The new leadership of the intervention agency in the Niger Delta is exploring an innovative approach to its task, writes Willie Etim

As an interventionist agency, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), with the mandate to drive the process of developing Nigeria’s oil-rich region was established by the NDDC Act of 2000. Its mandate was to facilitate the rapid, even, and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative, and politically peaceful.

It is no longer news that the Niger Delta produces nearly 75 per cent of the nation’s export earnings, but the news is that 43 per cent of the region’s population still lives below the poverty line. This paradox is due primarily to ecologically unfriendly exploitation of oil and gas resources that expropriate the region’s indigenous people and their right to these resources. Hence, the Niger Delta Development Commission is determined to change this narrative and bring back prosperity to its land and people.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the story of the oil-rich region has changed for the better since the coming on board of Dr. Samuel Ogbuku as Managing Director of the Commission.  Since he took over the helm of affairs at the commission, he has been able to articulate the demands of the people, embarked on practical initiatives to complete the gargantuan projects which he met and conceived, and carried out the execution of several other projects for the benefit of the people, and by so doing, calmed the restiveness which abinitio signposted the region. 

At the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Summit which was held at the Eko Hotel, Lagos State on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, Dr. Ogbuku made it clear that since its inception, the NDDC had tried to faithfully deliver on its mandate to fast-track the development of the Niger Delta region as envisioned in its enabling Act.

Speaking on the theme of the Summit: “Rewind to Rebirth” and re-igniting the importance of stakeholders in the agency’s engagements,” Ogbuku disclosed that as part of the efforts to renew and reposition the NDDC, the Governing Board has stepped up collaboration with various stakeholders. “We have started engagement with the key stakeholders, such as the oil companies, who contribute three per cent of their operational budget to the Commission; the state governments, traditional rulers, Civil Society Groups, youth organisations, and contractors,” he said.

He disclosed that the NDDC has met with members of the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS), of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who are no doubt critical stakeholders of the Commission. “This group, which embodies the International Oil Companies (IOCs), stands out for us because we need their cooperation to get full and prompt remittances of their contributions as prescribed by law,” he stated.

He maintained that it was important to engage stakeholders in project conceptualisation and execution, adding that the oil producers work in the communities and sometimes have first-hand information on the needs of the local people. He explained that the NDDC could not shoulder the enormous responsibilities of developing the Niger Delta region alone.

It was against this background that the current Board and Management of the agency, in its bid to effectively drive sustainable development in the region, decided to adopt the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to provide an alternative source of funding for key development projects and programmes. That was why in January 2023, it constituted a Management Committee on Public-Private Partnership to drive the vision of fast-tracking the development of the region. The committee is expected to review all the Commission’s existing partnerships as well as explore new partnerships that will result in enduring regional projects.

Ogbuku emphasised the need for institutional collaboration with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Community-Based Organisations (CBOs), and international institutions. “We need the assistance of foreign institutions such as multilateral agencies, foreign government agencies, donor agencies, and multinational corporations, to promote sustainable development in the Niger Delta region,” he said.

His targets are multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) which can provide technical support, funding, and policy advice to the NDDC. These agencies, according to him, have wide experience promoting sustainable development in developing countries and can give us valuable insights and direction.

Other foreign government agencies he is looking at include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK, and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), which he disclosed, could equally partner with NDDC to promote sustainable development in the region. 

“These agencies can provide funding, technical assistance, and policy guides, as well as collaborate with us on specific programmes and projects. Multinational corporations such as Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Total, have a significant presence in the Niger Delta region. We expect them to collaborate more with us in executing legacy projects. They have what it takes to provide funding, technical assistance, and expertise in environmental management, community development, and corporate social responsibility,” he said.

Ogbuku explained that the ‘Rewind to Rebirth’ initiative, was a strategic vision designed to recalibrate the Commission’s engagement with the Niger Delta and the NDDC’s overall intervention implementation plan. Embedded in this initiative include exploring more avenues for funding, better technical expertise, for higher yielding varieties of crops, as well as opportunities for collaboration and investment in the Niger Delta region. This initiative aligns with the NDDC mandate, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals 17, which focuses on partnerships. This is the stirring story of the Commission’s partnership with the SPDC Joint Venture on the celebrated Ogbia-Nembe Road, in Bayelsa State.

As a realist, he did not forget to mention some of the challenges confronting the NDDC development roadmap which he said included inadequate funding for the Commission, emanating from inconsistent statutory contributions from the Federal Government and failure of some oil and gas companies operating within the region to remit their contributions in line with the NDDC Act; Failure of ownership of the Masterplan by the sub-nationals and other key stakeholders; Frequent changes in the leadership of the Commission and Consistent delays in the passage of the Commission’s budget by the National Assembly, among others. 

He assured: “Today, we have introduced a lot of innovations that have helped in boosting the morale of our staff. We have also restructured the administrative system of NDDC by going back to the 13 Directorates recognised in the NDDC Act. It was necessary to reorganise the administration to enhance better service delivery. We are showing in our operations, through our example and conduct, how diligence, due process, and transparency are key ingredients to building confidence and trust among all partners and stakeholders. We are committed to not just being transparent, but we want to be seen to be transparent.”

 Stakeholders and political leaders used the opportunity offered by the summit to shower encomiums on the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana, and

Ogbuku, for engendering public confidence in the agency through their commitment to good governance.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Sen. Matthew Urhoghide;  Senator-elect and former chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole; former Managing Director of the NDDC, Mr. Timi Alaibe and former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Dakuku Peterside, were among those, who acknowledged the transformation of the commission under Umana and Ogbuku leadership.

The participants and stakeholders commended President Muhammadu Buhari for returning sanity and order in the running of the NDDC and noted the salutary impact of the president’s action on peace and stability in the Niger Delta.

Other dignitaries that graced the occasion included the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Wabote, who also delivered a paper titled “Innovative Funding and Sustainable Development for the Niger Delta”.

Others who delivered keynote addresses included Kayode Kyalidson, who advised the federal and state governments on a donor-funded transport initiative between 2009 and 2016; Nimi Wilson-Jack, a sound legal practitioner of more than 39 years experience and a former Secretary-General of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA); Janita Ferentinos, a certified PPP Consultant and trainer with over 20 years experience; Oliver Everett, a former CEO of Common Wealth Enterprise and Investment Council and Chair of Commonwealth Business Forum, Kigali 2020 Taskforce; and Abubakar Suleiman, a Nigerian Banking and Economics professional and the current Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank.

Etim, the media assistant to the NDDC managing director, writes from Port-Harcourt

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