Earlier this week, Bayelsa State Governor Henry Seriake Dickson fielded
questions in a media chat on a wide range of issues including the
unprecedented scope of life transforming projects embarked upon by his
QUESTION: Which projects are now scheduled for commissioning?
Governor Dickson: Well, our government is about mega life changing
projects. In the area of education, we have only officially commissioned
the Ijaw National Academy. There are very many schools we have built that
are ready for commissioning. I believe the results should speak for us but
given the political terrain in which we operate I think we need to
showcase some of them. In the area of education, additional five model
secondary schools will be opened. These are areas where there were no
boarding schools before I took over in 2012. That is why you should not
have been surprised if you had militants, criminality, drug addicts, and
We have the Sagbama model secondary boarding school, also in Ekeremor that
has been on for some months now. Brass and NNGS is also set. We have three
in Kolga, the secondary school in Kiama, the one in Asuama that will be
starting this month, and the Ijaw National Academy. In Yenagoa BDGS will
start this September. The facilities in ST. Jude’s are well known. We also
have in Oporoma, southern Ijaw which came on stream quite a while ago and
very soon even the one in Okugbie will start. We have not even talked
about the constituency boarding secondary schools that are ongoing with
new facilities comparable to what you see in tertiary institutions.
By all analysis, our state has the best public schools in this country and
we are not done yet. So I am not surprised that exam results are moving
steadily up, the performance of pupils is moving quite remarkably. That is
an indicator of the investment we are making and I want to appreciate all
the teachers, all parents for their understanding and let me use this
opportunity to call on all parents and guardian to take advantage of the
enormous opportunity we have opened up for all the young people in our
Education in all these state boarding schools is free in all sense of it.
The uniforms are provided by us, the books by us, we even feed them three
times a day. I was told that a number of the children refused to go on
vacation and opted to stay back because they are fed three times a day!
We also have the best health care facilities in the state. And even in
this recession, we are deepening our investment in that area. Even in this
recession we are pursuing our infrastructural development program. The
airport project is going on, mega roads are going on, we have concluded
sand filling beyond Aleibiri; you can actually get to Aleibiri with Hilux.
This is the Bayelsa we came to change.. We came prepared. We cannot say we
have solved all problems, or that we will solve all problems at the end of
eight years; it cannot be done.
But we have a lot of projects ready. The Igbogene bypass with two or more
bridges, dualized has been completed. When I said we wanted to turn
Bayelsa to the Dubai of Africa we meant exactly this. So all the
interventions are like a signature of the restoration Government.
Unfortunately, the recession hit us barely one year into the second term.
I was going to address most of these things within four years. Most
people do not know that I was not keen on a second term. That was why I
started so many things and worked feverishly to try and complete them but
then the recession came in. But we are committed in the remainder of our
tenure to ensure that Bayelsa is a better place by the time we round up.
Question: How can the investment in education, this legacy be sustained in
Ans: I am quite satisfied already with where we are, although this is not
where we want to be. We want Bayelsa to be the number one in education,
the center of excellence and we are working hard to lay that
infrastructure. When we took over Bayelsa our WAEC and NECO rating for
2012 was over 20 . If we rated any better , it was considered a fluke or
an accident not a product of conscious investment. But from that
position, we moved to number 6 or 7 last year I think and now this year we
are number 5. That is why we directed the compulsory summer camping
program for the SS3 students. Our thinking is this, if we camp them
together as we did for between 4-6 weeks and they are not out there
playing and we bring in the best teachers in all areas to coach them,
the results should show . In the Ijaw National Academy and most of our
models schools, the labs we have are very good so they had exposure to
practicals and the like. Our expectation is that with this, by next year
when they take the competitive national exams Bayelsa will improve more.
Our target is to be number one and we can make it because it is a product
of conscious effort and nurturing.
Sustainability is the reason we created the education development trust
fund. I think the fund has so far received close to N500m and that is
commendable. So that as long as that fund is there and the managers are
there and do their job which we believe they are doing well, the
compulsory programs will go on until such a time that we would have
developed that critical mass of enlightened educated people who can
compete in what is becoming an increasingly competitive global world. That
fund with the law that has established it will sustain this policy beyond
this administration. That is why people should be interested in the
policies of people who want to lead.
We are building world class health care facilities. The diagnostics center
is there; the whole country is coming to our diagnostics center. The
specialist hospital by the government is free for the public. A 100-bed
hospital, well equipped and run by competent professionals from outside
and within the country. Two days ago they carried out surgery that was
done in the south –south for the first time. We have a forensic lab. We
are still investing. Every LGA must have a modern health care facility.
This has so far been completed in about 5 or 6 different LGAs and by
November you will see that a number of these facilities have begun
operating. We had a state where you didn’t have modern health care
facilities, where our people who were sick had to be taken to neighbouring
states. Bayelsa is on course.
Question: There is commendation for your laudable strides in the education
sector but also a plea that you remember teachers welfare as some are yet
to receive their 18% minimum wage arrears as well as your promise of a
million naira to the St. Jude’s basketball team.
Ans: I have already signed off and approved the release of the N1m that
was promised to St. Jude’s students as the best basket ballers in the
entire federal republic of Nigeria. I am very pleased with them. I want
them to improve and continue to become international champions.
For the teacher’s welfare, no one is more concerned about that than me or,
more than this government. But there are a lot of problems in that area,
fraudulent activities in terms of their payroll, people who do not go to
work, indiscipline and all of that. We are going to address all of
this.And all the issues about teacher’s welfare will be attended to. In
fact, from next year teachers will begin to attend the teachers training
institute for training and retraining. For anyone to become a teacher he
or she must pass through that institute and it will be affiliated to the
University of Africa. We are not just building primary and secondary
schools we are preparing the students who will graduate from these
schools to go to a world class tertiary institution. We are funding the
Niger Delta University (NDU) better now and addressing their challenges of
capacity building and infrastructure wise and helping them to improve on
their programs. They got accreditation as you mentioned for all the
courses for the first time and I have charged them not to stop at that.
They should go and get more courses. We are putting down more facilities
in the university and they will get more students. Let me use this medium
to call on all Bayelsa people, young boys and girls : we have wonderful
universities coming up, go and take up admission. The University of Africa
already has 500 basic students.. Those of you who knew them before they
got there if you interact with them now, you notice they have changed
under a year because of the intensive nature of the program and the modern
and orderly way the place has been planned.. Every student has their own
room, they use cards to access their library facility and so it is a
modern school like any other school abroad. We are hoping that by October
or November this year the degree program will start. We are not paying any
staff in the African University, we do not dictate who gets employed. The
university is autonomous, they recruit the staff and students pay fees.
Because of the economy, it is bad policy to continue to send students out
for training, no state can support it. There are some courses we want to
encourage Bayelsans to study, like nursing. We want to be like the
Philippines that train a lot of nurses and export them all over the world,
we can do that. We want to promote agriculture and entrepreneurship not
just certificate qualification. We will select young Bayelsans, and give
them scholarships. We pay their fees and they go to the university and
then give them a little grant. Between now and the end of my tenure, the
landscape will have so changed that people who were not here before will
be shocked when they come to Bayelsa.
Question: When can the student loan board be constituted for students to
access loans to pursue their academic dreams?
Ans: Very soon I will constitute that board and some funds will be made
available. I give 5% of the IGR to education trust fund every month, 5% to
health insurance and I am thinking of putting some amount to the student’s
higher education loan board. But the board will come up with their
criteria, it is not everybody that will access it. You must be indigent
and you must be doing well and they will work through banks. It is going
to be a loan that they will take for 4 years. That loan is not free. It is
meant to be a revolving fund to help our students access tertiary
Question: How soon will the state government conduct local government
elections in the state?
Ans: Since we took over, no deduction has been authorized by me in respect
of funds coming to councils. I do not even know how much they get. In this
state we have local government autonomy. We didn’t dissolve the local
government system we met in place. We wanted to conduct election showing
we respect the autonomy of councils especially in the area of respecting
their finances. We constantly encourage them to be transparent, hold
transparency briefings, and inform their people about their income and
expenditure, to judiciously utilize their resources and we give them some
policy guidelines. Because of the recession, states are finding it
difficult to muster the resources to conduct local council elections.
These local council elections run into millions so it is a very expensive
exercise. We are told the country has gone out of recession, or is trying
to come out of recession. We haven’t seen or felt it yet but we believe
and pray that is so. If our revenue improves by next year we will love to
have local council elections.
QUESTION: About the health insurance scheme, people are not sure how much
is being deducted from their salaries, and some consider the deductions
too many coming in the wake of the education trust fund deductions.
Ans: This is a complaint not a question and I thought we are through with
this complaint. The last I heard is that the health insurance has close to
N500m in the account, I was just telling the executive secretary that at
the next transparency briefing they will all come to render their account.
I have directed them to set up internet platforms where anybody can log in
and see the way they are managing the funds, both the health and education
trust funds. These are laudable programs. People the world over contribute
to a collective system of health insurance. You have it in America, UK,
people the world over people pay. Where you do not have this intervention
a lot of people have personal challenges and run into trouble. The
business of health care is too important to be left to an individual
particularly when there is a challenge. I call for more support for this
program and from even those in the private sector. Everybody should key
into this program for their own protection. We are taking care of the down
trodden people, people we need to develop and build for tomorrow. There is
no future for our state unless our people are healthy.
Question: What efforts are there to assist the staff of the local
government in terms of teachers’ welfare and the backlog of salaries?
Ans: It is a very pathetic situation. It is not just in Bayelsa but across
the country. It is a fall out of the recession. In my first tenure, you
did not hear of such challenges until the country went into deep
recession. Every money we get comes from the federal government apart from
the IGR which when I started was about N60m but which we managed to raise
to N500m on the average. The rest comes from federal government which they
get from selling crude oil and if people do not buy crude oil as a state
we are affected. A states like Lagos is out of it because they are fully
developed, people pay tax, run a modern organized economy but Bayelsa is
not on that self sustainable level. Even if we produce the oil, it is not
owned or managed by us.
The number of these people you are saying are local government workers is
actually few. 80% are workers in name only because they had appointment
letters and receive salaries and not because they go to work. When the
economy was robust their wage bill was about N160m. Now they are receiving
about N90m, how do you expect them to meet up? That is why I tell people
to take responsibility, to stop payroll fraud in the local government
areas. If we take out all those that are working in more than one ministry
or in the local government system and the state civil service system, all
these fraudulent payrolls in Bayelsa there will not be much challenge.
The responsibility lies with the stakeholders. Some of the stake holders
of the local governments are doing well. I want to address most of these
reforms before my term runs out.
We are trying to get proper records. We have been compiling a number of
data; they were not even keeping records. Before 2012 they were not
keeping real records in the state.
I am very impressed at the few dedicated teachers we have and the ones who
are not dedicated I will deal with them. You will see the reforms taking
place. We have been quietly collating names. The union leaders should
please listen to me. We will not be intimidated; we will do what is right.
Question: What is the state of your government’s effort towards the
renovation of the Samson Siasia sports Stadium since it started in 2012?
Ans: I received certain assurances from the contractors just last week
because we are as concerned as everybody else. We are paying them money
that is left to enable them put that place to use. And they have assured
me that they will be done before the end of this year. They had challenges
with fluctuation in currency. We are looking beyond the Samson Siasia
Stadium. We are looking at focusing on the sports academy by next year.
Question: How do you react to those who are accusing you of taking on too
Ans: It is a compliment if they say we are doing too much because I came
angry at the state of our underdevelopment. Whoever is governor must leave
a positive impact. I will continue to work breathlessly till my last day
as governor here because I want it to be said that I have tried my best as
governor. Even if the present generation does not appreciate, the
succeeding generations will remember this governor who built this
magnificent office. They will remember this 3.5 kilometer airport; the
project that even the federal government cannot do now, we are steadily
completing it. They will remember that our government built health centers
in their local government areas and the schools we built…
Question: Please throw more light on the effort your administration is
putting into the ‘Light up Bayelsa’ project.
Ans: The government has made a lot of investment in electrification. Now a
lot of communities around Yenagoa are connected to the national grid, and
we still want to link up so many others. Amassoma for example is linked to
the national grid. We had to do electrification in Sampou. Sagbama to
Ofoni is all electrified, connected to the national grid. We want to do
more and so we are working with Agip. Right now they are erecting a number
of poles going to Nembe from Imiringi gas turbine. This could have been
done several decades ago but we want to accomplish it if possible before
the end of December. We are working hard. It may not be with the speed we
want because of funding constraints but operation light up Bayelsa is on
course and I have directed the ministry of power so that they can get a
date when we will go and commission the projects in order to create
We are working with our partners and I want to thank Agip. Very soon we
will formally unveil the content of collaboration with the IOCs whereby we
are thinking of generating up to 50mws of power between now and next year
so that we can call on the investing public and manufacturers to come to
Bayelsa. We also have plans to power our airport.
Question: What is your government doing to assist BSSB scholars abroad?
Also while you were away the acting governor hinted Bayelsans that the
next phase of project commissioning is around the corner. How soon will
Ans: Because of the down turn in the economy, even states with more
buoyant economy could not sustain foreign scholarships for their
students. But we managed to do so with our Lincoln university scholars
and others in Ghana and some in the UK. We are trying, we are managing.We
have shifted emphasis to local scholarships. At the secondary school
level, at the tertiary level we are managing to fund, so I want to call
for understanding from the scholarship beneficiaries and their parents.
Things are very tight with all governments but we have not forgotten them.
For the next phase of project commissioning, we have to prioritize because
there are so many completed projects. The Igbogene road is one, a
beautiful dualized road. I am essentially not a man for celebrations so it
is sometimes difficult to persuade me to make a ceremony out of these
things. This is because I consider these projects to be an essential part
of my duty.
In spite of the economy what is helping us is the focus, the discipline,
and the controls that we have.
Question: Are there any plans to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the
creation of this state?
Ans: There are no elaborate plans. Instead of throwing money around we
will use that money to build one primary school or it will help to
complete one secondary school or pay for the education of our children.
That is one legacy I care about.. The days of frivolities have ended and
we are going to do our best. We still have a long way to go.
We want to use this opportunity to thank our people for their prayers and
support. Our state is very much on course. Our state is stable and calm.
All organs are doing their best to move the state forward. As leader of
the team I am doing my best to motivate my team members. You have all seen
the programs we have; these are the reasons I ran for governor and these
are the reasons you supported our re-election and you are seeing the
Support your government, support your state, so that we can carry out this
revolution till the end. We have two more years to go and in spite of the
recession, we will try our best to conclude our programs and policies.
With the economy we cannot take anything new except minor things. And we
will deliver a new and better Bayelsa.
I therefore call on Bayelsans to resist destructive and negative rumours
and propaganda to destabilize our state. We do not want to be distracted,
it is not time for politics for me. It is time for work and commitment to
lift our people up.