Otuabagi Wins: Birthplace of Nigeria’s First Oil Well Recognized

Historic Court Ruling Redefines Nigeria’s Oil Discovery Narrative

by Oluwatosin Racheal Alabi

In an verdict that reshapes the annals of Nigeria’s oil history, the Ogbia High Court in Yenagoa has officially recognized the Otuabagi community in the Ogbia Local Government Area as the host of Nigeria’s pioneering oil well, which was discovered in commercial quantities back in 1956. This pivotal decision challenges the long-held belief that Oloibiri held this distinction, setting a new precedent in the historical narrative of Nigeria’s oil exploration journey.

The court’s judgment, presided over by Judge Simon Amaduobogha, not only redefines historical records but also mandates that the Oloibiri Museum and Research Centre, a project aimed at commemorating Nigeria’s oil discovery legacy, be established in Otuabagi. This location is now officially recognized as the birthplace of Nigeria’s oil wealth, a distinction that carries significant cultural and historical weight.

The litigation, identified as OHC/10/2021, saw the Oloibiri community contesting against multiple defendants including the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Bayelsa State Government, the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), and neighboring communities Otuabagi, Otuogidi, and Opume. The court’s directive now prevents the Oloibiri community from seeking any relocation of the Museum and Research Centre Project, affirming that such historical projects should be situated at sites of genuine historical significance and authenticity.

This legal proceeding was distinguished by its resolution through mediation facilitated by the Ijaw National Congress (INC), culminating in a consent judgment that underscored the importance of community collaboration and dialogue in resolving historical disputes. The judgment is irreversible, marking a conclusive end to the longstanding debate over the rightful custodian of Nigeria’s first oil well discovery site.

The history of the Oloibiri Oil Field, which comprises 21 oil wells, is a testament to the rich oil exploration heritage of Nigeria. These wells were sequentially discovered, with the inaugural well unearthed on January 15, 1956, in what was then known as the Oloibiri District, within the Brass Division of pre-independence Nigeria. The delineation of the wells among the communities is a significant aspect of the local history; Otuabagi was the site for the majority of the wells, including Wells 1 through 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21. Meanwhile, Otuogidi hosted Wells 6 and 12, and Opume was the site for Well 4. Remarkably, the Oloibiri community itself did not host any oil wells, a fact that underscores the significance of the court’s ruling in correcting historical inaccuracies.

In 2021, a significant development project was initiated to commemorate the discovery of oil in Nigeria with the approval of a N117 billion budget for the establishment of the Museum and Research Centre project. This initiative, developed by the Petroleum Technology Development Fund and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, in partnership with the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria and the Bayelsa State Government, now finds its rightful home in the communities of Otuabagi, Otuogidi, and Opume, the true landlords of the Oloibiri Field.

This judicial outcome not only alters the historical narrative but also shines a light on the importance of accurate historical documentation and recognition. It emphasizes the need for a conscientious approach to acknowledging the contributions of all communities involved in the narrative of Nigeria’s development. The establishment of the Museum and Research Centre in Otuabagi will serve as a beacon of heritage preservation, educating future generations about the origins of Nigeria’s oil industry, and celebrating the community’s pivotal role in this monumental chapter of the nation’s history.

Source: The Sun Nigeria

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