NDDC’s Giant Strides 

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Segun James
 writes that the Niger Delta Development Commission is making a significant impact in the infrastructure and manpower development of communities in the Niger Delta
 
Following the dark days of confusion and ineffectual execution and supervision of projects embarked upon by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the situation seems to have brightened up.
 
This so much was admitted by Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa when he congratulated Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director of the commission recently. In his congratulatory message, Okowa extolled the astute leadership qualities of the NDDC boss towards repositioning of the commission.
He said: “Obong Nsima Ekere deserves an enviable place in history for the giant strides recorded by the board and management of the NDDC since he assumed office. On behalf of my family, the government and people of Delta State, I felicitate with the Managing Director NDDC Obong Nsima Ekere on his achievements so far. I pray he will not rest on your oars.
 
“The immeasurable and invaluable contributions you have made to national development are indelible in the minds of Nigerians. Your life symbolises the assured reward for single-minded commitment to the ideals of diligence, humility, perseverance, focus and dedicated service,” he extolled. 
 
Okowa stressed that the NDDC boss is a patriotic Nigerian with the political dexterity and drive to reposition the NDDC as a beacon of hope for the Niger Delta. He expressed his appreciation to Ekere for all the NDDC’s interventions programmes in the state while urging the management and board to continue in their drive towards repositioning the NDDC.
 
Until President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Ekere as the head of the NDDC, the commission had been enmeshed in crisis; fumbling from one confusion to the other without apparent sense of direction and clear cut knowledge of its role in the scheme of things, given the fact that most of what it was inaugurated to do are exactly what the state and local government councils are also doing.  
 
The situation is made worse by the fact that there were no synergy between the commission and the state governments, a situation which made for duplication of efforts as the state and the NDDC sometimes embarked on the same projects in the same locality without the knowledge of the other party.
 
Today, this apparent confusing state has been corrected. This may indeed be the reason for the praises showered on the managing director by Okowa, a technocrat himself who appreciates the good work that Ekere is doing in the NDDC.
 
The lack of information about the workings and accomplishments of the NDDC in the oil-rich but underdeveloped region has provided an avenue for critics and cynics to feed the people with lies and half-truths resulting in the commission’s usefulness being unjustly queried.
 
Since his appointment, Ekere, who in his determination to ensure that all the abandoned projects embarked by the commission are completed, has earned for himself praises from all stakeholders in the region.
 
In spite of this, however, the NDDC under successive managements has continued to actualise its core mandate for which it was established by the Olusegun Obasanjo-led federal government in 2000.
 
This it has done through the provision of critical life-touching projects and interventions in various communities of the nine states under its purview. Of note is the fact that these projects are evenly and fairly sited, after a proper need assessment has been carried out by the commission.
 
Ekere, upon assumption of office as Managing Director/CEO of the NDDC, pledged to accelerate the pace of infrastructure and manpower development in the Niger Delta without recourse to political, ethnic or other parochial sentiments.
 
Conscious that time was of the essence, and also that the people expected so much from him because of his pedigree and track-record of excellent performance, Ekere set his hands to the plough to ‘work the talk’.
 
In Akwa Ibom for instance, the commission has projects in many communities and towns in the state. This is in addition to other forms of humanistic interventions which promote the economic and social well-being of the people.
 
According to statistics, the NDDC has committed itself to 890 projects and 62 emergency repair works across Akwa Ibom State. Of the 890 projects, the agency has completed and inaugurated160 while 281 already completed are awaiting inauguration.
 
Records also show that 340 out of the 890 projects are still on-going, while 62 are yet to commence. These projects, which cut across various areas of human endeavours, including buildings, roads, electricity, healthcare; education, water, bridges and many others, have positively impacted on the lives of the people as well as given them the sense of belonging.
 
Some of the major projects of the commission in the state include the 12.5km Okoita-Itu-Mbak Atai-Ikot Ntuen-Mkpeti-Oku Iboku Road in Itu, the 10.125km Ididep-Ekpenyong-Ikot Etim Afaha Itiat Road in Ibiono Ibom, the 30km Nsasak junction-Akon road in Essien Udim and 6.7km
Iwuochang-Okorutip Road project with 600m bridge span bridge.
 
Others are the 4.9km Oku Iboku internal roads in Itu, construction of a community centre at Ibiaku Ishiet along Airport road, renovation of hostels, dinning and kitchen at Methodist Boys High School, Oron, maintenance/dredging of creek at Esit Eket and Okoroitak in Ibeno, on-going construction of a specialist hospital at the main campus of the Akwa Ibom State University, Ikot Akpaden, Mkpat Enin local government area.
 
The NDDC has also intervened in the area of erosion and flood control as evident in the flood control work executed at Ekpene/Obuk Afaha community in Eket and shore protection works at Eastern Obolo, Ibeno and Ikot Abasi and the building of embankment at the Naval Base in Mbo Local Government Area.
 
According to Effiong Eduno, a native of Mbo, the construction of the embankment at the naval base is of paramount importance to fishermen and inhabitants of the community as the river is said to have the largest natural depth of water capable of accommodating big vessels.
 
In the area of education, the commission is building model schools in the nine states of the Niger Delta. This is in addition to the provision of scholarships to students of secondary and tertiary institutions from its catchment areas.
 
The commission is said to be performing creditably in the area of human capacity development through women and youth empowerment programmes, skills acquisition trainings and investment in agriculture, in addition to free medical care to indigents of communities in the state.
 
The commission has expanded electricity projects in communities; the agency has linked Ukpum Ette clan in Ikot Abasi Local Government to electricity from the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON).
It has also provided street lights in Ikot Abasi urban. In the same vein, it has given solar lights to Uquo in Esit Eket, Nsit Ubium and Ukam in Essien Udim Local Government Area among other electricity projects.
 
The commission has within the last six months engaged in massive and capital intensive emergency repair works in hitherto damaged and impassable roads and streets within Uyo metropolis and other areas in the state.
 
Official figures indicate that the 62 emergency repair works done by the commission include Udo Eduok/Itiam street, Enoidem and Wiliam Streets, Vision Avenue at Nsukarra Offot, Senator Ibok Essien street at Shelter Afrique, Akpan Essien street and environs, Clement Isong Street and environs at the Federal Housing Estate and Ukana Offot Street all in Uyo, the state capital.
 
Others are Uko Eshiet Street and environs, School road and environs, Nsentip and environs, Nkemba Street/environs and Apostolic Church road, Nsukarra Offot.
 
Ndarake Eshiet, a native of Iwuochang in Ibeno Local Government Area, expressed his appreciation to the NDDC for constructing the 6.7km Iwuochang-Okorutip Road project with 600m bridge span bridge.
 
Eshiet said life was hellish and unbearable for his people before the bridge was constructed as it was almost impossible for people of his community and other adjoining communities to move around and access other parts of the state.
 
“I must confess that before this bridge was built life was very difficult for us. We didn’t have access to other places. There are many villages around here besides my village, but movement of people and goods was impossible.
 
“We are fishermen; getting our fishes outside our communities for people to buy was a herculean task. There was no development of any kind. Before the bridge, it was very difficult to access medical treatment for our sick because you can’t even leave this place to get treatment in hospitals in Ukpenekang or other places. Due to this challenge, so many of our people died. But the story has changed now. The bridge has brought visitors and development to our communities. Our sufferings have been substantially reduced and all I can say is that we are grateful to the NDDC,” he explained.
 
David John Ikwo, another native of Iwouchang said with the NDDC bridge, accidents resulting to deaths and other losses from boat mishaps are now a thing of the past.
 
“The bridge has really helped from boat tragedies which usually occurred in the past. Boats used to capsize leading to deaths and loss of valuable properties. And before dead bodies are recovered it usually took up to three days to four days. I thank God because we don’t have such sad experiences again.
 
“The problem we are having now is lack of electricity. Most times we experience blackout up to a week and that affects our businesses and comfort. We urge the NDDC to still intervene as it seems it’s the only government agency that appreciates us,” he noted.
 
In Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area where the NDDC has completed the 10.125km Ididep-Ekpeyong-Ikot Etim Afaha Itiat Road project, life for natives of the three communities which the road traverses, is a lot merrier and better.
 
At Essien Udim Local Government Area, the NDDC has worked on the 30km Nsasak Junction-Okon-Ikot Uko Road leading up to Obusu in Abia State. This road has a 120m span bridge.
Perhaps what has elicited more gratitude from the people is the emergency repair works carried out on major streets across Uyo, the state capital and other major towns in the state.
 
Since this was done, social and commercial activities in many streets in Uyo have improved tremendously.
 
There is no doubts that the contributions and commitment of the
commission in the development of the state will continue to resonate with the people of the state, as they are beginning to experience a  proactive and collective  developmental initiatives targeted at the very core needs of the people.
 
With bold leadership and a clear action plan, Ekere is committed to changing the way things are done in the commission. His target is to ensure efficient management of the resources available.
 
Being an astute administrator, the commission boss ordered a projects audit as soon as the board was inaugurated. He also gave ultimatum to all contractors working for the commission to return to site immediately or face prosecution. To show that he meant business, he approved the sum of N3billion for the payment of some outstanding debts to contractors handling projects in the commission.
 
He also directed the immediate payment of all outstanding scholarship fees for beneficiaries of the 2016 NDDC Overseas Post Graduate Scholarship scheme. The managing director expressed disappointment that beneficiaries of the scheme were facing unfortunate hardship due to delays in remitting both the tuition fees and upkeep allowances, a situation he insisted, will never happen again.
 
Ekere has left no one in doubt that the new management team has a sustainable strategy to turn around the fortunes of the commission. With an ambitious goal, he is confident that the right steps are being taken and shall remain focused on the objectives.
 
On the renewed focus on the future of the commission, the managing director said the new board was committed to tackling the root causes of the numerous challenges besetting the commission and by extension the Niger Delta region.
 
He said that after a careful review of the issues, the new board is implementing what it calls the 4R strategy 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 organisation, 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 nine states that make up the NDDC and Reaffirming the commission’s commitment to doing what’s right and proper.
 
He also hinted that the NDDC would soon set up a specialised Niger Delta Development Bank for the youths and other people of the region to access funds, while assuring that the terms would be friendly.