Vanguard (Lagos)

25 January 2013

Nigeria: Why I Signed Mou With Dubai-Based Company - Dickson

For Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, the reward for hard work is more work. He can't seem to stop serving his people even at the expense of his comfort.

Since Dickson was elected governor of the littoral state of Bayelsa on February 11, last year and sworn in on February 14, same year, he had not gone for vacation until January 7, this year.

Many Bayelsans had expected him to enjoy a month's break in view of his hectic schedules coupled with the trauma he had, as a result of the plane crash in Bayelsa State, which snuffed life out of Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State, the immediate past National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Azazi and other compatriots, the governor shortened the break to 14 days.

He cut short his vacation, flew to Dubai to hold crucial meetings with some of the international investors that turned Dubai to a global economic, tourism and infrastructural cynosure!

Before the governor stormed the United Arab Emirate, he stayed in Abuja for a few days. During his stay, he compared notes with some of his former colleagues at the House of Representatives, experts on miscellaneous matters and exchanged banters with some of his close friends and family members. He also reunited with some of the friends he had lost contact with most of whom are drawn from the Nigerian Bar Association of Nigeria (NBA) and the Nigeria Police where he rose to the rank of Cadet ASP before he voluntarily withdrew his service to start legal practice in Porthar-Court. He also took advantage of the vacation to have more quiet times with God , reviewed government activities, focused on the present and projected into the future.

The governor's engagement in Dubai culminated in the signing of an MoU between Government of Bayelsa State and GEAP International to establish commercial Rice Farm and revive Palm Plantation in Bayelsa State. The parties also agreed to establish a strong and viable production, processing and distribution network. Aside being a joint venture partner of GEAP International Group, Bayelsa State will facilitate scientific and commercial study of rice and palm plantation growth and distribution. In addition, Bayelsa State will actively assist in the establishment of relationship between all relevant government agencies with GEAP and provide all legal and regulatory assistance. And subject to receiving initial positive technical reports on water and soil analysis, GEAP agrees to bring into the state the required technological and human expertise hosted by the Bayelsa State Government.

The MoU was preceded with the inspection of Steel Plant, Cold Storage Facility by Governor Dickson and a meeting between the governor and the CEO of GEAP, one of the biggest globally acclaimed investors that turned around Asia and Middle East, Mr. Mahendra Patel in his office. Mr. Imad Saba, an international investor and CEO of Capital Asset Management who was on the team of Patel signed on behalf of his firm.

First Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamiesiegha who lives in Dubai, former MD of NDDC, Chief Timi Alaibe, PDP Vice Chairman, North East, Alhaji Mohammed Wakil, Security Consultant, Major Lancelot Anyanya (rtd) and this writer witnessed the signing of the MoU.

Though the governor didn't unwind, the voracious reader that he is, took time off to read many books on leadership, history, the making of Dubai and books on Agriculture. As he said, one of the problems of Africa is the shrinking of reading politicians. "'I love reading books and I can' t stop reading because I am not an all-knowing governor. In fact, some of the books I have read have redoubled my resolve to diversify the Bayelsa economy to be Argo- based as well so that we don't just depend on oil alone", he added.

Indeed, agricultural revolution is the centre piece of the Dickson administration. Few months into his administration, government partnered with a Hungarian and Danish firms, Ostertrade Engineering/ DPP International Kft respectively to establish and manage cassava farms, establish cassava starch processing factory plant to produce 10 thousand tonnes of local and modified starch with a high and beneficial value chain that would trickle down to the grassroots. Already all papers to that effect have been signed and work at the site is progressing.

The factory is expected to generate over five thousand jobs for Bayelsans.The expectation is for the governor to expeditiously implement government's side of the bargain with GEAP so as to enable Patel and his team move to work the way he did on the cassava initiative. With the success of the cassava initiative in Bayelsa State, many state governors and their representatives are reportedly talking with the firms to replicate same projects in their states.

The governor returned to Nigeria last Sunday having exhausted the leave and resumed duty on Monday. He was received by a retinue of government officials led by the Secretary to Government, Prof. Edmund Allison Oguru. Governor Dickson called on Bayelsans to sustain their support for his administration and urged all Nigerians and particularly, the religious leaders to pray for the unity, peace and security of Nigeria.

The governor also told news hounds that even though the vacation was short, the period afforded him the opportunity to redirect his energy towards serving his people. He said he was mentally and physically prepared more than ever before, to implement government policies and programmes and promised to take more critical and tough decisions for the development, peace and security of Bayelsa State.

By Francis Agbo, (just back from Dubai)

Henry Seriake Dickson

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