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By Agreen Nembe
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One of the fundamental causes of militancy and frustration among the youths of Bayelsa State qua the Niger Delta Region, NDR, is youth unemployment. Apart from the general mismatch between the educational system and the dynamics of the economy, there are three dimensions and causes of unemployment in Bayelsa State. The most potent causality is the near-absence of industries, lack of indigenous entrepreneurs and investors. Since the creation of the State, the helmsmen have not been able to harness her economic potentials. Vietnamese Agricultural experts say Bayelsa State has stupendous advantage in rice cultivation. Have we utilized this advantage in the benefit of the people? The PDP Guber aspirant made this known to newsmen at the Port Harcourt International Airport on Wednesday.

Hon. Dickson said the present administration should be commended for signing Memoranda of Understanding with some experts in Israel in vegetable production, Norway in fish cultivation and shrimp culturing, and Vietnam in rice production. The subsisting MOU's will constitute the foundation for the much expected quantum-leap in Agriculture. For Example Vietnam – the third largest rice producer in the world. My administration will leverage on the existing MOU's, expand their scope of operation and strengthen partnerships with other technologically advanced countries. With the rice farms in PEREMABIRI, ISAMPOU AND BURMA, I will appoint a world class Professor of Agriculture to manage that Ministry efficiently to train our youths in mechanized agriculture and transform Bayelsa into the largest rice producer in the West African sub-region. No State has a better comparative advantage than Bayelsa State in Nigeria. Our Delta is more prolific in rice production than the Mekong Delta in Western Vietnam. We shall take advantage of this sector, he said.

The philosophy of my administration is to nurture Bayelsa State to join the ranks of the high-income states in Nigeria. At present, it is generally believed that Bayelsa State has the highest per capita income in Nigeria, but this has not translated to the well being of the people. The raison d'être is that no economy can maintain sustained growth without industrialization. Presently, there is no functional industry in Bayelsa State. The Bayelsa Plastic Industry lacks most of the machines needed for production at installed capacity. The Bayelsa Oil Company for which over $40 million was sourced is nowhere to be found. The Bayelsa Palm Industries Limited at Elebele has not attracted any investment in spite of subsisting MOUs to that effect.

The Aspirant said in Bayelsa State government is the sole employer of labour because of near zero level of Industrialization. Today, Bayelsa State has only one functioning Industry, which is not operating at full capacity. If the Bayelsa Plastic Industry were operating at full capacity, It could employ up to 400 youths (boys and girls), but we are even negating a simple but well-tested economic principle of Comparative Advantage. The landmass of Bayelsa State is about 90% water and the natural occupation of the people is fishing. My Administration shall train people in the fishing industry, procure just 10 to 15 Fishing Trawlers, establishing a fish caning industry and provide jobs for more than 1000 Bayelsa youths, and of course the value chain would generate considerable spill over benefits in other Micro and Small Scale Enterprises, SMEs.

It was excusable that during the Alamieyeseigha days, foundational projects like the Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State College of Arts and Science, BYCAS provided jobs for a couple of people, but these are government owned institutions that are funded exclusively by government. Whereas the scholarship scheme is commendable, the question is: why would you train people who cannot be absorbed by the economy for productivity? So far the present administration has not created the enabling environment to attract private investors (domestic and foreign).

We shall operate a small government, collapse all Government Ministries into between 10 to 12, cut down on government aides, reduce the wage bill by more than 30%, and conserve resources for the provision of road infrastructure, potable water, rehabilitation of educational facilities such as the re-introduction of the Boarding System etc. Presently, the over N3 billion spent on recurrent expenditure is not only troubling but unrealistic with claims made by the Due Process Bureau. Other States with 18 LGAs do not spend 1/3 as much on personnel emolument. My Economic Team will encourage each Local Government Area to identify a niche' where it has advantage over others. It is the State's inability to provide job opportunities that increased frustration and militancy index, with every warlord trying to own a Camp. My administration will set up a special agency to manage the Millennium Development Goals Projects, so that the impact will trickle down to the grass roots. The only visible private Investments in the State can be seen in gigantic buildings, hotels and filling stations. Why are they afraid of investing the money they have taken from the people?

Dickson said, Government's unwillingness to create job opportunities and to inflict hardship on the masses that led to the abandonment of the Bayelsa Palm Limited – which in other climes would have been a gold mine. Bayelsa Palm Limited alone, when reactivated and its management re-engineered could employ 450 Bayelsa youths. I saw how Chief John Anderson Eseimokumoh and Andrew Uchendu operated RISOMPALM and the number of people the company employed in old Rivers State. These people are still alive and we can learn a lot from them.

He reiterated that the difference between a statesman and a politician is that while a statesman is a politician who places himself at the service of the people, a politician is a statesman who places the people at his service. We expect the next helmsman to administer Bayelsa State like a statesman, not like a politician” because service rendered to the people, in humility, is the utmost good.

If the $40 million diverted into a non-existent Bayelsa Oil Company; if the resources stashed away by the present administration in offshore accounts were invested in agriculture and allied industries; if 40% of the stolen resources could be repatriated and invested in empowerment programmes driven by patriotic Bayelsa People, UNEMPLOYMENT WILL BE A THING OF THE PAST. Hon. Dickson said “Let us regard the Sylva years as a wasted period and begin to rebuild the State; we will tackle unemployment to ensure that no Bayelsan with skills, competences and abilities will be left out" I know majority of Bayelsans share in this vision.

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