Bayelsa State: History and Background
One of the newest states in Nigeria, Bayelsa State has much to offer to investors, from its rich natural resources to its magnificent environmental beauty. With a thriving petroleum sector, an extensive fishing industry, a growing private sector and a nascent tourism industry, the state is building on its natural advantages to take its place among the economic success stories of Nigeria.
Created in 1996 after the split of Rivers State, Bayelsa has a population of around 2 million people. Its capital is at Yenagoa, the traditional centre of the Ijaw people, Nigeria’s fourth largest ethnic group after Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo; while Ijaw dialects are spoken by most Bayelsan’ people, English is the state’s official language. The state has an area of around 21’000 square km, and about three-quarters of its total area lies under water.
The mangrove forests and swamps in the south of the country are home to rich vegetation and spectacular scenery, while the thick forest in the north has arable lands used for agriculture. Situated in the heart of the Niger Delta, Bayelsa is the source of 30-40% of Nigeria’s oil and gas production – in fact, the first oil struck in quantities sufficient for commercial production in Nigeria was found in 1956 in an area that was to become part of Bayelsa State.
State Government Strategies for Growth
Timipre Sylva has been governor of Bayelsa State since 2007. After coming to office, the governor’s administration undertook a review of Bayelsa’s development policies, resulting in the drawing up of the Bayelsa State Sustainable Development Strategy (BYSSDS) as a development framework to coordinate projects in the state. The strategy has three goals for the state: economic prosperity, social advancement and environmental sustainability. Its major focus is alleviating poverty to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, in line with the Federal Government’s plan to make Nigeria one of the world’s top 20 economies by 2020. BYSSDS makes provision for improving the health, skills and education of Bayelsan residents and for diversifying the state’s economy away from the oil industry, which currently provides most of state revenues. Based on the BYSSDS and with the support of the World Bank, the state government has outlined Medium Term Sector Strategies and Medium Term Expenditure Frameworks for each sector of economic activity covering 2010-2012.