History of Bayelsa State

Bayelsa is a state in southern Nigeria, with its capital is Yenagoa. It is bordered on the west by Rivers State, on the East and South by the Atlantic Ocean and on the North by Delta State. It has a population of 1,703,358 and occupies an area of 10,773 square kilometres. Some major cities include Amassoma, Brass, Ekeremor, Kaiama, Nembe, Odi, Ogbia, Oporama, Otuoke and Sagbama. Bayelsa state was originally part of the Eastern Region in the three-region structure of 1954. It is now situated in the Niger Delta region between Delta State and Rivers State.

According to the 1952 Census Report, the ljaws have a population of 0.9 million. The amalgamation of Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 triggered fear among minority ethnic groups. This led to a creation of distinct state comprising the old Brass, Degema and Western ljaw Divisions, under the umbrella of ljaw National Group.

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In February 1966, Isaac Boro, an ljaw man from Kaiama town in Bayelsa State, with Sam Owonaro, Nottingham Dick and thousands of their supporters proclaimed a “Niger Delta Peoples Republic.” But the Federal Government ended their rebellion. On May 27, 1967, there was the creation of twelve federal states by General Yakubu Gowon’s military government. This became part of Rivers State. In 1996, Bayelsa State was carved out by the military government of General Sani Abacha. Bayelsa State is one of the six states that make up Nigeria’s South-South geopolitical zone.

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On 20th of December 1999, the state was further subdivided into thirty-two LGAs. Each LGA is the grassroots government and headed by a chairman. Each community of the state has a traditional head while the State Council of Chiefs is headed by the elderly man that is most acceptable.

The name ‘Bayelsa’ is an acronym of three former Local Government areas – Brass, Yenagoa and Sagbama – in the then Rivers State. The then Brass LGA is what makes up the present Nembe, Brass and Ogbia Local Government Areas; the then Yenagoa LGA consist of the present Yenagoa, Kolokuma/Opokuma and Southern Ijaw Local Government Areas and the then Sagbama LGA is what makes up the present Sagbama and Ekeremor Local Government Areas. There are four main languages spoken by the people are Izon, Nembe, Ogbia and Epie-Atissa. Like the rest of Nigeria, English is the official language.

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The predominant religions in the State are Christianity and Traditional worship. Bayelsa State has 24 first class traditional rulers (and many second and third class traditional rulers) recognised by the State Government.

Bayelsa state is home to many landmarks and historical centres. Some of these attractions are The Slave Transit Hall, Akassa, The Oloibiri Oil Museum, The Akassa Raid Graveyard, The War Boat at Aleibiri and Manilla and Bronze heads in the Opokuma forest near Oloibiri.

Bayelsa State has one of the largest crude oil and natural gas deposits in Nigeria. As a result, petroleum production is extensive in the state. However, the majority of them live in poverty. The local population engage in fishing on a subsistence and commercial level. They are mainly rural dwellers due to the lack of adequate transportation, health, education or other infrastructure as a result of years of neglect by the central governments, state governments, and petroleum prospecting companies.

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Kemi Falodun Lover of words.

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