By Samuel Oyadongha
For many years, the Elebele Low Palm Estate, one of the only surviving physical assets Bayelsa State inherited from Rivers State following its creation in 1996 has been lying idle, prompting many to tag the vast complex a wasting treasure.
Interestingly, the sprawling palm estate which landmass cut across Elebele, Azikoro and Agbura communities in Ogbia and Yenagoa local government areas of the state was once a beehive of activities.
NDV learned that the facility is not only equipped with a modern processing mill, staff quarters, offices, and other facilities including ancillary farms but also has the potential of taking off the streets, hundreds of jobless youths.
Case for Green Economy
However, the fortunes of the estate may change for good soon as the Senator Douye Diri administration is to set to go green in line with its planned diversification of the state economy with a view to reducing its dependence on crude oil.
But for cattle dealers who were allotted a fringe of the estate to enable them to ply their trade by the immediate past administration of Chief Seriake Dickson which also handed over the estate to the state-owned Niger Delta University, NDU, after concessioning same to a private business outfit, the hitherto complex known for its intricate nursery beds and network of roads which could be mistaken for a holiday resort because of its alluring ambience is now a sorry sight.
Today, the place is like a natural wild overtaken by vegetation and also serve as hideouts for all types of criminal elements with its products being pillaged by poachers.
The expansive project, a potential money-spinning sector has been described as the key to the future economy of the state given the volatility of crude oil price in the world market.
Accordingly, Governor Diri recently approached and got the nod of the State House of Assembly to secure N10bn facility from the Central Bank of Nigeria to revive the state oil palm potentials.
He explained that the facility when acquired would be used to finance the development and expansion of existing oil palm potentials in the state.
Diri stated in his letter to the assembly, “as part of this administration’s efforts to cushion the effect of the global economic downturn occasioned by the COVID -19 Pandemic and the dwindling oil revenues, we seek to take advantage of intervention funds from the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“The facility from the Central Bank of Nigeria will aid the state government to develop our oil palm potentials.”
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A concerned Bayelsan, Thompson Preye, expressed optimism that the fund if properly utilise should be able to turn around the fortune of the state-owned palm estate as well as boost the economy of the state.
“It is my conviction that given the Senator Douye Diri administration mantra of Green Economy and its decision to approach the nation’s apex bank for a credit facility to revamp the Bayelsa Palm Estate, Elebele, after getting the approval of the House of Assembly, it shall be well with the long-abandoned palm estate, one of the surviving assets we inherited from Rivers State after the assets sharing between our sister states.
“I see oil palm and not crude oil as the key to the future of our state and I see the Bayelsa Palm Estate reclaiming its lost glory if Diri’s passion for the sector is anything to go by,” he said.
But Elaye Doubra stressed the need for caution noting that similar attempt by the Chief Timipre Sylva administration to breathe life into the troubled edifice failed to achieve set goals.
He, however, urged Diri to make the desired change saying “it is the dream of all Bayelsans to see the Elebele palm estate resuscitated and add value to the state internally generated revenue. It is up to Diri to write his name in gold by reviving the long-neglected complex and make it profit-oriented.”