Last week’s nomination of a new board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by President Muhammadu Buhari has been met with excitement, especially with the choice of Bernard Okumagba, a seasoned technocrat, as Managing Director.
Established in 2000, the NDDC is tasked with the mission of facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.
With Okumagba at the helm, it is believed that the new board will achieve the commission’s mandate by ushering in a reformist era that would transform the Niger Delta from generational underdevelopment to a thriving region which past leaders and activists have dreamt of for years, and which its huge resources deserve.
The confidence in Okumagba’s ability to bring positive change and help the NDDC pull its weight stems from his antecedents.
Regarded as a man of integrity with a wealth of experience in managing men and resources, Okumagba’s life journey has prepared him for the onerous task he is about to undertake.
A true son of the soil, Okumagba hails from Warri South Local Government Area of Delta South Senatorial District. He attended Government College Ughelli from 1977 to 1983 and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka from 1983 to 1987 where he graduated with a B.Sc in Accountancy (2nd Class Honours Upper Division).
Soon after, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1991 and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA).
Okumagba has extensive experience in the world of banking and finance. He started his career at the International financial services firm Arthur Andersen & Co (now KPMG) in 1988.
He later worked in several banks from 1991 to 2007. His banking career commenced at Oceanic Bank Plc from 1991 to 1994. Thereafter, he worked in Crystal Bank, Fidelity Bank Plc, First Atlantic Bank Plc and United Bank for Africa Plc from 1994 to 2007.
During this period, he held several positions including Senior Manager, Corporate Banking Division, Head of Internal Control/Audit Division, Bank Chief Inspector and Principal Manager, Consumer and Commercial Banking Division among others.
Okumagba is also an accomplished administrator. He left UBA in August 2007 following his appointment as Delta State Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget. He served in this capacity until November 2010 when he was subsequently appointed Commissioner for Finance till July 2013.
Until his nomination, he was Chairman of Regents Consults Limited and a Director at Abbey Mortgage Bank Plc. He also has experience in the oil and gas sector as Chairman of Nigdel Oil and Gas Limited.
Subject to confirmation by the senate, Okumagba is expected to take to his new appointment with zeal starting with tomorrow’s briefing with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
The scope of his new assignment is vast and demands a lot of responsibility. As Managing Director, he administers a commission that is charged with the formulation of policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta.
The NDDC is also responsible for the conception, planning and implementation of projects and programs for sustainable development of the Niger Delta in sectors including transportation (roads, jetties and waterways), health, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications.
The NDDC is also charged with preparing master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the Niger Delta, in addition to implementation of all the measures approved for the development of the region by the Federal Government and the states of the Commission.
Furthermore, the commission is tasked with assessing and reporting on any project being funded or carried out in the region by oil and gas companies and any other company, including non-governmental organizations, as well as ensuring that funds released for such projects are properly utilized.
The NDDC also tackles ecological and environmental problems that arise from the exploration of oil in the region, liaises with the various oil and gas prospecting and producing companies, and advises the Federal Government and the member states on the prevention and control of oil spillages, gas flaring and environmental pollution.
Those close to Okumagba confirm that he approaches assignments with humility and purpose, and believes that whatever position he finds himself in is an opportunity to bring change.
His stewardship while commissioner in Delta has imbued citizens of the region with confidence that his appointment heralds the dawn of a new era in the Niger Delta. There is hope that he will strive to complete the many projects yet to see the light of day in the region.
Okumagba is amiable, unassuming, tenacious in his belief and dogged in his conviction. Now, he has a rare chance now to write his name in gold in the development of the Niger Delta. Time will tell.