Ogbuku: Making a Difference in NDDC

Ogbuku: Making a Difference in NDDC

Following the dark days of confusion and ineffectual execution and supervision of projects, the situation has brightened up and shifted for the better in the Niger Delta Development Commission. Segun James writes.

Between Joinkrama and Akinima communities, somewhat sleepy neighbouring towns of about 8,000 people in Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State, a vast portion of the road that linked the various farming communities in the area have caved in into the nearby Orashi River as a result of the torrential rains in recent weeks, a situation which had rendered all commercial and social movements impossible.

Worse still, the only alternative, the Orashi River itself, has risen to an incredible height and has overrun its banks into the surrounding dense rainforest. Thereby making moving around dangerous and risky.

For the people, this was the worse nightmare in recent years. They have not experienced this situation since the road was built by the NDDC some years ago. Hence, jubilant crowd of the natives trooped out to welcome the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, to the community in anticipation that the nightmare would be solved. Ogbuku was paying an unscheduled visit to the place where the road was cut off to see the situation of things for himself.

The almost 20 kilometres long road holds a significant purpose for the people and the Commission. It was built by the NDDC to open up over 20 backwaters communities in Rivers and Bayelsa states which were hitherto inaccessible except by boats and canoe through the Orashi River.

The people got what they prayed for. A temporary alternative road will be provided immediately even as the Commission finds solution to the washed portion of the road.

The area houses the Adebawa oil wells which ranks second only to Oloibiri as the place where oil was first discovered in commercial quantity in Nigeria. This contribution notwithstanding, the road is all the people have to show for their contribution to the national economy, even as oil is still being produced from the many wells in the area.

The NDDC built the road in 2005 to alleviate the sufferings of the people who are mainly farmers and fishing folks; and more importantly, the cloisters of communities in the area are major oil producing and have contributed significantly to the nation’s economy.

Earlier, the NDDC Managing Director had led a team of the commission’s executive team to Oporoza, in Gbaramatu Kingdom of Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State on an inspection tour of projects executed by the Commission in the area.

The NDDC team got friendly welcome because of the past performances of the Commission in Gbaramatu kingdom where the NDDC built and inaugurated a Cottage Health Centre, the first in the area.

The Cottage Hospital in Okerenkoko has saved the people from the dangerous practice of self-medication and the hazardous boat trips to Warri whenever anyone took ill or when women are in labour.

Ogbuku also inspected the shore protection project in Ogborodo, which the Escravos Oil Terminal belonging to Chevron Oil had been stalled for many years. The situation at the site was not encouraging because the contractor was said to have abandoned the shore protection and reclamation project, leaving the people and community to brutal pounding from waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

Until Ogbuku’s appointment as the head of the NDDC, the commission had been enmeshed in crisis; fumbling from one crisis to the other without an apparent sense of direction and clear-cut knowledge and direction about its role in the scheme of things, given the fact that most of what it was doing are exactly what the state and local government councils are also doing.

 The situation was made worse by the fact that there was no synergy between the commission and the state governments, a situation which made for duplication of efforts as the states and the NDDC sometimes embarked on the same projects in the same locality without the knowledge of the other party.

Traditionally, mainstream Niger Delta people are fishing folks. They find joy and livelihood in the many rivers, creeks and rivulets that make the waterways surrounding their communities. Fishing which is their major occupation is no more since the advent of oil exploration and exploitation as the waters are now polluted from oil spillages and most of the freshwater fishes have died and saltwater fishes have moved deeper into the sea. This has made their situation very precarious.

In the Niger Delta states, outside the communities in the upland areas, almost all the communities in the deep delta areas which host most oil facilities and installations are not connected to the National Electricity Grid. Communities in Bayelsa state were only connected to the grid in the year 2006, fifty years after oil was first found in Oloibiri! A situation which made the state the last to be connected to power in the federation.

This was the situation that the NDDC was meant to ameliorate when it was created by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s government as an interventionist agency.

But the situation has changed. Today, the development of the region has gone beyond infrastructural provisions into the area of susteinanable development. This is where Ogbuku comes in.

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, Ogbuku, who in his determination to ensure that all abandoned projects embarked upon by the commission are completed has earned for himself praises from all stakeholders in the region.

 Since taking over as the managing director, the NDDC has continued to actualize the core mandate for which it was established.

This has been 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, and after a proper need assessment has been carried out by the commission.

Ogbuku, upon assumption of office pledged to accelerate the pace of infrastructural and manpower development in the Niger Delta without recourse to political, ethnic or other parochial sentiments.

Conscious that time is of the essence, and also that the people expected so much from him because of his pedigree and track record of excellent performance, Ogbuku has set his hands to the plough to ‘work the talk’.

Vision is one thing; executing the vision is another. Ogbuku is one person that marries the two and, as a result, delivers on what the people need. It has been said that there are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.

This is more apt today, especially in the Niger Delta which, although accounts for all the oil produced by the country is responsible for over 90 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but remains the least developed region in Southern Nigeria.

To Ogbuku, the NDDC of the future must look at a new financial reward system as Nigerian companies take over the onshore operation of multinational oil companies, who were required to contribute three per cent of their operation cost to the NDDC as required by the Act that created the commission.

This was a requirement to ensure that the region “catches up” with other parts of the country. But with the reality of recent times and the need to fast-track development of the region, Ogbuku says the solution lies in a sustainable economic system.

He sees plenty of ways economic empowerment can make a difference in people’s lives in contrast to the situation right now.

“I look around the region, and I see all kinds of problems we can solve with the tools we have.” In particular, he insists that the waterways should be seen as an asset, not a problem.

Today, he lamented the youths find solace in bunkering activities and militancy, a situation which is sabotaging the national economy.

It is this grim situation that Ogbuku said he is determined to stem out.

He however said the youth must be given something to look up to and a reason to push the rapid development of the region.

Lives in deep riverine areas can be tedious. But this is not new to Ogbuku as he was born into this and grew up in this situation.

What’s more, he is a traditional ruler of one of such oil-producing communities which has been forgotten by successive governments. His community is in Ogbia, the clan where former President Goodluck Jonathan comes from which is barely five kilometres from Oloibiri and until recently, it has no accessible road.

Expectations of the commission are high and the job it is expected to do is daunting. And it takes a great leader to do the job. What are the secrets of great leaders? The answer is simple: they dare to be different. That was the situation when Ogbuku proposed new thinking for the NDDC and Niger Delta region.

To him, developing the region goes beyond palliatives and intervening in infrastructural development, saying that only amounted to giving fish to the people rather than teaching them how to fish and ultimately fend for themselves. This new narrative is what he is pursuing. A determination to make the region the new economic hub of the country with knowledgeable youth who are well trained to take over the oil industry.

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