A look Inside Bayelsa, heartbeat of the Niger Delta

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Bayelsa, a South South state is one of the leading states in the Niger Delta. Situated in the heart of the region where agitation for the region’s development and resource control holds sway.

The state, created in 1996, lies between Delta and Rivers States. It is one of the newest states in the country, created during the military dictatorship of late head of state, General Sani Abacha. It is mainly a coastal state bounded by rivers, although bridges have been built across most of the rivers in the state.

It was originally part of the Eastern Region in the three-region structure of 1954. In 1967, with the creation of twelve federal states by General Yakubu Gowon’s military government, it became part of Rivers State. But in 1996, the military government of General Sani Abacha carved out a portion of Rivers State to create Bayelsa State.

Its major language is Ijaw or Izon spoken by vast majority of dwellers in the state. The state is the major home of the Ijaws in the region. It is also one of the oil rich states in the volatile Niger Delta region.

Land Mass, Location and Population

Bayelsa State covers an area of 9,415.8 square kilometres. It lies at latitude 4°45’ north and longitude 6°05’ east. It has a population of over 1,704,515, this is according to the 2006 census figures with a population density of 158 people per square kilometre. It accounts for 1.2% of Nigeria’s total population. But from 2006 till now, its population must have grown beyond that census statistics.


Governor Seriake Dickson

Historical background

According to the 1952 census report, the ljaws of the Niger Delta region have been recognized as one of the ten major ethnic groups in Nigeria. During the colonial administration, a separate province was created for them.

The amalgamation of Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 triggered the fear among minority ethnic groups of political domination; hence their agitation for a distinct state comprising the old Brass, Degema and Western ljaw Divisions, under the umbrella of ljaw national group, started in earnest.

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During the colonial period, Britain signed many treaties of protection with the chiefs of many coastal communities, especially the ljaws, with the hope that at Nigeria’s independence in 1960, a nation state would be created for the Ijaw people of Southern Nigeria.


Bridge across Bayelsa River

Between 1941 and 1956, many nationalist movements were formed mainly to establish ljaw political sovereignty. They pressed the issue of separate political sovereignty before the Willink Commission of 1958. In order to allay the fears of the ethnic minorities, the Willink Commission recommended the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) to tackle the problems of underdevelopment of the area, environmental neglect and political domination.

But despite the establishment of the board, the agitation for state creation, based on the above stated problems, continued until the military wrestled political power and control of Nigeria from civilians on 15th January 1966.


Cultural display by Bayelsans


In February 1966, Isaac Boro, an ljaw man from Kaiama town in Bayelsa State, with Sam Owonaro, Nottingham Dick and thousands of their supporters unilaterally proclaimed a “Niger Delta Peoples Republic.” But, the federal government brought the rebellion to a sudden end. On May 27, 1967, the then Rivers State (which was made up of the present Rivers and Bayelsa States) was created.

The present Bayelsa State was created on October 1, 1996 out of the old Rivers State. The name, Bayelsa, is an acronym of three former local government areas formerly in Rivers – Brass, Yenagoa and Sagbama, which had earlier comprised the entire area now constituting the new Bayelsa State.


Bayelsa Fishing

The then Brass local government is what makes up the present Nembe, Brass and Ogbia Local Government Areas; the then Yenagoa council area consist of the present Yenagoa, Kolokuma/Opokuma and Southern Ijaw Local Government Areas and the then Sagbama is what makes up the present Sagbama and Ekeremor Local Government Areas of the state.

The tradition in the old Rivers State, which is still the norm in Bayelsa State now, is the use of acronyms for local government areas. People referred to Brass Local Government Area as BALGA; Yenagoa was simply YELGA, while Sagbama as SALGA. Since personalities from BALGA, YELGA, and SALGA made up the State Creation Movement prior to the 1996 exercise, the proposed name agreed upon was BAYELSA.

The state has one of the largest crude oil and natural gas deposits in Nigeria. As a result, petroleum production is extensive in Bayelsa. However, the majority of Bayelsans live in poverty. They are mainly rural dwellers due to its peculiar terrain and lack of adequate transportation, health, education or other infrastructure as a result of decades of neglect by the central governments, state governments, and petroleum prospecting companies.


Fishing in Bayelsa communities

This has been a large problem in the state since its creation and successive state governments have not been able to address and repair the issue. The state, as a result, has an almost non-existent commerce besides fishing and subsistence farming. Successive state governments have, however, embarked on various industrial projects (even venturing into the oil and gas sector), and poverty-alleviation programs to reverse this situation.

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However, some argue that there is nothing on ground to show for the huge sums of money spent for development by successive and present state governments. The local population engages in fishing on a subsistence and commercial level. The Bayelsa State government is otherwise the main employer of labour in the state, thereby swelling up the state civil service.

Bayelsa has a riverine and estuarine setting. A lot of its communities are almost completely surrounded by water, hence making these communities inaccessible by road. The state is home to the Edumanom Forest Reserve, a site reputed for chimpanzees in the Niger Delta.


Bayelsa Rivers

Due to massive overseas scholarship programs implemented by the old Rivers State in the 1970s and recent Bayelsa State governments, large numbers of Bayelsan professionals reside in Europe and North America.

Cultural development in Bayelsa State

The major towns in Bayelsa State are Yenagoa, Amasoma, Sagbama, Obi, Kauama, Oloibiri, Ogbia, Oporama, Koluama, Brass and Opokuma. The people are mainly involved in fishing, farming, palm oil milling, palm wine tapping, local gin brewing, trading and exchange of locally made goods, and to a lesser extent, carving and weaving.

The Ijaw people are involved in carving mainly canoes, boats using shells from sea animals to create crafts for fashion, and decorative purposes. Indeed, the people of Bayelsa and the Ijaw people in general have many foods and delicacies that are localised, but also very much relished by other parts of the country.

Edepie-Tombia Bridge after construction

Edepie Tombia Bridge after construction

With its aquatic splendour, entertaining cultural festivals, traditional masquerades and enthralling dances, historical and colonial relics, Bayelsa is home to the historical relics of the Akassa slave transit camps and tunnel, the colonial cemetery at Akassa and Brass where the graves of some colonial masters are located.

Just recently, the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information, Jonathan Obuebite, told NAIJ.com that the administration of the present governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, has transformed the state. He listed bridges, schools, tourism centres, roads and agricultural interventions undertaken by the government. Actually going round the state capital, Yenagoa, one will see a city in the making with network of roads crisscrossing each other.

The post A look Inside Bayelsa, heartbeat of the Niger Delta appeared first on Nigeria News today & Breaking news | Read Naij.com 24/7.

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