Bayelsa State was created on October 1, 1996 by the late Gen. Sani Abacha military regime. It is located in the Niger-Delta area, the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria. It is a state with large deposits of crude oil and natural gas, and one of the major producers of petroleum products in the country. In fact, it was in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State that the first commercial oil well in Nigeria was discovered by Shell Darcy on Sunday 15 January 1956. The state was carved out of Rivers State.
There are 8 local government areas in Bayelsa State and several ethnic groups like the Igbriran, Atissa, Kolokunu, Biseni, and Ekpetiama, although the majority of the people are of Ijaw extraction. The four main languages in the state are Ogbia, Nembe, Izon, and Epie-Atissa. The people are mainly into fishing, local gin brewing, trading, palm oil production, palm wine tapping, weaving, and lumbering among others.
The major tourist attractions in the state are –
1. Oxbow Lake
The Oxbow Lake is located in Yenegoa, the capital of Bayelsa State. It is a waterfront that presents a coastal view of the capital city, and it has facilities that make it a tourist delight at all times. The waterfront is lined by local traders selling local cuisines with various BBQ grills to choose from. The lake is cool and calm with a natural mien that makes it suitable for pleasure-seekers and tourists.
The Oxbow Lake is close to a galleria of arts and cinemas, and it is also close to a five-star hotel that tourists to the lake can use. You can swim in the lake or use the boat rides among other recreational facilities within the lake park. It is open for visitation anytime of the day or year, and you only need to visit to enjoy the best that Bayelsa can offer fun-seekers.
2. Peace Park
Peace Park in Bayelsa State is located close to the government secretariat and seat of power. It is a wide body of water that is specially made to facilitate tourism potentials; it is made to boost the economic needs of the oil-rich state. It serves as an amusement park, and thousands of people visit the park for vacation and recreational purposes, and it has served the needs of everyone within the state by its strategic location at the heart of the state capital.
There are boating activities, water biking, and other water fun that can be done at the park; and do not forget that social events like wedding reception, birthday parties, and state reception could hold within the park. There are also hotels close to the hotel at which tourists and travelers could lodge in and use for accommodation purposes.
3. Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro Monument
There is the Isaac Boro Park in neighbouring Port Harcourt, Rivers State, but the Isaac Boro Monument is built in Kaiama, his hometown in Bayelsa State. Both the park in Rivers State and the monument in Bayelsa State were put up to remember Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, a campaigner for social justice and environmental responsibility shortly after Nigeria’s independence.
Isaac Boro took up a fight against the federal government in 1966 with just 160 men – as a way to protest the natural exploitation of this town by the government and foreign oil companies. He fought against oil spill and environmental degradation and a destruction of the people’s farms for economic gain. He lost the battle against the government and lost his life and that of his fighters, but he remains a hero to his people; and over 5,000 Ijaw youths gathered at his monument in December 1998 to reveal the Kaima Declaration – demanding that oil companies clean up oil spills and stop destroying the environment.
4. Akassa Lighthouse
The Akassa Lighthouse was built in 1910 but actually relocated to its present location in 1912. It is located close to the seaside in Akassa, and is about 60 meters tall – making it one of the tallest lighthouses in West Africa. Its original purpose was to guard distant ships to dock at the inland port, and it served as a delight to distant navigators as they approached shallow waters at the town of Akassa.
The Akassa Lighthouse has an architectural structure with iron staircase leading up to the lighthouse. It was constructed like modern telecommunication masts, but quite purposeful in serving the needs of sailors in the distant past and the tourism needs of the Bayelsa people today.
5. Akassa Slave Transit Camp and Tunnel
Situated at Ogbokiri, close to Akassa in Brass LGA, the Akassa Slave Transit Camp and Tunnel was used as slave camp during the slave trade, and from here the slaves were shipped to the Americas and the Caribbean in the New World.
The houses were made of solid iron and bricks, and the restraining chains that were used to fetter slaves as they awaited shipment are still visible at the camp, and the tunnel through which slaves were stoked away can still be seen at the tourist destination today. Anyone can visit the slave camp today and revisit the old days when our people were stolen away to foreign nations.