It is most interesting that His Excellency, the Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri and some well-meaning people of the state are passionately advocating the relevance of harnessing the maritime resources of the state, for its economic growth and development.
Part of the very significant initiatives by the governor to achieve this objective, is the proposed creation of the new Ministry of Blue Economy that will be saddled with the responsibility of effectively coordinating the activities of the maritime sector.
This is most instrumental and key to attaining the desired goals in the sector
One key benefit that could be derived from adequately harnessing the coastal resources in the state, is the diversification of the state’s economy. The state, will to a great extent be assuaged from the very heavy reliance on the crude oil based revenue.
The multifaceted resources embedded in the coastal areas of the state can be uniquely utilized through the creation of the Ministry of Blue Economy. The ongoing construction of the Bayelsa West, Central and East Senatorial roads to the hinterland of the coastal areas by the state government are well conceived measures to make the completion of key projects in the maritime sector, such as the Agge Deep Seaport more feasible.
The economic viability and sustainability of the state will greatly depend on the successful completion and operations of the Deep Seaport at Agge. Agge has a natural deep seaport and a shorter distance to the South East states of the country. An industrial city is also planned around the seaport and with the multiplier effect of its subsidiaries, a great turnaround for the state’s economic sustainability is guaranteed.
It is worthy to add at this point that the Agge Deep Seaport is a multi-billion naira project, which requires government and private sector partnership. The Bayelsa State government has always made pronouncements of its intention to partner with credible investors for the building and completion of this very extremely important project.
The people of Bayelsa at home and in the Diaspora are also called upon to selflessly seek for potential investors to partner with the state government to accomplish this economically great project. As it is known to all and Sundry, shipping and port operations are the livewires of nations economic sustainability globally and should be given very serious concern.
Another maritime related project that would contribute substantially to the economic viability of the state is Petroleum Oil Tank Farm, that can be strategically located in the coastal areas of the state. Bayelsa has the longest coastline in Nigeria up to the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean, which means it is accessible to countries, states, cities and communities in the Gulf of Guinea.
This creates a large market for the state’s economic resources, including the petroleum products. The state is also accessible by the coastal areas to neighbouring Niger Delta States. The supply of petroleum products from existing Petroleum Oil Farm to other Niger Delta States, apart from Bayelsa state is also guaranteed.
This project is economically viable, self sustaining, employment generating and will as well increase revenue for the economic growth and development of the state. In fact, a very critical view of the relevance and contribution of the maritime sector to the economic growth and development to any nation, can sufficiently induce any sane minded individual to realize that the creation of the new Ministry of Blue Economy is long overdue in the state.
The fishing industry which is part of the maritime sector, has provided livelihoods to many impoverished people across the world as well as improved economies. Government and Private Sector initiatives can as well be adopted to carry out deep sea fishing in the state.
If the state government considers it not safe to solely venture into deep sea fishing in our ocean and seas, the acquisition of fishing trawlers for fishing in the Atlantic can enhance the industry and create jobs for our active and unemployed youths in the state, in partnership with the private sector.
Sea foods, such as oysters, periwinkle, crayfish, shellfish, seashells, pearls, aquatic plants and water hyacinth are part of the resources in the coastal areas of the state that are also not well harnessed. The herbal and industrial usefulness of aquatic plants in our coastal areas have been proven by renowned researchers. All these possess economic potentials.
The state is also endowed with numerous and profitable fishing lakes spread across the eight Local Government Areas. Though they are owned by communities and families, but the owners of these fishing lakes can be sensitized and encouraged to preserve the fish stocks to grow for the sake of promoting fishing festivals to attract tourists to our state.
This will also make owners of these lakes to earn higher profits from the sales to improve their livelihoods. The proposed new Ministry of Blue Economy, when created could be responsible carrying out sensitization on our people who own lakes in the state.
Maritime tourism is much desired by tourists worldwide. Bayelsa state is naturally endowed with distinctive aquatic splendor, very extremely beautiful vegetation, with most attractive maritime tourism opportunities, ideal enough to captivate tourists from any part of the globe.
Potential tourism opportunities in the state includes; fresh water and marine sand beaches, adventure parks, particularly on the River Nun, Mangrove forests, where tourists can enjoy holiday tour packages and seaside hotels. Others are the relics of the slave trade domiciled by the River side at Akassa, the Akassa light house and the slave-holding house, also by the Riverside at Akassa communities.
Other economic potentials of the coastal areas are salt water, which can be used for the production of salt. Silica sand can be used for the production of glasses, while clay can be used for production of ceramics and sand for dredging.
The marine resources in Bayelsa State are grossly under-utilized. The revival of this sub-sector is required to turn around the state economically in partnership with the private sector, while the government provides the enabling environment.
Power generation is critical to nations, as it is required to grow every sector of the economy. Renewable energy abound in the oceans and seas of Bayelsa State. There are renewable energy potentials, such as wind, tide, wave and biomas derivable from the oceans and seas in the state.
It is incumbent on the state government to put appropriate institutions, policies and programmes with professionals to drive the processes in collaboration with investors to achieve set goals. The numerous job opportunities and economic development of this scheme to the state’s economy cannot be overstated.
As enunciated above in this paper, Bayelsa has the longest coastline in Nigeria up to the Gulf of Guinea. There are huge investment opportunities in building fishing vessels, tankers, house boats, barges, tugboats, crew boats and patrol boats. Some skill inclined and serious minded youths of the state and other Nigerians can acquire skills in building these vessels and boats.
The oil and gas industry is noted for conveying human and material equipment to required destinations. The much expected human capacity development, employment and the value chain of this industry can improve the state’s economy and livelihoods.
Part of the coastal resources is deep sea mining, although studies have shown that deep sea mining is destructive to the ecology of the ocean or the water bodies, but there are still massive sulfide deposits that contain valuable metals such as silver, gold, copper, manganese, cobalt and zinc.
They are some resources attainable through deep sea mining. The proposed ministry of Blue Economy, when created should put strategies in place and adopt global best practices in harnessing the abundant maritime resources, using technology to yield good results in the sector, for the growth and development of the state’s economy.
The new ministry should also reactivate programmes and activities in the maritime sector that had hitherto not been able to achieve set goals. More importantly, the Blue Economy Ministry should link the value chain of the maritime sector, based on comparative advantage and this will culminate in accomplishing Maritime Economic Zone for our coastal areas in the state.
Efforts to create the new Ministry of Blue Economy should not be rescinded as it will contribute more, economically than most existing ministries.
DR. MAURICE POTOPREGHA
MINISTRY OF TRADE, INDUSTRY AND INVESTMENT