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Bayelsa Oil Palm Estate: Weeds, Human Faeces Take Over
Amid growing concerns for the preservation of the environment as well as the need to harness its resources harmlessly to benefit Nigerians through a recourse to agricluture, Oluwole Ige in Yenagoa brings to the fore the state of the moribund Bayelsa Oil Palm Ltd which has been overtaken by cattle men, weeds and human activities.
For Bayelsa, a state in the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria, created about 16 years ago by the then military Head of State, late Gen Sani Abacha, it is an understatement to aver that it is endowed with natural and mineral resources, capable of propelling its greatness among the comity of states in the federation.
Apart from its large deposit of crude oil, popularly referred to as “Black Gold,” the state is richly blessed with tropical mangrove, arable land and ecological potentials, which are natural platforms that could aid agricultural productions in both small and large scale.
Perhaps these factors influenced the decision of the first executive governor of the state, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, to establish Bayelsa Palm Limited, which was designed to carry out large scale cultivation of palm trees in commercial quantity. To him at that point in time, there was need to de-emphasise dependence on oil and explore the agriculture sub-sector as a catalyst for shoring up the revenue of the state.
But today, the wanton abandonment of the palm oil plantation, a worrisome development, which had turned it into a grazing land for nomadic cattle herdsmen, is fast generating concern among the citizenry and stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
When Environment visited the plantation, situated along Elebele Estate, Fulani herdsmen and sizable number of others from the northern part of the country were seen with cows, taking advantage of its greener pasture to graze their flocks.
Discerning minds would be amazed, regarding the overgrown weeds, which had taken over virtually all parts of the farm, coupled with the stinking odour of human waste, from carefree individuals who have made some segments of the plantation their emergency toilets.
There is a strong notion from experts that oil palm, cassava and other critical agricultural produce would play significant roles as far as the future survival of the Nigerian economy is concerned.
Interestingly, Bayelsa State falls within the tropical mangrove ecological zone which is noted for huge reserve of fossil products that can boost agricultural supplies.
Investigations indicated that the state, for instance, is at a vantage stead of being in the frontline of producing fruits, vegetables, palm oil, rice, fish and other livestock which could have made Bayelsa, perhaps another food basket of the nation.
Notwithstanding these potentials, the supposedly major money-spinning enterprise for Bayelsa State, is currently lying fallow, amid the destruction of its environment by cattle grazing its landmass and unscrupulous persons, who now use parts of the farm as toilets.
From this indication, the purpose for the establishment of the oil palm plantation had almost been defeated, taking into cognizance the failure of the past governments in the state to revitalise the farm and at the same time generate employment opportunities for its teeming unemployed youths and able-bodied adults.
Located on the outskirt of Yenagoa the Bayelsa State capital, the Elebele Palm Estate which could be described as one of the biggest oil palm plantation in the Niger Delta is a wasting asset.
The oil palm estate has been taken over by weeds while its produce is being poached by intruders from the adjoining communities.
The vast palm estate is equipped with a modern processing mill and has the capacity of taking off the streets, hundreds of jobless youths, but it is not being exploited in that direction.
Further checks by Environment indicated that attempts by the various administrations in the state to revive the sector could best be described as cosmetic and lacking the political commitment in spite of the huge resources injected into the oil palm concern.
The former administration of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha had, on realising that the palm estate was not big enough to generate revenue to ensure self sufficiency, attempted to expand the plantation from its present 1,083 hectares to 29,000 in phases.
The administration was frustrated by the local population from whom the land was acquired, but are still laying claim to it thereby stalling the move to make Bayelsa the largest palm oil producing state in the federation.
A credible source informed Environment that though the agricultural development potential of the central upper Delta plain is seriously limited by excess water caused by the annual floods and rainfall, including lack of adequate drainage in the area, conscious effort could have been made to drain the land and put it into appropriate agricultural use in phases.
The source stated, “It is sad that the previous administrations in the state government had not exhibited the political will to reposition the Bayelsa Oil Palm Limited and other crucial subsectors in the agricultural industry.
“What is the rationale behind the state government acquisition of an ultra modern oil mill from Malaysia with a production capacity of 10 tons per hour and leaving the facility to rot away,” the source queried, pointing out that the only time a conscious effort was made to revive the ailing estate was during the tenure of the former Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Edward Dandeson-Spiff.
Beyond all these inhibitions and other environmental challenges, the new approach by the incumbent governor of the state, Mr Henry Seriake Dickson, to revamp agriculture in Bayelsa might offer fresh breath to the oil palm plantation.
Worried by the dwindling fortune of the state in the agricultural sector and the destruction of Bayelsa Oil Palm Limited’s environment, the governor recently constituted a 16-man Agricultural Development Blueprint Committee headed by Mr. Izonebi Obubo, with the mandate to resuscitate the abandoned plantation, among other sundry matters.
The committee is also saddled with the responsibility of identifying major agricultural produce in which the state has comparative advantage; recommend realistic and time-bound policies and programmes aimed at harnessing the agricultural and agro-business potentials and also identify ways by which it could partner with other stakeholders and agencies outside the state.
With this development, there may be a glimpse of hope for the moribund oil palm to regain its frontline position in the massive production of oil and other raw materials, thus enabling it contribute its quota to the revenue generation drive of the state government.
Dickson, who, about three weeks ago, deplored the low Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state, during his monthly Transparency Initiative briefing, had underscored the crucial need to grow Bayelsa’s local economy through robust investment in agriculture and tourism subsector, saying dependence on revenues, accruable from oil derivation from the Federation Account, was detrimental to the overall growth of the state.Share