After Federal Govt’s Intervention, Has Anything Changed At NDDC? - The Gallant News


Saturday 26 February 2022

After Federal Govt’s Intervention, Has Anything Changed At NDDC?

After Federal Govt’s Intervention, Has Anything Changed At NDDC?

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the year 2000 with the sole mandate of developing the oil-rich but impoverished Niger Delta region.

In September 2008, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, who was determined to develop the region and end the violence in the area, created the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and made the NDDC a parastatal under the ministry.

The NDDC defines its vision and mission as, “To offer a lasting solution to the socio-economic difficulties of the Niger Delta region and to facilitate the rapid and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.”

Fourteen years after its creation, the commission is far from fulfilling its core mandates to the diversity of minority ethnic groups, especially the Ijaw and the Ogoni, who are worse hit by the activities of multinational oil companies.  So, till date, there are still pockets of agitations in the region, especially the youths, who are enraged by the continued despoilation of the environment and poverty in the area.

Worse still, the frequent changes of the board and management of the NDDC by various administrations have not allowed stability and continuity in the NDDC. Added to this, is the visionless, incompetent and corrupt leaders that have held sway in the NDDC since its inception.

The incumbent administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has attempted to sanitise the NDDC through frequent change of its management and board.

It is in the efforts to retool the NDDC that the federal government through the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, revealed that the Forensic Audit Report of the NDDC showed that over 13,000 projects have been abandoned by the commission in its operational states.

Akpabio, who stated this in Abuja recently, when he submitted the report to President Muhammadu Buhari through the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said, “The report of the audit committee showed that there are over 13,000 abandoned projects in the Niger Delta and even before the submission of the report some contractors have returned to site on their own and completed about 77 road projects.

“Although the exercise had a chequered history, I thank Mr President and all those who supported and ensured its success,” he said.

It is against this backdrop that one is tempted to ask whether the NDDC is out of the woods and Nigerians would witness the end of abandoned project era in the NDDC? From the high rate of abandoned projects linked to the NDDC, it is simple to say nothing has changed, but critical stakeholders are optimistic that things are taking shape under the current interim management. They are quick to buttress their position with the kind words of President Buhari about the NDDC and its present management team.

Apparently giving its nod to what goes on in the NDDC, President Buhari on Thursday, March 11, 2021, inaugurated the office complex of the NDDC, at the Marine Base in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. It was done with fanfare and pagentry.

At the event, the president said the inauguration of the magnificent headquarters’ building “marks an important milestone in my administration’s effort to reposition the NDDC for the overall development of the Niger Delta region.”

Other landmark projects have since followed suit. This included the presidential inauguration of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) Barracks, Special Protection Unit (SPU), Base 6 at Omagwa in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on September 28, 2021.

The facility consisted of a 66-flat residential quarters and administrative block for security personnel in the state.

Also, on December 30, 2021, President Buhari commissioned the 1,050-bed-space modern hostel at the University of Uyo (UNIUYO) in Akwa Ibom State.

To key watchers of the unfolding positive changes, it is not yet Uhuru, but they agreed that they remarkable in view of the fact that a short period, the NDDC was able to complete and commission projects which were abandoned for many years. Indeed, it is a demonstration of the level of commitment of the interim administration which promised to make a clean break from the past, while placing NDDC on a new pedestal.

For instance, the Elebele community in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State has lauded the NDDC for encouraging its staff members to go into estate development to address accommodation challenges in their areas of operation.

The commendation came during the ground-breaking ceremony for the Olive Tree NDDC Staff Housing Estate at Elebele community. The deputy paramount ruler of the community, High Chief Isaac Jonny, assured the NDDC of maximum cooperation to ensure the success of the project.

The royal father commended the coordinator of the estate, Mr. Christopher Davies, for his doggedness and sincerity during the negotiations and acquisition of the parcel of land for the project.

Buhari dissolved the Kemebradikumo Pondei-led interim management committee on December 12, 2020, and named Dr Efiong Akwa, as interim administrator, with a charge among other things, facilitate the conclusion of the Forensic Audit and prepare the NDDC for a new era of transparency and accountability.

The audit has been concluded and the report submitted to the president. Reports show that it is already yielding positive results, as many contractors who abandoned their projects were forced to return to their various sites to complete the projects.

The development has attracted applause from different stakeholders, including Buhari, who remarked: “In the past 12 months, I have begun to see important signs that NDDC is ready to assume its statutory responsibility of addressing the needs of the people it was established to serve.”

At the commissioning of the UNIUYO modern hostel, Buhari said the NDDC had demonstrated that it could meet the yearnings of the people of the Niger Delta region.

He said: “Let me, therefore, use this opportunity to commend the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, as well as the management of the NDDC, for proving that we can, as a people and as a government, do what is right and proper to improve the living conditions of all Nigerians.

“When I directed the minister of Niger Delta Affairs to institute a forensic audit of the commission, after many petitions from, and representations by major stakeholders in the Niger Delta, I had also directed that all viable projects which had been abandoned, but which would provide positive impact on the lives and livelihoods of the people, be immediately revived and completed,” he said.

Buhari said the UNIUYO hostel complex built by NDDC “renews confidence that the forensic audit, which was completed a few months ago, is achieving one of its core objectives. That objective is to rebuild NDDC into an agency that is well equipped and better placed to facilitate sustainable regional development.”

In his speech at the event, the minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said it was evident the NDDC was emerging from the shadows of a dark era and cloud, into a new light, noting that, “There is no more remarkable testament of this uncommon transformation than the fact that projects hitherto abandoned, for far too many years, are being completed and commissioned. The headquarters complex, which President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned on March 11, was awarded in 1994, over 27 years ago, in a different era and a different dispensation. The SPU barracks, commissioned on September 29, was awarded in 2012 and was equally abandoned.”

He described the UNIUYO hostel as a metaphor of the overall transformation of the NDDC, under the direction of President Buhari, into an agency worthy of its promise and vision; an agency better equipped to discharge its mandate of facilitating the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.

The NDDC Interim Administrator, Dr Efiong Akwa could not agree, declaring: “The future looks brighter for the NDDC today.

“There is a new spirit permeating the Commission’s affairs and how it approaches its mandate of sustainable regional development. It is a spirit, the new NDDC spirit, inspired by Mr. President and fuelled by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, which compels greater enthusiasm that we can deliver on our collective promise to the Niger Delta region and our people,” he said.

Similarly, the chairman of the Senate Committee on NDDC, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, expressed delight at being part of NDDC’s epochal achievements, stating: “I am proud to be associated with the success of the NDDC.”

The NDDC also reached out to other key stakeholders from the region, such as traditional rulers, civil society organisations and youth groups.

One of such engagement was a three-day Strategic Capacity Building Workshop/Retreat at Ibom Icon Hotels and Golf Resort in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, where Akpabio, affirmed that the efforts of the NDDC to restore collaboration among stakeholders would help in fashioning a common roadmap for the development of the Niger Delta region.

The successes achieved by the NDDC were corroborated by the chairman of the Abia State Traditional Rulers Council, Eze Joseph Nwabeke, and the National President of Host Communities Organisation in Nigeria, HOSTCOM, Dr Benjamin Tamiararebi. They both commended the NDDC for organizing the stakeholders’ engagement.

According to the NDDC boss: “This project is very important because it will serve five local government areas in the oil production belt of Ondo state. When you provide light to a people, you have provided life. So, we are committed to providing life to the people.”

Whether the commission will sustain the current tempo, time will tell.



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