The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC was established in 2000 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.
Nearly two decades after, not many would argue that the Commission was far from realizing those lofty objectives. While thousands of projects are recorded as executed or ongoing across all the oil producing states, many of these projects have had little or no impact of the lives of the people. Many of the projects which could have impacted on the people are either poorly executed or uncompleted for years due to various reasons, largely bordering on corruption.
Some state governors have been complicit in the lack of value addition by some NNDC projects due to failure to monitor execution or an unwholesome desire for personal benefits. Sometimes some unscrupulous state executives had even claimed NDDC projects as that of their administration to write off embezzlement of state funds, thereby shortchanging the people.
This is the history Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is set to rewrite for Abia State where about 700 NDDC projects are said to be scattered the state.
The Abia State government on Monday inaugurated a committee to verify ongoing and completed projects of the NDDC across the 17 local governments areas of the state. The committee was inaugurated by the Secretary to the State Government, Barr Chris Ezem and has two weeks to turn in its report.
Members of the committee include Bishop Sunday Onuoha (Chairman), Elder Nwala Richard (Secretary), Engr Uzor Nwankwo (Member), Mr. Gabriel Aguwa Paul (Member) and Chief Jude Chijioke Ndukwe (Member).
The inauguration of the committee was a fulfillment of the pledge to work with the NDDC to ensure its projects have the expected impact on the lives of the people and the state. Dr. Ikpeazu, who had recently hosted the hardworking Acting Managing Director of the Commission, Dr Gbene Nunieh, and her team at Government House Umuahia, had indicated interest in working with the new management to address the problems confronting his people.
He noted it was the first time the management of the Commission had shown the determination for a productive collaboration with oil producing communities and called for support for the new management to remodel the NDDC in order to cater for the needs of oil producing communities.
Dr. Ikpeazu had some piece of advice for the management of NDDC if it truly desires change. He asked the Commission to be objective and dispassionate in projects implementation.
But perhaps much more important for Abia and Dr Ikpeazu is the desire of the new management of NDDC for transparency and accountability. Dr. Nuneih led NDDC is handing over list of the Commission’s projects in each of the oil producing states to the various state governments.
She handed over a total of Six Hundred and Thirty-Three (633) NDDC projects at various stages of completion in the state. The essence of this is to avoid duplication of projects and to do away with middlemen who had been more of a curse to the oil states.
But it would afford the Ikpeazu administration a unique opportunity to interface for his people and ensure timely completion of the projects. The verification committee he set up to identify the projects would help the state monitor the progress of work and provide invaluable intelligence to the Administration in terms of projects that are still needed and where such should be located.
The committee would help the state conserve resources that could have been wasted on replicating projects that were already ongoing. In order words, the committee is a demonstration of Ikpeazu’s resolve to ensure his second term in office produces legacies and memorable highlights. It shows how focus, in fact, how fixated he is right now on the people and how to change their situation for good.
Only a government focused on development and impactful progress would appreciate the importance of a proper needs assessment analysis of projects in relation to the people and work to ensure communities get projects that have direct and immediate impacts on their lives.
It is in line with the direction of Ikpeazu’s second term administration which focuses on project delivery. A few weeks ago, the governor reconstituted the Physical Planning and Infrastructural Development Fund Board of the state and appointed Elder Ezebunwa Ubani as chairman. Others are Elder Uzoma Onwuka, Hon. Peter Nwakanma , Prince Omenazu Ikonne, Chief J.C. Ogwo, Engr. Lewis Obianyi and Engr. Chief Otete.
The reconstitution of the board was widely applauded by many residents of the state who saw it as proof that Ikpeazu is focused on infrastructural development of the state. Although infrastructure was among the key achievement of his first term, there seemed to be an even bigger determination to move the state to the next level of development.
Governor Ikpeazu leads an Administration that is mindful of the uncertainties in national and state revenues and has adopted strategies to appropriately position the state to take advantage of the opportunities brought by current realities. This is a proactive Administration that has priorities the needs of the state and wants to be prudent in the management of resources.
Ikpeazu has said his focus in 2019 will be on continuity and sustenance of the gains achieved in the areas of Agriculture, Education, Health, Infrastructural Development and Youth/Women Empowerment. Sustaining the gains of the past is not resting on owns oars but doing more. That is why the 2019 budget was envisioned as a document to deepen the achievements recorded in preceding years. It is meant to ensure the completion of ongoing Projects/Programmes and some new ones.
But the Administration is also focused on fiscal expansion that would ensure a lift in the revenue generation capacity of the state and block areas of waste. This is no doubt one of the objectives of the verification of NDDC projects in the state.
Ugwu writes from Umuahia, Abia