’kara je”, meaning “nothing is forever”. Twenty eight years ago, (1978) about 20 years after the first production, Oloibiri well stopped oil production.

Did Oilibiri oil well dried up? Yes…If olibiri well could dry up it means every other oil well can dry up? Yes….. Are we prepared for it? No…. What happens to Nigeria economy if all the oil wells dry up today?

This is a lesson for our leaders, legislatures and policy makers.

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