The Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Gbene Dr. Joi Nunieh, has pledged to work with the Presidency, the National Assembly and other key stakeholders to reshape and reposition the Commission to serve the interest of the region and the country.
Nunieh made the declaration Wednesday during the sensitisation forum by the NDDC Staff Cooperative Investment and Credit Society Limited on the establishment of a Microfinance Bank at the Swiss Spirit Hotel, Port Harcourt.
She said: “I am so delighted to be a part of this important event that will clearly underline our collective resolve to reposition the NDDC to achieve its core mandate of facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of our region into an economically viable, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful part of the Nigerian Federation.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer re-stated the resolve of the Interim Management Committee to join forces with key stakeholders to challenge powerful forces and systems that had held the Commission captive and subverted the core objectives for which the NDDC was established.
Nunieh stated that the management committee, under her guidance, held the leadership and members of the National Assembly in very high esteem, noting: “We have not and will never do anything to undermine their constitutional duties,”
She said that the floating of a Microfinance Bank was coming at the most auspicious time when hard decisions needed to be taken to reset the trajectory of the NDDC and avoid the backlash of history. According to her, the initiative would not only touch the lives of NDDC staff but would also expand the frontiers of opportunities for the people of the Niger Delta region.
Nunieh declared: “Now is the time for the good news and it begins right here as we collectively embrace the idea of pulling our resources together to build a platform that will make financial products and services accessible and affordable to individuals and businesses, regardless of personal net worth or business size.
“Microfinance is globally recognized as a key element of development that is not built on handouts and patronage. It is a vital force for unleashing the capacity of people especially in developing counties to find lasting solutions to the economic challenges. It engenders financial inclusion and removes the barriers that exclude many people from participating in the financial sector and using the services to improve their lives.
“As we continue working to increase financial inclusion and access to safe, affordable financial services through the establishment of the microfinance bank, we must be reminded of the greater task of building an intervention agency that delivers quality services and infrastructure for our region and our people.
The NDDC boss said that in line with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Interim Management Committee would supervise the audit of the activities of the Commission from its inception as well as reposition it to deliver on its mandate.
She stated: “The ongoing verification of contracts by the commission is a prelude to the forensic audit ordered my Mr. President and I want to assure that as soon as we conclude all the processes, the Commission will immediately commence payment to contractors based on availability of funds.
“However, we strongly advise contractors, consultants, vendors, suppliers or their certified representatives to proceed to the respective state offices depending on where their projects, programmes and or services were rendered to verify their financial claims.”
Earlier in his address, the President of NDDC Staff Cooperative, Mr. Franklin Essien, said that the idea to float the microfinance bank resulted from the need to harness the vast but largely untapped economic potentials of the over 1,500 staff of the Commission and to provide financial inclusion for many small and medium scale businesses and most importantly, to capture the unbanked active poor in the region.
Essien explained: “The bank will be incorporated as a subsidiary of NDDC Staff Investment and Credit Society Limited with the name, NDDC Coop Microfinance Bank Limited. This implies that the Co-operative will always retain a controlling interest of a minimum of 60 per cent of the total share structure of the bank, while the balance will constitute minority interest equity holdings.”
A representative of the Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Mike Baba, commended the NDDC Staff Cooperative for embarking on the Microfinance Bank project, noting that the bank was a good platform for the empowerment of the people of the Niger Delta region.