By Ike A. Offor
A lot of lies have been told by some Northern elder statesmen about how early oil exploration was financed by groundnut proceed from the region and these lies are being spread in some circles and some gullible people do imbibe them and run with them.
But the truth is that these foreign companies financed by themselves their oil explorations and exploitations in Nigeria.
The Republican News has dug up some facts on this and would like to share them with our readers and audiences.
The history of oil exploration in Nigeria dates back to 1907 when Nigerian Bitumen Corporation conducted exploratory work in the country; however, the firm left the country at the onset of World War I.
Thereafter, licenses were given to D’Arcy Exploration Company and Whitehall Petroleum. However, neither company found oil of commercial value and they returned their licenses in 1923. A new license covering 357,000 square miles (920,000 square kilometres) was given to a new firm called Shell D’arcy Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.
The new firm was a consortium of Shell and British Petroleum (then known as Anglo-Iranian). The company began exploratory work in 1937. The consortium was granted a license to explore oil all over the territory of Nigeria but in 1951 and then between 1955 and 1957, the acreage allotted to the company in the original license was reduced.
Drilling activities started in 1951 and the first test well was drilled in Owerri area. Oil was discovered in non-commercial quantities at Akata, near Eket in 1953. Prior to the Akata find, the company had spent around 6 million pounds in exploratory activities in the country. Shell-BP in the pursuit of commercially available petroleum found oil in Oloibiri, Nigeria in 1956. Other important oil wells discovered during the period were Afam and Bomu in Ogoni territory.
Production of crude oil began in 1957 and in 1960, a total of 847,000 tonnes of crude oil was exported. Towards the end of the 1950s, non-British firms were granted license to explore for oil: Mobil in 1955, Tenneco in 1960, Gulf Oil and later Chevron in 1961, Agip in 1962, and Elf in 1962.
But after nearly 50 years searching for oil in the country, Shell-BP discovered the oil at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta. The first oil field began production in 1958.