The Underrated Oil Mine – Peace Chinyere Ogbonna


The discovery of crude oil in Nigeria led to ostentatious living, embezzlement and intoxicating money chase. Thereby leaving most the country as a “Fast food” country that is in a hurry to gulp down every junky preparation given to us as products and mental laziness of originality of invention.

An African country like Nigeria which earned the title as “Giant of Africa”, blessed with many natural resources yet owes a great debt and faces depreciation of its monetary value on a daily basis with 33.3% unemployment rate and we wonder how this great nation’s currency was higher than Dollars and Pounds.

The expectations are so great with minimal actions as the reliance on crude oil has led a way to the cookie crumbles of the economy, yet we have an alternative oil mine that has been given little or no attention in Nigeria which is the PALM TREE.


The history of palm trees in Nigeria is intertwined with its indigenous culture, as the botanical treasures have played an important role in shaping the cultural, economic, and ecological landscape of the country, right from ancient tradition to contemporary practices, the significance and multifaceted uses of palm trees in Nigeria paints a fascinating picture of resilience, sustainability, and cultural heritage.
History traces the use of Palm trees in Nigeria back to ancient times, with evidence suggesting that various ethnic groups in Nigeria uses different species of Palm trees for sustenance, shelter, environmental aesthetics, economic uses and other cultural practices.

The Palm tree symbolizes life and prosperity in most Nigerian communities. Óri Olokun” or “Igi Ope” festival is a cultural ceremony of the Yoruba tribe (The Western Nigerians) that celebrates the significance of the palm oil. Likely, the “Ji Ohu” popularly known as the New Yam Festival among the Igbos (The Eastern Nigerians) cannot be complete in celebration without the use of Palm Oil. This historical reverence reflects the integral role palm trees plays in daily lives and rituals of Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups.


The cultural significance of the Palm tree to Nigerians cannot be over emphasized, this has influenced Nigerian arts, music, folklore, and religious practices immensely. Most of the cultural significance of the palm tree are as follows;

  • The Yoruba cosmology, the oil palm is associated with the god “Olokun”, representing wealth and fertility.
  • The Palm tree is associated with fertility in Igbo culture, therefore the traditional marriage in Igbo culture is called Igba Nkwu (Nkwu means Palm tree in Igbo) indicating that the marriage union will be as fruitful as the Palm tree.
  • Palm trees signifies boundaries to indicate landmarks.
  • The Palm frond which is the leaf of the palm tree is signifies in most traditional ceremonies as a symbol of purity.
  • The Palm frond is signifies passage rites during wars and cleansing, those involved hold the Palm frond with their lips
  • A land that is in contention is usually tied with Palm frond to signify danger in the land and no one is permitted to step into the land until the issue is settled.

This cultural integration of palm trees underscores their deep-rooted presence in the fabric of Nigerian society.


1. SOURCE OF FOOD: Palm oil is the red oil extracted from the palm fruit; it is a staple in Nigerian cuisine. It is used in cooking traditional dishes. It has a distinct flavor and color it adds to meals. The Palm kernel is nut gotten from palm fruits which is edible and serves as snacks.

2. CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS: The trunk of the Palm tree is used in construction, providing a durable and flexible material for building homes and crafting tools. The Palm fronds were used as roofing materials for houses before the invention of zincs. Presently, the Palm fronds as still used for roofing in bush bars for purpose of aesthetics.

3. CRAFTMANSHIP: Palm fronds are used in crafting a variety of items ranging from brooms, mats, baskets, shields, hats, sieves, fans and home décor designs. Skilled artisans showcase the intricate weaving techniques that have been passed down from generations.

4. TRADITIONAL MEDICINES: Different parts of the palm tree including the sap and leaves have therapeutic properties and are used for curing different sicknesses.

5. COSMETIC PRODUCTIONS: The palm fruits are used in production of most body lotions and soaps. In ancient times, the palm kernels were processed through prolonged heating to extract oil of which the oil glows the skin and also has healing properties for strange sicknesses like convulsion.

6. CLEANING AGENTS: The ashes gotten from burnt Palm stems used as firewood are used as cleaning agents for washing off stains from kitchenware such as pots, cups etc. the ashes are equally used as cleaning agents for jewelries.

7. The chaff from the palm kernel serves as feed for livestock

8. The inflorescence of the Palm tree is used to produce bathing sponge back in the days.

9. The dry stems of the Palm tree are used as firewood which is fuel for cooking.

10. A specie of palm tree is short and does not really bear fruits much, that specie is basically used for aesthetics and shades in homes or an open space.


The economic impact of palm trees cannot be overemphasized. The diverse uses of the palm tree can be advanced and monetized and it is a valuable export commodity that can increase our foreign earnings.

Palm oil production has evolved over the years, transitioning from small-scale, subsistence farming to large-scale commercial plantations. The sector generates source of livelihood and employment opportunities and still has room to generate more if invested into.


While the economic benefits of palm trees are evident, there are challenges associated with unsustainable practices, particularly in the expansion of palm tree plantations.

Deforestation and environmental degradation have raised concerns, promoting calls for more sustainable and environmentally friendly approaches to palm oil production.

Efforts are ongoing and more efforts should also be put in to promote responsible cultivation through initiatives like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). These initiatives aim to balance economic gains with environmental conservation, ensuring the long-term viability of palm products production in Nigeria.


Over reliance on the crude oil has caused many hazards for Nigerians and what happens when all these oil wells dry up or have been exhausted? The history, significance, and diverse uses of the Palm trees in Nigeria weaves a narrative of resilience, cultural richness and economic importance. As Nigeria navigates the complexities of modern development, there is an opportunity to embrace sustainable practices that honor the cultural heritage of palm tree while ensuring a prosperous and environmentally conscious future. The palm tree is the underrated oil mine which should be rediscovered, maximized and economized.

Peace Chinyere Ogbonna
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