Bassey Jessie

Jessie Edem Bassey; First Nigerian lady to work in the refinery for Shell-BP in Nigeria. Jessie transferred from the Shell-BP in UK to the Nigerian office just before the Civil War. During the war, she lost her job with Shell-BP, as the company terminated all operations in the Eastern region. She was re-appointed after the war by her former employers now rebranded as Nigerian Petroleum Refining Company (NPRC) following collaboration with the Nigerian Federal Government. Jessie spent her whole working life in NPRC again rebranded as as Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC, studying and attending various professional courses and rising up to a position of high ranking before retirement in 1996. She passed away on October 5, 2013.



Jessie was born on November 24, 1942, as Jessie Chik- were Akanu Nkobi, to a famous Abiriba produce merchant, the late Chief Nkobi Akanu of the Ndi-Ugboaja ruling house of Amaebelu in Abiriba, Abia State and to an illustrious hotelier, Madam Nkoyo Nkobi Akanu, daughter of the famous clan head, Obong Udo Antia of Ikot-Aba, Akwa Ibom State.



Jessie was married to Edem Bassey, 13 years older, who she met at the ‘welcome-home’ party hosted by her mum, following her return form the United Kingdom in the mid-sixties. Edem retired as a Director of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Their marriage produced three sons.


Places of Growth

Jessie spent her early years growing up and schooling with her elder brother James and elder sister Margaret in Port Harcourt, a city in which her mum managed her hotel and restaurant businesses. Following primary school, she progressed on to Union Secondary School, Ibiaku, now Akwa Ibom State where she completed her secondary school education with outstanding grades. This attracted the attention of Shell-BP in Port Harcourt and she was offered a place in their Trainee Programme. At the time in Nigeria, Shell and BP (British Petroleum) operated as a joint venture until BP sold all of its Nigerian concessions.



While training with Shell-BP, Jessie gained admission into Pitmans College, London. During her time at Pitmans, fully sponsored by her mum, Jessie worked with the Nigerian High Comission, London office on a part time basis. On graduation from Pitmans College, she was re-employed by shell BP and was based at varying times in both their London and Harlow office in the United Kingdom. As tensions were simmering just before the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war, Jessie made a bold and brave decision to leave the United Kingdom, seeking a transfer to work in Nigeria so as to be close with her mother and family.



Jessie was an Elder in Hoare’s Memorial Methodist Cathedral, Yaba, Lagos, and she held various positions in the Christ Armour Bearers Ladies Society within the church[i].


[i] Guardian November 16, 2013

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer