Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere, has said the failure of the federal government to adequately fund the commission over the years was partly responsible for the spate of abandoned projects by the interventionist agency.
Speaking while signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with BudgIT Foundation at the NDDC headquarters, Port Harcourt wednesday, Ekere lamented that the commission had received less than 30 per cent of what it was supposed to receive from the federal government according to the law that established the commission.
His word: â€œWhen we came on board we discovered that one of the greatest problems of NDDC was the negative public perception. For some reasons, in the 16 or 17 years of the life span of the NDDC, the people believed that it was a place where nothing works and that the funds that come to the commission are not used properly or efficiently; that if it was properly used, the commission would have been able to achieve a lot more.
â€œI agree with them and I also disagree. Of the total funds that NDDC is supposed to receive according to the law that established it, we have been able to receive less than 30 per cent of what the federal government is supposed to contribute to the commission.
â€œAs at now, just about N500 billion has been received by the commission out of more than N1.7 or N1.8 trillion since the take-off of the commission. So, you see that in terms of funding, what has come to the commission is not commensurate to what it is supposed to have received. So you see that those who started running the commission were running it based on a projection of what was expected from government according to the law establishing it and that was not forthcoming. That is probably what was responsible for the huge projects that have been abandoned.â€
He however said the present board and management of the commission was set to change public perception of the commission and also ensure that whatever funds that accrue to the NDDC was used in an efficient, transparent and responsible manner for the good of the people.
Ekere said: â€œIndeed, the NDDC is determined, in this new regime and spirit of transparency, probity and accountability, to provide access to public records, answers to enquires and information about activities of the commission. This will grant citizens the ability to â€˜follow the moneyâ€™, from the budget, and all stages of procurement, implementation and audit.
â€œThe governing board and management, in implementing this MoU, is determined to enhance accountability, by publicly declaring outflow and inflow into the commissionâ€™s account on a quarterly basis. Information will be proactively disseminated through the open budget platform, to give the public comprehensive understanding of NDDCâ€™Sâ€™ financial activities.â€
Speaking also during the signing of another MoU with the Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND), Ekere said some of the advantages of the collaboration between the two organisations would include provision of technical assistance to the commission in strategy development, monitoring and evaluation, as well as partnership and stakeholder management.
Other advantages of the collaboration, according to Ekere, are repositioning and rebranding of the commissionâ€™s image within and outside the Niger Delta region, as well as facilitation of advocacy for the review of the Niger Delta Regional Master Plan, to reflect extant vision and priorities of stakeholders.
He said: â€œThese needs-based objectives were jointly developed by NDDC and PIND after careful internal diagnostics. We shall work conscientiously and diligently with PIND, to actualise all the targets set out in this MoU, for the benefit of this commission, this great region and for posterity.
â€œWe owe each other no less, for to build this great region is to build ourselves, our families, our communities and our people. And to fulfill the letters and spirit of the mandate before this partnership and this commission is to actualise our collective dreams, long held.â€
In their separate speeches, the executive director of PIND, Dr. Dara Akala, and the Team Leader of BudgIt, Oluseun Onigbinde, described the signing of the two MoUs as the beginning of good things to come to the people of the Niger Delta region.