Jesse Ese, Yenagoa
The Government of Bayelsa State has affirmed its commitment to make judicious and optimal use of the Underwater Cultural Research and Imaging Centre which would  be established in Yenagoa, the State capital.
Governor Seriake Dickson, who was represented be the Honourable Commissioner of Culture and Ijaw National Affairs, Hon. Felix Tuodolo, stated this at the first Africa Regional Meeting on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in Yenagoa. He expressed gratitude to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for approving that the centre should be in the State, noting that it will not only be beneficial to Bayelsans and Nigerians, but Africans in general.
Gov. Dickson said the facility, when fully operational, will be the hub of underwater research activities in Africa.
According to him, the centre will equally support the efforts governments at building the capacity of youths in rare areas of underwater archeology, research and bio-technology as well as scuba diving and imaging.
He noted with delight that, the Nigerian Navy, construction companies in the Niger Delta, oil exploration companies, the Tourism, Fishing and Maritime Industries among others will all benefit tremendously from the services that the centre will offer through the utilization of the services of youths that are going to benefit from the various training programmes.
“That is why we can safely deduce that, all these efforts will put Bayelsa State in particular and the nation, in a pivotal position, in underwater heritage preservation practice globally, generate employment, create wealth and engender mutual respect among of states and nations”
Gov. Dickson recalled that the State has recently hosted a number of national and international events with the most recent being the World Tourism Day 2013, which he noted was a clear demonstration of the unwavering commitment of the State to promoting culture and tourism related activities globally.
Acknowledging the importance of underwater cultural heritage as an integral part of the cultural heritage of humanity, Hon. Dickson noted that, cooperation among States, international and professional organizations, science based institutions, archeologists, diverse as well as other relevant bodies and groups were essential components for the protection of underwater cultural heritage.
In his keynote address, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke, expressed the need to strengthen the collaboration with UNESCO to foster unity and brotherhood among member countries of the organisation.
While noting that the African continent boasts long standing archeological craft and sites as compared to those of the ancient Greeks and the Romans, the minister said the third oldest water craft in the world and the first in Africa, was discovered in Nigeria in 1987.
Chief Duke called on UNESCO, other relevant agencies, archeologists and experts to ensure the security and proper documentation of such underwater crafts for posterity.
He commended Bayelsa State for its rich coastal ambiance noting that the State’s hosting of the first Africa Regional Meeting on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and the proposed sitting of the Research and Imaging Centre in the state were steps in the right direction.
The minister called on other member African countries to hasten their commitments by ratifying the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the protection of the underwater cultural heritage to boost tourism, stop the plundering and destruction of underwater cultural heritage, create wealth and employment opportunities and research among others.
In a goodwill message, the Director, UNESCO Nigeria Regional Office represented by Mr. Roland Kayanja, disclosed that 45 countries have ratified the 2001 convention, while commending Nigeria for being the first African state to sign the agreement.