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PEOPLE, POPULATION AND SETTLEMENT
Posted to the web: 1/29/2003 11:58:08 AM
 
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Ethnic Composition, Languages, Culture and the Arts:

Bayelsa State is dominated by the ljaw ethnic group whose members speak ljaw lan- guage. Other ljaw dialects include Tamu, Mein, Jobu, Oyariri, and Tarakiri. There are other pockets of ethnic groups such as Urhobo and Isoko. There are local dialects in some places. Other notable languages in the State are Epie, Atisa, Nembe and Ogbia. Christianity and traditional religion are the two main religions in the State. The culture of the people is expressed in their unique dresses, festivals, dietary habits, arts and crafts, folklore and dancing. These distinguish the people from other ethnic groups. The major crafts include canoe building, fish net and fish traps mak- ing, pottery, basket and mat making. Cane furniture industry is thriving in the State.

Population Structure and Distribution: According to the 1991 Nigerian population census, the total population of Bayelsa State was 1,121,693, distributed among the then eight local government areas. This was made up of 584,117 or 52.1 per cent males and 537,576 or 47.9 per cent females. The geographical constraints imposed by the limited dry land for settlements and agricultural practices, extensive mangrove swamps, excessive rainfall, prolonged and disastrous floods, and creek erosion, among others, underscore the population distribution pattern in the state. People are thinly scattered among "floating" settlements of villages and towns. The population concentration among LGAs ranges from 23.8 per cent in Southern ljaw, 14.2 per cent in Ogbia, through 11.1 per cent at Ekeremor to as low as 9.3 per cent in Yenagoa and 6.0 per cent in Kolokuma/Opukuma LGA (Table 6.1). The geographical difficulties of the state, and its neglect with respect to infrastructural provision and environmental degradation have limited inter-ethnic migration on a national scale in the State. There are few migrants, mostly raffia palm and oil palm tapers. The creation of Bayelsa State has however opened the state to Yoruba, lgbo and Hausa traders.

Urban and Rural Development and Patterns of Human Settlement:

As was noted earlier, Bayelsa State is one of the least developed states in Nigeria such that some of the ministries are yet to find adequate accommodation for offices and for housing key staff; no settlement or LGA is served by the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) and only a gas turbine supplies power to parts of Yenagoa; portable water is no where available in the state while small-scale industries are to be found in only a few settlements. The low-level of development in the state is

traceable to the settlement pattern and ecological constraints. Bayelsa State is a state of numerous villages and rural settlements that are scattered and isolated from each other. Table 6:1 shows that 25 per cent of the state population live in "Urban vil- lages" such as Ogbia, Oloibiri, Ogbolomabiri, Bassambiri, Okpuama, Twon-Brass and Nembe. Other important settlements include Yenagoa, Ofoni, Odi, Kaiama, Amassoma, Oporoma, Olugbobiri and Ekeremor.

The population of each of these towns is above 10,000 and, with the newly created local government areas, all of them have been made local government headquarters. Out of a population of 1,121,493, only 280,280 live in urban centres, hence the very low urbanisa- tion index of 0.25. However, urbanisation index is very high in Nembe (0.47) and Yenagoa (0.43), while it is lowest in southern ljaw (0.17) (Table 6.1). Settlements are built on patches of dry land, islands and levees.

The difficult environment makes it impossible to build access roads to link other set- tlements and thus constrain human economic activ- ities and land use. Almost all the rural settlements are 'floating hamlets' i.e. built on mangrove swamps and thus constantly threatened by floods. On the whole, small villages and hamlets predominate in the state and this characteristic poses problems for economic development since urban centres are needed to provide propulsive growth to the neigh- bouring regions.

Bayelsa State is a state of few towns and numerous isolated villages. Out of the sixty towns of 5000 persons and above, only two (Ogbolomabiri and Amassoma) record a population of 20,000 and above. These two settlements may be described as urban in so far as they have populations of 20,000 or more.

By implication, Bayelsa State is not yet experiencing problems of urban primacy. But it has opportunity to rationally develop regional urban centres of different orders for efficient loca- tion - allocation of facilities and amenities that will benefit the cross-section of the state's population. The non-existence of urban primacy in the state has led to even geographical spread of social facilities such as schools and hospitals among LGAs (Table 6.2). Since small towns and villages (or hamlets) dominate the state, the absence of urban centres will no doubt pose problems for efficient economic development.

 

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