Abubakar Momoh, minister of Niger Delta Development, pledges to make a difference, writes John Mayaki

In the past week, Engr Abubakar Momoh, the Minister of Niger Delta Development, embarked on a significant journey into the heart of Rivers and Bayelsa States. His mission? To witness firsthand the progress of projects spearheaded by his ministry and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), an agency under his purview.

The minister himself bore witness to the prevailing situation and was profoundly moved. It was impossible for him to ignore the extent to which our nation had been let down by those entrusted with its development and progress. A stark manifestation of this disappointment lay in the East-West Road project, an enduring endeavor that has painfully stretched over 12 years without completion. The persistent delays in this critical infrastructure project naturally raised questions about the underlying issues. For a road project to defy the combined efforts of successive governments, including Presidents and Ministers, both within the Ministry of Works and, at times, within the Ministry of Niger Delta, where ministers from the region have held positions, is undeniably disconcerting.

While the minister visited the East-West Road and aptly characterized it as an “eyesore” and a “disappointment,” it’s imperative to acknowledge that this indictment extends beyond the political sphere to encompass the bureaucratic machinery, including permanent secretaries and directors, some of whom are engineers.

The minister’s journey continued with an inspection of the Okrika-Borokiri Road, a vital infrastructure lifeline comprising three bridges connecting numerous communities to Port Harcourt. This collaborative effort between the NDDC and the State Government demands meticulous supervision and adherence to stringent standards. The project remains a work in progress, with Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State affirming his unwavering commitment to enhance the city’s accessibility upon completion.

Moving forward, Momoh ventured to the canalization of Onopa Canal, a significant 4km project nestled within Yenagoa Local Government Area. However, it was at a housing estate project managed by the ministry that a truly startling revelation awaited him. The requirement for sand-filling at the Housing Estate project in Odi, situated in Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA, was baffling. The project, constructed below water level, defied conventional practices by mandating sand-filling after completion, raising numerous questions and concerns. This apparent misallocation of resources cast a shadow over the project’s execution.

The minister’s frustration mounted as he found himself unable to access the houses due to the waterlogged nature of the area, preventing a comprehensive examination of the project’s details.

Undeterred by adverse weather conditions, the minister pressed on to another project. He insisted on inspecting the integrated Oil Palm Processing Plant in Adagbabiri Community, even amidst heavy rainfall. Unfortunately, flooding barred his access to the project’s premises. Expressing his disappointment, he vowed that such oversights would not recur under his watch.

The minister’s unwavering dedication to scrutinizing projects under challenging conditions underscores the gravity of these issues and highlights the imperative need to consider environmental factors in project planning.

It is essential to recognize that ministers who neglect project inspections and fail to ensure compliance with specifications significantly contribute to governance malaise and the deterioration in project quality. Another alarming concern lies in ministry or agency staff members who collude with contractors to compromise project standards. Furthermore, there’s a pervasive issue of abandoned government projects, often stemming from poor planning and the absence of oversight by officials who remain confined to their offices, neglecting to verify project execution.

Numerous government projects across the Niger Delta and the entire country find themselves mired in similar issues, leading to squandered funds and incomplete or abandoned projects. It is unmistakably evident that a change in attitude is an urgent requirement to facilitate the effective conduct of government business and propel the nation towards progress.

This account resounds as a call for change, primarily directed at government officials. It advocates for heightened accountability, improved project management, and a transformative approach to governance.

In the same vein, at the heart of every community lie the end users of these projects, the citizens themselves, just as non-governmental organizations, with their commitment to societal welfare, further strengthen the guardianship of development projects.

Citizens and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must rise to the challenge and serve as vigilant guardians of progress. When it comes to infrastructure endeavors like roads, housing, processing plants, among other government projects, the role of these stakeholders is paramount in ensuring project execution, maintaining quality, and monitoring projects to completion.

For sustainable development, citizens and NGOs are the threads that weave progress into reality. Their collective actions ensure that development projects are not just constructs of brick and mortar but embodiments of accountability, quality, and citizen-centricity. Together, they stand as the guardians of a brighter future, where infrastructure projects are a testament to responsible governance and the aspirations of a nation. I, therefore, urge Nigerians and NGOs to rise to the challenge – the task is not for government alone but collective responsibility.

Undoubtedly, Minister Momoh’s project inspection tour in Rivers and Bayelsa States merits commendation, particularly for his unwavering dedication and proactive stance in addressing the pressing issues plaguing Nigeria’s development projects and governance. His willingness to personally bear witness to these projects, even under adverse weather conditions, underscores his genuine concern for the nation’s progress. His commitment serves as an exemplar of the type of leadership required to effect positive change in the country’s development landscape.

Indeed, the ministry and the commission were established with the crucial mission of driving progress and development in the region. However, over time, they seem to have lost credibility, at least in the perception of the public.

Now, Momoh has taken on the mantle as the guardian, determined to combat the perception of a corruption-ridden commission.

Momoh, with his unwavering commitment and resolute spirit, has accepted the challenge to dispel any notion of the Ministry and the NDDC as a cesspool of corruption. In the spotlight, he understands the critical importance of upholding transparency, accountability, and ethical conduct in the governance system. He has declared an end to the era of tolerating corruption within the ministry and the agency. His pledge to depart from the shadows of malfeasance and embrace transparency is not mere rhetoric but a resounding call to action. He stands ready to tread where others might fear to step, and his determination to restore the ministry and NDDC’s tarnished image remains unwavering.

The voice of the minister resonates with unwavering commitment. With steadfast determination, he stands as a guardian, shielding the integrity of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from the scourge of corruption.

In his solemn pledge Momoh proclaims the end of an era of tolerance for corruption within the ministry and the NDDC, as well as the nonchalant attitude toward the handling of projects. He signifies a departure from the shadows of malfeasance and embraces transparency and accountability. He declares his readiness to tread into uncharted territory, where others might hesitate. With vigilant eyes from both the public and the nation focused on the organization, his determination to restore its tarnished image remains resolute.

Having traversed the landscapes of Rivers and Bayelsa States and witnessed the yet-to-be completed and deteriorating state of the East-West Road firsthand, Momoh’s heart resonates with a call to action. The dire state of vital infrastructure serves as a poignant reminder of the pressing needs of the Niger Delta region. His commitment to champion the realization of this road project underscores its pivotal role as a catalyst for regional development.

The renaming of the agency, transitioning from “Niger Delta Affairs” to “Niger Delta Development,” carries profound significance. It signals a shift in focus, from mundane administrative affairs to the pursuit of genuine development by President Bola Tinubu. This transformation aligns with the evolving mission of the NDDC and signifies a commitment to bring about meaningful change.

The minister’s assurance that the NDDC will undergo a transformation under his leadership typifies a man who embodies hope for a brighter future in the Niger Delta. His words reverberate through the annals of policy-making, promising an era marked by accountability, progress, and prosperity for a region that has long yearned for change.

As the minister’s unwavering resolve takes root, it symbolizes the enduring spirit of leadership and transformation in the pursuit of a better future for the Niger Delta and its people. His words offer a glimpse into the potential for a region once plagued by corruption to rise anew, guided by a beacon of integrity and determination.

Mayaki writes from Abuja

Related Articles