By Ignatius Okorocha
Senate has commended the federal government for the conceptualization, design and award of N35billion contract for the establishment of the Oil and Gas Research Centre and Museum, OGRCM in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State, the first oil field in Nigeria to promote tourism and improve the socio-economic well-being of the people.
The Upper chamber however, urges the government to give priority attention to the development of heritage institutions like Oloibiri oil field as a constant contact reminder and enrichment of the history of the country’s socio-economic development.
Consequently it directed the Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF and the concerned contractors to mobilize to site, commence the immediate construction of the OGRCM in Oloibiri.
These resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion on the need to ensure immediate commencement of the first oil field by Senator Degi-Eremienyo W. Biobarakuma (PDP Bayelsa East) and co-sponsored by 28 other lawmakers during plenary, also mandated its relevant committees to carry out intensive oversight on the development of the project.
Presenting the motion, Biobarakuma informed that the first oil well in the country was discovered in commercial quantity in Oloibiri by the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC on January 15,1956 with a production capacity of 5,100 barrels per day.
The lawmaker, who noted that “export of crude oil from the Oloibiri field started in 1958 and shortly after, crude oil became the main stay of the economy”, added that “consequently, changing Nigeria’s oil history haven launched the country into the elite club of oil producers astronomically increased her foreign exchange earnings.”
About 63 years after the discovery, he lamented that “exploitation and production of crude oil, the Oloibiri field and surrounding host communities had suffered neglect and environmental degradation.”
Biobarakuma recalled that the idea to build a world class museum of oil and gas, with foundation stone equally laid by President Shehu Shagari in 1983 and another one by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001, the progress of the project was however halted while the area continued to suffer neglect.
The lawmaker also informed that despite the Act later presented by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC to establish the National Oil and Gas Museum and Research Centre in Oloibiri and recommended its construction with budgetary allocation from the federal government under the management of the National Commission for Museum and Monuments, NCMM, “no progress was made being a clear case of neglect and abandonment.”
He was further worried that the project still remains moribund after the government removed it from the NCMM to the PTDF in 2011.
Biobarakuma added that the contract for the Oloibiri oil field as re-awarded by the PTDF at N35billion is yet to commence, leaving the host communities with negative memories of oil exploration and production.
Contributing to the motion, Senators George Sekibo (PDP Rivers East), Ibrahim Oloriegbe (APC Kwara Central), Abdullahi Barkiya (APC Katsina Central) and Christopher Ekpenyong (PDP Akwa-Ibom North West), noted that the host communities had suffered neglect for decades and urged the government to ensure that the new project is not abandoned.