BAYELSA State Government said it has concluded plans to commercialise the state- owned palm estate at Elebele in order to generate N150 million, as part of its drive to diversify the economy, as well as boost its Internally Generated Revenue, IGR. This was disclosed in a joint press briefing by the Commissioners of Information, Education and Agriculture, after the 63rd State Executive Council Meeting at the Executive Council Chambers, Government House, Yenagoa. They explained that Bayelsa Palm Estate has been concessioned to the Manufacturing and Marketing Company of Nigeria Limited, MAMCON, after a moratorium of six months with a concession fee of N150 million for ten years. The Commissioner of Agriculture, Doodei Week, who spoke on the decisions reached at the meeting on the diversification the sector, noted that government also decided to partner with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, on the funding of aqua- culture projects like the 4,000 hectare rice farm at Sampou in Kolokuma Opokuma Local Government Area. Other projects include the Epie fish farm to be replicated in all local government areas and a central fish processing centre for both local and internal markets. He explained that a plantain and banana plantation will soon start, with 1,000 hectare of land to be acquired for the purpose. “In the commercialisation agreement, there will be a concession fee of N150 million payable to the Bayelsa State Government after a six-month moratorium. MAMCON agreed with the government to invest and revitalise the existing palm estate, to put in more infrastructure”. Also speaking, the Commissioner for Education, Deacon Markson Fefegha, disclosed that the state government has sent a bill, ‘Bayelsa Higher Education Loan Financing Scheme’ to the House of Assembly for passage into law. According to Fefegha, the purpose of the bill is to enable Bayelsans in Nigeria and abroad have access to a revolving loan that will be interest free, to further their education and refund same, when ever they get employed. The commissioner also expressed deep concern over the current industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union, Niger Delta University chapter, and called on well meaning Bayelsans and other stakeholders to prevail on the striking lecturers to call off the strike for the sake of students and the entire state. “The development of the state depends on human capital, through education. Government wants to take care of the needs of students not only through scholarship and bursary.’’

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