GOVERNOR  DIRI’S  USA TOUR

Trip to the United States of America by a delegation from Bayelsa State led by Governor Douye Diri makes strong case for Foreign Direct Investment in the Oil and Gas rich state.

   By ISAAC OMBE

Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

As a true son of Bayelsa state and patriot, Douye Diri , Governor of Bayelsa State demonstrated , a few weeks ago, a clear understanding of key challenges facing his state and the need to travel out in search of solutions. In appreciation that  In its 26 years of existence, Bayelsa State  has not witnessed immense development in area of industrialization and wealth creation, he embarked on two weeks tour to the United States of America in search of investors and  Foreign Direct Investment, FDI.

 And the reasons are many. In Bayelsa, there are no major manufacturing industries that can produce simple products like toilet tissues or soap. What exits is the ‘’government House industry’’ where everyone scrambles to grab what enters at the end of every month: the Monthly Federal Allocation, income shared by the Federal Government of Nigeria to the states and local governments in Nigeria.

 The other source of income for Bayelsa, the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, is a meagre income, compared to what accrues to Rivers and Lagos states.  What accrues to Bayelsa is like a drop in water in an Ocean. In spite of the low income challenges in Bayelsa State, the administration led by Governor Douye Diri, popularly called the miracle governor, has continued to push on gracefully.

In a strategic move to attract investments to Bayelsa, Governor Diri went on tour of major commercial and industrial cities in the United States and other countries, for about two weeks, recently, with a high powered delegation.  

In the delegation were political and industrial technocrats. These included Fred Agbedi. a serving House of Representatives  member, and other  members of the Commerce and  Trade Ministry in the state. They visited leading commercial and industrial cities in America, including New York and New Jersey. Governor Diri  disclosed to his hosts that Bayelsa State is rich beyond oil and gas resources.  He told them that huge agricultural potentials  are there for investors  to tap.

While addressing Nigerian Diaspora in United States, governor Diri explained that Bayelsa  State  is safe for investments, and  stressed that several measures are being put in place to ensure the safety of lives and properties, investors and investments. Bayelsa State , he added, has been the new haven  of safety and this informed the influx of peace loving people migrating from all parts of Nigeria to the state as their new aboard.

Further addressing Nigerians in Diaspora at a dinner hosted in his honour by the Consul-General, Ambassador Lot Egopija and the Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador  (Professor)Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, at the Nigerian Consulate, New York, Governor Diri said Bayelsa International Airport, which has since commenced commercial operations to Lagos and Abuja, remains very strategic to the investments drive.

He also informed his audience that the ‘Government of Prosperity’ under him had made pragmatic steps to ensure safety and security of lives and investments in the State, insisting that Bayelsa State remains one of the relatively secured states in Nigeria.

Explaining his mission, the governor said : “We came here on a two-prong visit, to bring Bayelsa State to the US and to the world, as a State that is ready and prepared to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and as a State that is culturally very strong, bringing our culture to the world. In the area of security, I assure you all that the State is safe.

“We have set up a special security outfit code named, Bayelsa State Community Safety Corps headed by a retired Brigadier-General. The corps is engaging over 5,000 community youths to join the statutory security personnel to keep everywhere secured”.

Governor Diri who went into memory lane on the birth of oil and gas in Bayelsa state informed his audience that “Bayelsa State has been known as hub of oil and gas. Like you rightly know that commercial oil operations began in a community called Oloibiri in Bayelsa State as far back 1956. The world is now moving away from crude oil to cleaner energy. We have abundance gas resources and in fact, we have more gas reserves than the crude oil. So, investment opportunities abound in the State’’

Speaking about his government’s effort to harness the rich agricultural potentials in the state, senator Diri further informed his audience that they are now diversifying into agriculture and mobilizing people to go into rice farming.

“It will interest you to know that because of the good soil and topography, Bayelsa can grow rice three times in a year. We cannot do it alone and that is why we have come here to speak to our brothers and sisters in diaspora to come and join us promote the investment potential in the State. We are opening up the State for FDI”, he said.

He  also called on Nigerians in diaspora to join hands to salvage Nigeria out of the current challenges facing the country especially on insecurity and political issues.

His words:”As you are aware, our country is undergoing some challenges, more of security and political. Before now, in our generation, you can travel all the way from Port Harcourt to Sokoto, to Kano, Kaduna without entertaining any fear. Today, the story is different. And it behooves all of us, that what we enjoyed growing up as a country, having friends across Nigeria, we must not allow Nigeria to die. We must all work together to ensure Nigeria remains one and not only remaining one, Nigeria will grow from strength to strength”, he stated.

Overwhelmed by the warm reception accorded him and his delegation, governor Diri commended the two Ambassadors for what he described as “the great reception and hospitality accorded the delegation from Bayelsa State’’.

Ambassador Lot Egopija, Consul-General, Nigerian Consulate in the New York and Ambassador  (Prof.) Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Nigeria’s Permanent Representatives to the United Nations, in their separate speeches commended Governor Diri for his forthrightness in driving investments into his State. They urged the governor to tap into the existing bilateral and business relationship between the US and Nigeria and leverage on Nigerian diaspora to attract investment opportunities to Bayelsa State.

The two cities of New York and New Jersey, the duo noted, have truly become great commercial centers in the US.

In the course of the visit , Bayelsa State Government and the State of New Jersey in the United States of America, also resolved to explore mutually beneficial business opportunities in the two states.

Governor Diri presented his economic initiatives to the the Secretary of State, Ms. Tahesha Way, who represented New Jersey Governor, Mr. Philip Murphy at an economic meeting in Trenton, New Jersey capital in the course of seeking investment opportunities and possible collaboration with some key institutions in New York and New Jersey.

  During the presentations, governor Diri, noted that both Bayelsa and the State of New Jersey had similar coastal terrain and said his administration was desirous to understudy key models of infrastructural development in the American state for the good of Bayelsa State.

He informed his host that the Bayelsa State delegation had met with Donald Milford Payne Jr., top US Congressman representing New Jersey, members of the African American Chamber of Commerce in New Jersey, visited Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Ricovr bio laboratory, an arm of the Princeton University, New Jersey, that is developing cutting-edge saliva diagnostic technology to seek partnership and support.

According to the Governor, Bayelsa State is seeking partnership in the development of Bayelsa Medical University in Yenagoa, exchange programmes for students, investments in renewable energy, and broadband technology to improve connectivity.

“We are here to seek further opportunities for the growth of our country and our dear State of Bayelsa. Bayelsa State is the golden egg of the country where crude oil was first struck in commercial quantities. But today, we are all aware that oil is almost given way. We are richer in natural gas deposits and that is a great source for cleaner energy that the world seeks. We are looking for investors in this area.

In the area of health, we have a young Medical University, we have been looking for opportunities for programmes exchange, modelling our curriculum to suit modern medical technology, opportunities like this to see other institutions that will collaborate with us. This is a massive opportunity”, he stated.

Ms. Way who presented a letter of welcome personally signed by Governor Murphy to Senator Diri, appreciated the genuine intention of the Bayelsa Governor to attract investments opportunities to his State and assured that the government in New Jersey would be willing to help mobilize investors to identify opportunities in Bayelsa State.

Mr. Victor Lawrence, a Senior Research Scientist at Stevens Institute of Technology and an expert in Broadband technology, said Brass Island in Bayelsa State had been identified as a great location to site a landing station for Telecom submarine cables that would be commercially rewarding to the oil-rich State.

The Permanent Secretary, Bayelsa State Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investments, Barr. Patience Ranami Abah, said the delegation was excited at the huge opportunities at the various facilities visited and that a technical team from the State would immediately explore the opportunities so identified.

The Consul-General, Nigerian Consulate in the New York, Ambassador Lot Egopija, accompanied Governor Douye Diri, to most of the meeting and visits.

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