Bayelsa Woos Investors With Trade Free Zone

Seriake Dickson

Bayelsa State is to establish two free trade zones to woo investors as the Seriake Dickson administration gets set to boost the economy of the riverine state.

Commissioner for Trade and Investment Kemela Okara said in Lagos yesterday that beyond the incentives, the legal framework that will enable investors – both foreign and local – to enjoy the benefit of their investment would be put in place.

To actualise this, the state will host an investment and economic forum in its capital Yenagoa between July 16 and 18.

Media Adviser to the Governor, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said the state’s Internally General Revenue (IGR) has been boosted to N1billion monthly from a paltry N50milion raked in before the Dickson administration.

The target according to him is to move it up to N3billion.

The state is also set to build a 500-room hotel to boost tourism, which is one of the areas of comparative advantage. It has hosted major national and international entertainment events   

Okara said the theme of the forum, which is “unlocking Bayelsa’s growth potential,” is apt because of the boundless opportunities available for investors to take. These are to be showcased during the forum, he added.

According to him, “Bayelsa is looking for people to help us unlock our potentials especially in the area of agriculture. We produce rice which has a high grade grain, in large quantity.”

The commissioner said the government had in the last two years undertaken a great drive for infrastructure development including building roads between Yenagoa and the major towns which has opened it up and prepared it to host massive investment.

He said Bayelsa is also one of the safest places in the country, with a low crime rate, which also encourages investment.

“For every sector, we will ensure that all government and private sector stakeholders are present at the conference. The main incentive for investors is the free trade zone we are planning to establish. To establish a free trade zone, there will be non-application of local taxation,” said, adding: “The state has put a lot in place to host this conference in terms of infrastructure and developing Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs). We want a sustainable development and partnership that works,” he said.

Special Adviser to the governor on Investment Cyril Akika and the Director General of the Bayelsa Investment Promotion Agency (BIPA) Freda Ruth Murray-Bruce were among the top officials with the commissioner.

Murray-Bruce listed five areas of opportunities to be exploited by investors who show interest in Bayelsa.

She listed the areas as oil and Gas, Agriculture, Technology and ICT, the hospitality business and power.

She said rice production and oil palm are the major agriculture areas that Bayelsa is gifted adding that Bayelsa boosts of over 200,000 kilometres of ocean front.