COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF A THREE-DAY NDDC STRATEGIC CAPACITY BUILDING WORKSHOP AND RETREAT FOR NDDC STAKEHOLDERS, DIRECTORS, DEPUTY DIRECTORS AND ASSISTANT DIRECTORS, HELD AT THE WATBRIDGE HOTEL AND IBOM ICON HOTEL & GOLF RESORT, UYO, AKWA IBOM STATE, FROM 15TH TO 17TH APRIL, 2021
THEME: NDDC – COLLABORATING, PLANNING AND RE-STRATEGIZING FOR A BETTER NIGER DELTA REGION
The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in fulfilling its mandate of offering a lasting solution to the socio-economic difficulties of the Niger Delta Region, believes that the best option to facilitating regional development is for all stakeholders to work together as partners.
Consequently, the Commission invited members of the National Assembly, Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, Oil and Gas Host Communities, the IOCs, Youth Groups, NGOs and CBOs from across the Niger Delta region to rub minds with the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, as well as with the Commission’s Management Committee, Directors, Deputy Directors and Assistant Directors at a three-day workshop.
The workshop, designed to chart a new path for the overall development of the Niger Delta Region, had the theme: “NDDC: Collaborating, Planning and Re-Strategizing for a Better Niger Delta Region.”
Stakeholders discussed the following issues:
1. The need, emphasized by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, for fiscal transparency in budgeting;
2. The need for strong internal mechanisms to combat overbearing external influences in the Commission’s operations and processes; and
3. The need for a stronger commitment to restoring collaboration among stakeholders, in fashioning a common road map for the development of the region.
Other key issues discussed included:
▪ The need for the engagement and contributions of, and collaboration with, stakeholders in the conceptualization of projects and programmes, as well as in the budgetary processes, in order to create a sense of belonging and ownership;
▪ The need to encourage stakeholder collaboration to better meet the needs of the people;
▪ The need to review the NDDC Act for greater institutional and structural efficiency in the discharge of its mandate;
▪ The need to reposition the Commission for greater effectiveness and better service delivery;
▪ The need for better funding;
▪ The need for the Federal Government to release all arrears owed the NDDC to enable the NDDC deliver on projects and programmes;
▪ The lack of penalty for Oil and Gas Companies who default in the remittances of their statutory contributions to the Commission;
▪ The need to review the Niger Delta Regional Master Plan so that it becomes the framework for the preparation of the NDDC annual budgets going forward, ensuring that it also reflects the current SDG Goals and UN Global Compact;
▪ The need for States in the region to collaborate with the NDDC to provide their long term development plans, which would be synchronized with the Master Plan;
The workshop/retreat also identified a number of challenges which plague fiscal transparency. These include inadequate stakeholders’ engagement, budget templates swaps after stakeholders’ engagement, organizational culture weaknesses and an inadequate reward and sanctions system.
The workshop/retreat identified the need for the NDDC to focus on creating youth employment, rather than just giving out palliatives, by creating platforms for massive entrepreneurship development of youths in the Niger Region.
The workshop/retreat also discussed the high cost of the Commission’s Foreign Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme and the lack of World Class Medical facilities in the Niger Delta Region, which has resulted in high mortality rate in the region, as well as the high incidence of medical tourism abroad which causes huge capital flights. The workshop called for necessary interventions.
The workshop/retreat also discussed the negative corporate image of the Commission and the need for re-branding by implementing operational best practices.
The workshop/retreat made the following resolutions:
i. That the Commission improve its communications strategy and implementation, as well as its interface with the National Assembly, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, State Governors and other stakeholders, through regular statutory meetings, town hall meetings and other forms of communications, particularly concerning projects and programmes;
ii. That the Commission’s annual budget should be appraised holistically, to ensure continuous fiscal transparency and accountability;
iii. That the Commission should create a culture of budget realism, by eliminating moribund items, ensuring clarity, harmonisation, stakeholder participation, effective monitoring and evaluation, and post-implementation audits;
iv. That the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan shall be reviewed and updated, with clear goals and roles for all stakeholders set out, as the under-girding framework and compass for future budget preparations;
v. That the Commission should automate and upgrade all its operations and ensure advanced leveraging on the automation of its Project Monitoring & Supervision (PMS) Directorate.
vi. That other areas of operations should be progressively automated to enhance effectiveness, improve public dealings with the Commission, including remote access to status of payments, in order to promote transparency;
vii. That the Commission should be part of the ongoing review of the NDDC Act by the National Assembly, particularly during its public hearings;
viii. That the mode of selection of Executive Management of the Commission should be reviewed, with a view to giving greater emphasis to competence and professionalism, and less on political considerations;
ix. That the roles of the Executive Directors of the Commission should be properly spelt out in the enabling Act, and that the requisite qualification for executive positions should also be clearly stated in the Act;
x. That the Commission should be included in the list of Statutory Protected Boards in the Constitution. This will reduce the high Board and Management turnover, as well as the frequent policy changes, with their attendant costs and inefficiencies;
xi. That there should be a halt on foreign scholarships, with greater focus on local scholarships, which have the potential of reaching a wider spectrum of beneficiaries, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and its travel restrictions;
xii. That the Commission should support tertiary institutions in the region to improve their capacities to impart the necessary knowledge and competencies;
xiii. That the Commission should review its projects in order to streamline them, by ensuring effective funding and completion of critical projects, and terminating contracts that bear no relevance to the Master Plan.
xiv. That projects handled by the Commission in the past that have direct positive impact on the poor of the region, such as free medical outreaches, should be revisited and reactivated;
xv. That while there should be less emphasis on undertaking new projects, owing to budgetary constraints in relation to outstanding obligations and the ongoing forensic audit, the Commission, being the foremost interventionist agency of the region, should continue to intervene to cut the infrastructural deficits in the region, and in other areas of urgent need, such as was done at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic;
xvi. That the Commission’s operations manual be institutionalized and positive work ethics reinforced through training and re-training of staff, as well as through reinforcement of positive work behavior that shall enable staff uphold the integrity of all processes.
xvii. That the Commission’s Empowerment programmes be focused on Entrepreneurship development and recruitment linkages with the organized private sector and government institutions in the region, to create employment and jobs in the region.
xviii. That the Commission should set up a Regional Development Fund (REDFUND) in partnership with other Stakeholders within and outside the Niger Delta Region to support Development Projects and Programmes.
The workshop/retreat was timely and successful. Twenty years since inception, the Commission is moving into its newly completed permanent office complex. It became imperative to set out a new template for its operations, in order to reposition the Commission to be better equipped to discharge its mandate of facilitating the rapid, even, and sustainable development of the Niger Delta, into a region that is socially stable, politically peaceful, economically prosperous and ecologically regenerative.
The workshop/retreat addressed major concerns facing the Commission and came up with salient recommendations and key action points, whose implementation would greatly improve efficiency in, and repositioning of, NDDC. This presents a potential and far-reaching opportunity for a brand new chapter in the delivery of the NDDC Mandate to rapidly improve the quality of life of the people of the Niger Delta Region.