Africa: Bayelsa State Commissioner, Iti Orugbani advocates a shift from oil and gas to tourism driven economy

Bayelsa Orugbani

The Bayelsa State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Development, Dr. Iti Orugbani has advocated for a stronger Bayelsa without oil and gas dominated local economy.

Orugbani said: “looking at the trend of the emerging world economy, it is certain, that, if not during our lifetime, posterity will come to experience a time where there will be no oil to drill in Bayelsa or there may be no buyer of oil”.

Dr. Orugbani who made the remark while delivering a paper, titled: Bayelsa, beyond oil during the Annual General Meeting of Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN) to mark the association’s 30 years anniversary webinar as one of the panelists reiterated need for proper planning, noted that, “with the enormous tourism potentials in the state, Bayelsa under Governor Douye Diri administration is beginning to put in place concerted efforts at investing in the tourism sector so as to increase the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and to stay in vogue with the world economic system, so that there could even a stronger Bayelsa without oil”.

Other speakers include: Gloria Guevara Manzo from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Alex Nwuba of the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA), Ola Wright from West Africa Tourism Organisation (WATO), Marina Novelli – Professor of Tourism and International Development, UK, Nigel David- Regional Director, Middle East & Africa, WTTC, with HRH Alh (Dr) Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli, Emir of Zazzau, as Royal Father of the Day, while pioneer President of ATPN, (Father of Tourism) Chief M. Amachree was special guest of honour.

The university don pointed out that employment opportunities could be provided for the citizens of a state that promotes tourism, such as guiding, coaching services, hotel staff, restaurants attendants, craft producers, saying that “inbound tourists come with foreign hard currencies to spend at local tourist locations that could strengthen the local economy”.

“Again, when tourists frequently visit destinations, it leads to economic diversification. For example, when inbound tourists continue to make their visits and continue to spend, local people will be encouraged to produce local goods being patronized by the tourists, thereby inducing economic diversification and specialization.

“The increase of tourists at a local site also means more money coming to the place. And, when there is more money it leads to more social amenities. This, as may be expected, in turn generates a vibrant local economy.

“Tourism also encourages the introduction of new socio-cultural-economic ideas. When tourists of other cultural or economic zones visit other zones, they intend to or inadvertently bring new cultures or economic ideas that may be beneficial to the local people.

“The same could be true of the visiting tourists. The local cultures could be promoted as tourists pay some charges to watch local dances and other forms of entertainments. Tourism also leads to providing ecological serenity. No tourist may need to visit an unkempt site, thereby enforcing environmental cleanliness. Apart from the various important contributions of the tourism industry to any locality, the economic component of the sector is very paramount”, he maintained.

He lamented that Bayelsa State is one of the highest oil producing states in Nigeria with a state budget that is 95% dependent on oil revenue, which is federally generated, noting that Bayelsa State is in a state of dire financial straits, because of the mono dependence on oil and gas for its revenues.

“Sadly, I am sure, we are aware that the Oloibiri Oil Well which was discovered some 64 years ago has dried up; and the community deserted by the oil company that discovered and drilled the oil resource.

Therefore, there is, to all intents and purposes, the need for Bayelsa to look beyond oil.

“Currently, the world economy is increasingly giving a large place for the tourism industry to fill. Bayelsa State should not be left out in the prevailing economic order. The state has a lot of tourism potentials that, when properly harnessed could generate a huge chunk of revenue to supplement the over dependence on oil-generated income.

“Bayelsa State has a lot of tourism sites that could be developed/revamped as recreational centres or pleasure parks that will dramatically increase the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR. The Peace Park and the Ox-Bow Lake Resort are some of the renowned public places, located within the state capital, Yenagoa.

“They are capable of generating millions of naira for the state, when properly managed. It has been estimated that the Peace Park alone could generate more than Three Hundred Million Naira (N300,000,000) annually.

“Another area of comparative advantage where the state can raise revenues is in its development of cultural tourism. Bayelsa State is home to rich diverse cultural heritage. There are numerous prominent festivals in the state which are capable of attracting both domestic and international tourists to the state. Some of these festivals include the Idu Festival of Nembe, the Odi festival, the various new yam festivals, the Oge festival of Okobiri and various fishing festivals

“The state has some major historical sites of international repute that if well managed and publicized, will attract a mass movement of both domestic and inbound tourists who will come and spend naira and dollars to enrich the local economy

“Such sites are not limited to, but include the Whiteman graves in Brass; the Slave Barracoon in Akassa; the Light House in Oginibiri; the Okpokonabadi in Odioma, believed to have been inhabited by the early Portuguese visitors; the Oloibiri first Oil Well, etc.

“Bayesa State could also very possibly attract tourists with the culinary tourism. Our unique local cuisines would attract tourists Bayelsa to have a taste of our food, such as: “The opuro fulo, the yellow soup, pigirifiyai, the kekefiyai, are some of the many kinds of local delicacies that are peculiar to this part of the country.

“Eco tourism/ecological tourism is an area that could attract tourists to the state if properly packaged. Bayelsa State has the longest coast line in Nigeria with pristine beaches such as the Kolama Beach, the Brass Beach, the Okpoma Beach, various lakes such as the Oxbow lake, the lake Efi, etc are natural environments tourists may be interested to visit.

“The state also has a huge potential for agri-tourism, The Peremabiri rice farm and the Ebedebiri cassava factory are some major farms that could be harnessed to brink tourists to come and spend money in the local areas. There numerous hectres of fertile land that could be exploited for agri-tourism, which will not only generate employments for the teaming youth but also could increase revenues for the state undoubtedly”, he said.

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