Soon after the Inauguration of the new board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) the Managing Director, Mr Nsima Ekere, left no one in doubt that the new team has a sustainable strategy to turn around the fortunes of the Commission.WILLIE ETIM writes that even with an ambitious goal, the new management is confident that the right steps have been taken and shall remain focused on their objectives.
The agitation for improved redistribution of the national wealth to the people of the Niger Delta from where the Federal Government earns majority of its foreign exchange has informed the creation of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The present state of the Niger Delta is a reflection of the governance challenges faced by the commission the nine State Governments and the Federal Government.
The region has been wracked by persistent militant attacks and general breakdown in law and order with kidnapping rising to alarming level and causing capital and expertise flight from the region.
The Managing Director of the commission, Mr Nsima Ekere, in his presentation at the 5th, Niger Delta Dialogue, with the Theme; “ NDDC and a new Development Agenda for Niger Delta” held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital,, streamlined the development strategy of the Commission.
Mr Ekere disclosed that in the fulfillment of its mandate, since inception the Commission has awarded 8,557 projects of which 3,424 projects have been completed and handed over to communities and States. There are 2,257 on-going projects whilst 2,506 are yet to be started for various reasons.
He said the project portfolio is distributed across civil works such as buildings, canalization and reclamation, jetties and shore protection, electrification, roads and bridges, water supply, buildings, flood control and erosion and equipping, and furnishing of schools and health centers.
According to him the programme portfolio of the commission covers training and capacity building for Oil spill response, Telecommunications, Building technology, Entrepreneurship development and Waste-to-wealth amongst others. For instance, a total of 72,000 pairs of plastic chairs and desks have been produced and are about to be distributed to schools across the region.
“The healthcare programmes have been quite extensive with over 1.2 million documented patients treated, 3,500 communities visited and 6,000 referrals cases managed. Emergency relief materials were recently supplied to several communities such as Okerenkoko, Oporoza, Opobo amongst others, 7 Healthcare facilities equipped, and over 30,000 protective kits against Lassa Fever distributed.” He said.
The Managing Director explained that the education programmes deserves a special mention, noting that a total of 1,411 students have received scholarships since 2010 of which 1,066 were supported in M.Sc and 345 in Ph.D programmes.
He said Five (5) of the M.Sc students graduated with distinction from Coventry University, England and one (1) from Aberdeen University. “A Ph.D student, Mr. Ubong Peters won the three (3) minute thesis competition in Australia; Mr. Augustine Osarogiagbon of Memorial University is so brilliant he completed his Ph.D in less than the stipulated time and has been offered a dual Ph.D programme with two graduate assistants to work with him and a post-doctoral fellowship lined up. Finally Mr. Charles Igwe studying a Ph.D in Construction Engineering at Concordia University, Canada saved the Montreal Area Municipality over $1 billion by redesigning the TURCOT interchange road construction project costing $3.67 billion.” He said.
Mr Nsima said these positive results show the depth of talent within the Niger Delta and what can happen if the government just encourage the younger ones to stay focused on their education.
On the renewed focus on the future of the commission, the Managing Director said the new board is committed to tackling the root causes of the numerous challenges besetting the Commission and by extension,the Niger Delta region.
He said after a careful review of the issues, the new board are implementing what they call the 4R strategy which consists of ; Restructuring the Balance sheet
which currently has about N1.2 trillion worth of on-going projects; Reforming the Governance systems to ensure that as an organization they comply with extant rules and regulations and prevent mistakes of the past from recurring; Restoring the Core mandate of the Commission by ensuring that they have a properly prepared set of Master Plans for the 9 States and Reaffirming the commission commitment to doing what’s right and proper.
“The goals are ambitious and the time we have is limited but we are confident that the right first steps have been taken and we shall remain focused on our objectives.” He said.
The Managing Director had further disclosed that the reforms planned will also affect how the commission prepare the budget to ensure they are able to deliver high impact social welfare programmes that really touch the people and help change the present negative narrative.
He “Specifically we shall collaborate with our stakeholders including the Federal Government, National Assembly, State Governments and LGAs of the region, and most important, the Oil & Gas firms who directly fund our budget. For this later group we shall deliver interventions in host communities that address their specific needs.”
The NDDC MD who specifically thanked the youths in the region said the commission is taking their issues very seriously and in the next few weeks we will engage the youth, agitators, ex-militants and other interest groups directly in a forum where they will collaboratively decide on the most viable and sustainable programmes for empowering youth so they can be productive for life.
According to him these programs will be supported by the commission’s partners and will be monitored closely to ensure they deliver on the promises made.
The commission he said is also improving their partnerships with various organizations such as Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND, The FOSTER, Open Government Partnership, USAID and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
These partnership according to the Managing Director are designed to create a more transparent NDDC that is driven by best practice, adherence to rules and creating value-for-money projects and programmes.