Driven by the likelihood that in the next 20 to 30 years we may experience dry oil wells all across the Niger Delta, which portends very dire consequences for all of us as a nation, particularly to those of us in the oil bearing states, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State only recently took the bull by the horns to begin the process of planning for a future without oil by setting up the Bayelsa Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC).
In the wisdom of Governor Dickson, with the advances in science and technology in the majoroil consumer economies, it is imperative that we take the issue of diversification of our economy seriously. So BDIC was set up to drive investments, create skills and develop a robust economicbase that can withstand the shock that will come the day after oil, which is why his administration is serious about investing in agriculture and tourism, among others, as alternativesto oil and gas.
The BDIC initiative is an integral component of the new Bayelsa that Governor Dickson often talks about. This new Bayelsa, many will readily admit, is fast becoming a reality. Virtually every facet of governance bears eloquent testimony to the emergence of this paradigm with distinct focus. It is all about the future. Intrinsic here, however, is that the critical pillars and catalyst that will enable us arrive fully at the new Bayelsa of our dream lies in our economic prosperity. And the strategic vehicle designed to convey us to that destination of economic prosperity is the Bayelsa Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC).
Speaking at the Inaugural Board Retreat of BDIC held at the weekend in Yenagoa, Governor Dickson pointed out that the new Bayelsa that we all crave, the new Bayelsa that we actually deserve, can only be founded on prosperity and security. “Government is building roads and bridges, schools and so on, but in vain do we do all of this, if these activities do not translate to economic prosperity and opportunities for our people”, he declared.
As the visioner and brain behind the BDIC, Governor Dickson was very clear about his expectations of the role of the body when he said, “We will like the BDIC to turn Bayelsa to the new Dubai of Africa and we can do it because we are a resilient and resourceful people.”
Even more profound, Governor Dickson did not mince words when he said that the restoration government under his watch is a believer in free enterprise. He believes that the private sector is best suited to promoting enterprise, creating wealth, sustaining development and government should therefore have very little business in running businesses. Hence, he believes from the work of BDIC that the people of the state will experience sustainable growth and development.
Giving insights to his conviction in setting up the BDIC, Governor Dickson had this to say: ”the actual job of creating wealth, developing skills, that has to be driven by a body of people put together in a way that can enable it to compete and do business is a private sector driven initiative. That is why we have come up with this body in this state. We have instances of the Odua Group, Ibile Holdings by the Lagos State Government, the NNDC of old and other similar bodies in this country. Outside the country, you have sovereign entities like the IDC of South Africa, the one in Rwanda and so many others; those models exist and that is where we want to take our state to.”
In what may appear as setting a clear agenda for the BDIC, Governor Dickson said, going forward, all capital investments that have a business element will be undertaken by the BDIC. For example, it will be the duty of the BDIC to see how we can attract funding to projects that can add value to us, which is also an investment in nature.
Elucidating on the economic and financial requirements of needed infrastructure and benefits in the new thinking, the governor said, for example, if we want to complete the Tower Hotel in the state capital, the BDIC is in a better position to go to the market and talk to people and see how we can also attract expertise and blend the two to ensure that the project is completed on terms that are acceptable and fair.
Citing another example, the Contriman Governor noted the importance of constructing such strategic roads like the one linking Brass which, he said, is long overdue. Already three companies have been assigned to do the estimate and the least cost is N90 billion; that is from Nembe to Brass. He hinted that there is no way we can be taken seriously unless our state has that road to link the area where we have the Brass LNG. And getting the LNG started; expanding its opportunities for our people is another ball game. Again, these are areas where the BDIC will be best suited to handling the inter-related issues. With respect to the road to Agge, where we intend to have a deep sea port, there is already an application for a free trade zone in that area.
Stressing the importance of the task at hand for the body, Governor Dickson said all these arehuge investments which the BDIC can drive more actively to achieve intended objectives; adding that if we think carefully and well enough on such huge capital investments, they could also have some kind of economic and investment element to it. If other states are doing it, we too can think along that line.
“The point I am making is that, going forward, it is our intention to allow the BDIC drive capital investments that are of a commercial nature in whichever sector,” he stated.
Governor Dickson took time to clarify the status of the BDIC with respect to its function viz-a-viz the role of government: ”Let me state for the records that the BDIC is not intended to take the place of the ministries in this state. The BDIC is not a body we have set up that is to be higher than the government of this state. The BDIC’s role is not policy formulation because that function will continue to reside in the state government and its formal organs. But it will be the duty of the BDIC to drive those activities that are investment related. So the BDIC, if you like, is an investment organ. The BDIC is an instrument for driving, attracting investments and alsodirectly investing.”
It is instructive to note that BDIC is a creation of our laws, wholly and fully set up as a distinct corporate entity devoid of the control and undue influence of government. It has a duly constituted board and management made up of some of the finest professionals in the country, some of whom have worked at the topmost level of management in very reputable blue chips companies in Nigeria and abroad.
What is working for the BDIC is the fact that it is coming into the market as a big player. It currently enjoys the capital injection of N10 billion from the Government of Bayelsa State. This is to enable the BDIC take off in earnest. According to Governor Dickson, the BDIC is not intended to be a paper tiger. Perhaps to underscore the sheer worth of this corporate entity, Governor Dickson has authorized the transfer of key assets owned by most of the other agencies and subsidiaries of government to the BDIC.
Also, it is interesting to note that some of the recent acquisitions that government has made since coming into power, for example, the acquisition of 53 percent stake in Linkage Assurance and other similar acquisitions have been put under the control of the BDIC and it is the responsibility of this corporate body to see how all these companies will be put to maximum advantage.
Hence, the BDIC is expected to leverage on existing assets that the state has in addition to the new acquisitions that will be made as part of its mandate to chart a new economic future for Bayelsa State that will guarantee its economic prosperity and security going forward.
The BDIC has already opened offices in South Africa, one in Johannesburg and the international head office in London. So come May 5th 2013, Governor Dickson is expected to lead a high powered delegation from Nigeria and having graciously gotten President Goodluck Jonathan to accept to perform the official commissioning of the BDIC office in South Africa along with President Jacob Zuma. The opening of this office is to encourage BDIC to look at opportunities in the major markets, major economies with a view to establishing a formidable base for the state.
Governor Dickson’s dream about the BDIC is to chart a robust economic future for the state as well as use it as vehicle to re-create a road map that will birth the new Bayelsa of our dream. The realization of this dream is not anchored on oil and gas but through massive investment in agriculture and tourism, among other lucrative investments. This is what he had to say: “We are very serious about promoting tourism and part of what I suggested to the Director General of the Tourism Development Agency is that by the time we are set and we have appropriate partners in that insurance area, we should be able to take a policy for every tourist that is visiting Bayelsa State. And when we prepare that and they know that we are already in their London and South African offices, they will have confidence in us.”
So the BDIC’s vision is to be an enabler for transforming Bayelsa State into one of the top economies not just in our country but in Africa. Our mission is to protect, stimulate and grow the wealth of all Bayelsans through responsive, innovative and sustainable investments while acting as a catalyst for socio-economic development of our state.
Daniel Iworiso-Markson, Chief Press Secretary to Bayelsa Governor, sent this piece from Yenagoa.