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How Bayelsa is being made safe for investment, by Gov Dickson


Last week, Bayelsa State hosted its first Investment and Economic Forum.
For the governor, Seriake Dickson, it was an opportunity to explain to the world the giant strides of his administration.   Here are excerpts:

How Bayelsa is being made safe for investment
As I took the oath of office as governor, most of the critical initial steps my government took were aimed at building this cardinal imperative upon which our policy thrust as government will be delivered. Accordingly, prime among this was the issue of insecurity, which  made it impossible to live and do business in Bayelsa.

President Goodluck Jonathan flanked by Vice President Namadi Sambo and the Bayelsa State PDP Gubernatorial Candidate, Mr. Seriake Henry Dickson (l) while the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan also grabs the hands of the wife of the candidate, Mrs. Seriake Dickson as they danced round the arena during the grand finale of the PDP Governorship Campaign at the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida
President Goodluck Jonathan flanked by Vice President Namadi Sambo and the Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Seriake Henry Dickson (l) ;the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan at the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

By deliberate and determined deployment of legislation and policy, backed by decisive and clear-headed  leadership, mobilizing the security asset of our country and the citizenry, our state within the short period  of two years has now become one of the  safest places to live and do business  in the country.

Our investment in the three components of a viable security  system, which include  people, platform and processes  – are undeniably world class, a fact that is clearly attested to by  Wikipedia. In this state, we have rolled out  statewide  security communications across all our communities. We are rolling out with the support of the  Electronic  Surveillance  Law, the first Safe  City  Programme  and work is ongoing for the installation of electronic surveillance equipment across the State.“

We have made  investment in the security task force code named Operation Doo  Akpor,  which is adequately equipped to burst crimes at very short notice with  a  response time of not more than three minutes, a fact that I authenticate every morning from automatically generated system call logs.

Operation Doo  Akpor  has become a household name in Bayelsa and beyond  because of its services which even go beyond just meeting security distress calls but majorly any kinds of distress calls which  has further given the people of the state greater confidence in their abilities. It has earned the reputation of an internationally acclaimed security outfit, having won the best security award in Africa held last year in South Africa.   We now have a purpose built command and control centre  which coordinates activities of our security unit and receives distress signals on a continuous basis from all over the State.

On the gains of a secure environment
As a consequence of our effort and the huge investment in security, nightlife and businesses have returned to Yenagoa. Indeed, as a result of the prevailing peace, our state is witnessing an influx of people, families and businesses now relocating to Bayelsa. Tourists and investors are  daily streaming into the state.

The peaceful and serene atmosphere pervading the entire State is so strong and contagious that it has attracted many prestigious events such as the International Jazz Festival, African Academy Movie Awards (AMAA), Caribbean African American Nations, (CAAN) Music Awards, African Fashion Reception, the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria(MGBN)  pageant (which you will be witnessing  the event  during your time here at the end of the forum)among others.“ Every month, the state is hosting one major event or the other without any adverse security situation recorded.

On infrastructure
While we are  battling with funding  on-going projects,  we are committed to hitting the  Atlantic Ocean  where our real wealth lies from three flanks. These projects include  a  road and rail  project fromYenagoa  –  Ekeremor  –  Agge,  a distance of over 110km  where  a  deep  seaport will be built.  Feasibility studies  and preliminary designs  have since been commissioned  on the deep seaport  and  are in the process of being  finalized.  We have surveyed 20,000hectares of land for this support to host a new port city coming up in that vicinity.

Incorporated within this city will be a  Free Trade Zone  for which the process of obtaining Federal Government approval has commenced.
The second road is the Yenagoa – Ogbia – Nembe – Brass road and rail project  a distance of over 105kmwhere series of investments in the Oil & Gas sector will be taken  place  connecting the East Senatorial Zone. Projects like the renowned Brass  LNG project, Brass Fertilizer Project with investment value of $3.3billion  and BP/Banner Gas  Gas Aggregation Terminal with Mini LNG will all be taken place along this corridor.

With our renewed support and intervention now, our development partners SPDC/NDDC will be able to take the road  from Ogbiato  land in  Nembe by December  2014.
The third road is the  Yenagoa  –  Oporoma  –  Koluama road project opening the central senatorial zone and our forest reserves for agricultural business and lumbering.

Our government will be committing the state later this year into  a PPP  arrangement that will enable the completion of these all important road and rail projects  and we seize this opportunity to call on willing partners to co-invest with us  on these projects, as the  roads when completed will be concessioned  and  tolled.

Advancement in education
Even more important than physical infrastructure, is our investment in human capital development. At  the inception of my government, during my inaugural address, I declared a state of emergency in the educational sector. Knowing the primacy of education as far as the promotion of the economy is concerned,  our restoration government  in two years has executed  major educational  programmes, spread across the state, raising real hope of a bright future for our children  in the acquisition of quality  and requisite  education  thereby  creating  a better society.

Today in Bayelsa State, education is free from primary all through to the secondary level.  Education is free in  every sense  of the word as essential materials  such as school  uniforms;  school sandals and  textbooks  are given to students without a single kobo being paid  by them.  We have built over 600 primary schools with headmaster’s quarters.

8 model secondary  schools and 25 constituency schools  with boarding facilities across the state,  built from scratch by the restoration government and fully equipped with science laboratories and modern facilities required for 21st  century learning. We have in addition re-built and upgraded St.  Jude’s  Amarata  Girls School, the oldest girls’  school in the state and BDGS.

We  have  expended  over N6 billion in the state scholarship programme, where  we now have  140Bayelsans  are on fully paid government scholarships to study for PhDs in highly rated Universities in Europe and America.   In the last two years since the inception of our government, we have been paying W.A.E.C, G.C.E, N.E.C.O, science & technical practical fees  and JAMB fees for all our students in the  state, which amounts to the tune of  over  N3.2b.

It is noteworthy to also mention  the  State’s partnership with the prestigious Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, which  aside from our students learning on  its campus, also extend  technical assistance  and support to  the state-owned Niger-Delta University.

Education infrastructure
Indeed, our state is fast becoming the educational hub  and epicenter of human capital development in Nigeria  especially  with the establishment of the following institutions of learning:
•Teachers Training Institute,
•Maritime Academy,
•School of Agriculture,
•International Institute for Tourism and Hospitality, Elebele
•International Institute for Driving, Yenagoa
•Music school,  Yenagoa
•School of  Nursing,
•Sports Academy,
•Football Academy,
•Re-establishment of BYCAS, to prepare our students for remedial studies and which has  now acquired  a student population of over 3,000students
•Isaac Jasper  Adaka  Boro  College  of  Education, Sagbama
•The multi-billion naira Youth Development Centre,  Kaiama
•Newly established State Polytechnic, to address vocational and technical education
All of the above institutions  are built like universities of  their  own  and  require partners to strengthen  their curriculum and human capacity to ensure the production of world-class graduates.  We are currently partnering with a Canadian Group on our Teacher Training Institute for which work has already commenced in  earnest.

Tourism development
Firstly, on Tourism development, it is clear that in the past two years Bayelsa State has consistently hosted world acclaimed events. We have hosted International Jazz Festival, African Academy Movie Awards (AMAA), Caribbean African American Nations (CAAN) Music Awards, African Fashion Reception, the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria  (MGBN)  beauty pageant  and a host of other international events.

We have beautiful tourist sites such as the White Man’s graves at  Akassa  in Brass Local Government Area, beautiful lakes with the famous OX-Bow Lake the only natural OX-Bow  Lake in the country, mangrove serene environment with  one of the longest coastlines  of  beautiful white sand beaches. The reason  why we are constructing the most ambitious Tourism Island  project,  a  New Yenagoa City with a 20,000 hectare area  comprising of  choice residential and leisure spots.

MBGN1Already, the  Castle Rock  Hotel  a 24suite 100 bed six star hotel with an Amphitheater, casino, wellness centre,  chapel and other facilities will be completed and commissioned within the next two months;  a Golf estate with an 18holeInternational PGA Golf course;  a world standard  Polo turf and  Club;  Helipad and  Conference  Facilities,  A film village  etc.  Our vision is to be the tourism, sporting  and conferencing  headquarters in Nigeria. A major road show to raise funds for the New Yenagoa City  project  will commence soon. This  project  is intended as a private sector led initiative and we invite  you all  to partner with us  to  realize it.

We have  3  hotel projects  (the Bayelsa Castle rock hotel, Bayelsa Tower hotel and the Ox-bow lake hotel) that will deliver over 500 world class rooms by the end of next year  for which we invite willing investors to take advantage of. Our investment team is  on hand to organize site visits and inspection  to these hotel sites.

Adding value to land ownership
It is interesting to note that we  have liberalized the land  title system in the state  with the setting up of Bayelsa Geographic Information System (BAYGIS) by which we have simplified the process of obtaining Certificate of Occupancy  for land titles. Within  60 days, we will be able to process and issue C of Os to cover land titles  and I have signed several of them  to date  already.

The state is  also investing in a mortgage  bank  to enable  access to mortgage facilities  by our people  to easy development of properties for investment, business and residential  purposes.

Bayelsa  State has comparative advantage in  large-scale  production of rice, palm produce,  aquaculture, banana, plantain, cassava and vegetables. The state has invested in mega  aquaculture  projects with two Israeli companies, which  are presently under construction  to  produce  3,000 tons of fish annually. Our vegetation is suitable for three cycles of rice production.

We have major rice farms of our own which  produces the Restoration brand of Rice. Currently, we have 4,000  hectares  of rice farm at Peremabiri, 5,000  hectares at  Isampor  and 2,000hectares at  Kolo.  We have the capacity to grow and produce rice  that will feed the entire Bayelsa State, Nigeria, West Africa and  for export  oversea.

We have established in conjunction with  Ostertrade Engineering & Manufacturing KFT/DPP International APS, a Hungarian/Danish consortium a cassava starch  processing plant with a capacity  to produce600 tons  of industrial starch  per annum and an out growers scheme of  600 hectares cassava farm.  We have concluded a seed multiplication farm on a 40 hectares  at  Ebedbiri  for this cassava farm.

The state has  a  palm plantation of 1,200 hectares with a potential to grow the palm plantation to 2,000 hectares at the current location. In addition,  Bayelsa is the  natural home of organic banana and vegetables  in Nigeria. That is why we are building the Cargo International Airport to prepare the state for  the  export market. From Bayelsa to anywhere in Europe is less than six hours in flight time.

On power, this is one  of  the strongest selling opportunities for investment  in this state. We are the home of  Oil and  Gas  in Nigeria. Indeed,  40%  of the nation’s gas deposit is located here in Bayelsa State. Our aspiration is to be  the energy centre of the nation. It is on record that our state  is the first to build an  Independent power plant in the early 70s  in Nigeria,  which is still in use  today.

The gas turbine investment by previous administration which we are in the process of  overhauling  and increasing its capacity  by an  additional 83 megawatts  to bring the total capacity to  a  100megawatts.
Furthermore, we are pleased to report that the state has attracted the following investment in power as follows:
1. IPP Energy Limited of Canada raising $200m for over 100megawatts.
2. Proton Energy Limited to create 500megawatts.
I have accordingly directed the investment  and power teams  to conclude  all discussions  with prospective investors in the power sector to enable us make investments in the sector.

Industrial park

Governor Henry Seriake Dickson
Governor Henry Seriake Dickson

With the availability of power we are projecting by December  2014, it has become imperative to have an industrial  layout that will  house  heavy and light manufacturing investments. This project we expect  to commence next month. There is a plan  to establish an inland port  with warehousing and storage facilities around the corridor  linking  Bayelsa  State and Anambra  State to take advantage of the legion of importers and the business community prevalent in the eastern part of the country.

We have surveyed 400 hectares of land for this  purpose. Our desire is to build industrial parks with the most modern facilities required for businesses  in the modern world today to attract all classes of businesses to the State.  We are looking for co – investors to partner with the State to develop these industrial parks and layouts.

SME development
One of the greatest problems of this state even with all the developmental strides by our government  is the need to get our people engaged  in productive enterprise  outside of government.  Presently in our state, relative to our population, we have the highest number of workforce employed by any state government in Nigeria. As a result  we are confronted on a monthly basis with a bloated wage.

We have battled with the issue of payroll fraud and we have been  able to reduce it from N6b to N4.3b. Similarly, our political wage bill is also the highest in the country. Even with this, we have a  high threshold of political patronage that is not sustainable in anyway and has not proven to be beneficial to the system. There is a limit to government’s patronage.

I know that access to capital is a problem. I  also know that not having title is a problem. But we have addressed all these  through the measures we have put in place to enable them process title document and have access to capital. We are creating an SME development fund of between N20b to N30b. We expect our people to seize this opportunity to make the transition from seeking and waiting for government jobs and appointments, which is not sustainable, to becoming self-reliant by owning their own businesses.

We have started the development of a cargo and passenger airport in conjunction  with the Federal Government, which we intend to complete by the end of 2015. We like to thank the Federal Government for the partnership with the State to construct the Terminal Building of the airport. This airport will open the State to ease of entry and exit from the State which will stimulate traffic into the State.

To further open the State for development we are building a deep seaport at  Agge  area of  Bayelsa State.  Bayelsa is in the middle of the Gulf of Guinea and is in prime position to service the countries of the Gulf of Guinea.  We look forward to investments in the deep seaport and airport projects.

The health sector is another primary area where there exist opportunities for  investment by would be investors. We have invested over N25billion directly into a 380bed hospital  with specialist capacities. A world class diagnostic centre. We have built several primary healthcare  centres  around the state. To ensure quality healthcare for our people, we have established a Health Insurance Scheme, which guarantees demand to healthcare providers in the state. We are looking for partners that will collaborate with us and invest in the provision of other healthcare facilities like Optical clinics, dentistry other healthcare projects.

The State Government is in the process of investing in a Mortgage Bank to ensure access to mortgage for the people of Bayelsa State creating capacity to acquire their own houses. The State Government is investing the sum of N2.5billion to acquire and recapitalize the target Mortgage Bank.  Thereafter, the State Government shall be  developing a Mortgage Fund in the sum of N25billion to funding the construction of residential and commercial real estate in the State. With these initiatives taken by Government we wish to invite potential investors interested in investing in the housing sector in the State to build residential and commercial real estate for acquisition by people of the State.

The State Government is also interested in the development of an information technology backbone in the State,  which will provide facilities for data transmission and telephony services. The State has invested in a telecommunications company called Suntel  Telecommunications Limited,  which provides broadband, fixed lines and wireless telecommunication services in the State.

Availability of financial services
It is the intention of the State Government to set up a Bayelsa Financial Services Centre  (BFSC)  to create a centre for the provision of  capital and financial services  in the State –
The Bayelsa Development & Investment Corporation (BDIC), Establishment of an Oil & Gas/Commodity Trading Market, Business Process Outsourcing  and Contact Centres, Role of Bayelsa Development & Investment Corporation (BDIC)


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