·Niger Delta Ministry commends Commission for embracing development partners
By Ignatius Chukwu
The present management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was inaugurated in the twilight of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration (December 2022), leaving most persons unwary over its fate when a new president would emerge in February 2023 and mount the saddle on May 29, 2023.
This sitting duck status seemed to reduce the level of confidence of the new board and management. The face-off between the management and board did not help matters because of the negative publicity it brought and the impression created that the Commission was still not ready to face the task of development and that self-interest may still be the priority of the new NDDC.
Many analysts however wondered how bad it would be to sack the management again and bring new people and thus throw away all the gains made since Dr Samuel Ogbuku took over, especially the huge confidence built with stakeholders and the growing excitement in the Niger Delta that perhaps, good may come from the NDDC after-all.
It was in the midst of this uncertainty that all boards were dissolved including that of the NDDC. Pronto, Lauretta Onochie became past tense.
Next, tension grew as many did not know if Dr Ogbuku was to follow. A hint thus came from the permanent secretary of the supervising ministry who said Dr Ogbuku and two other executive directors (project, finance) should continue their work. To cement that balm, the Md met with the president and came out with a statement saying what President Bola Ahmed Tinubu wanted down in the NDDC. This gave the impression that Tinubu was comfortable with Dr Ogbuku-led management.
Now, as if to nail the matter, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has commended the NDDC for initiating platforms for collaborative engagements with development partners, donor agencies, and stakeholders towards speedy development of the Niger Delta region.
Speaking during a one-day NDDC Policy Dialogue with Development Partners at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, the Permanent Secretary, Dr Shuaib Belgore, said that the forum presented an opportunity to expand formal interaction with development agencies.
Many may recall that the explosion at the NDDC between the sacked Onochie and the sitting MD was that of development partners. The sparring nearly affected the confidence of development partners who felt that agreements with the Management would be challenged by the Board, and it could cause problems especially with international agencies that are sensitive to crisis and conflicts in any organisations they want to work with. The statement of the permanent secretary seems to be a 5-star move.
According to a statement signed by Dr Ibitoye Abosede, Director, Corporate Affairs, the permanent secretary had stated thus: “The aim of this forum, aptly captured in the theme: ‘Deepening Governance through transparency and value-added partnership’ is to brainstorm on the shared mandates of the Ministry and the NDDC with you, our development partners and the private sector, on how best to collaborate and promote greater synergy for enhanced result in the overall development of the region.”
Declaring the Policy Dialogue open, the Permanent Secretary said that engagement with partners and stakeholders was one of the many new strategies designed by the current management in NDDC and the ministry to fast-track the development of the Niger Delta region. The above statement is diplomatic showing the Dr Ogbuku management is working closely with the Ministry and thus the Presidency. It also shows that they both share collective credit or blame (responsibility).
Belgore said that the Ogbia-Nembe Road, which was jointly funded by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the NDDC stood out as an example of what could be achieved through partnerships.
Speaking earlier, the NDDC Managing Director, stated that the Commission remained the major vehicle for the development of the Niger Delta region.
He said: “We are here to appeal to you to consider the Niger Delta as your own. For donor agencies, we say, support us. For the development partners, we say join us to complete ongoing major projects. NDDC alone cannot develop the Niger Delta. We need more funding. We need support.”
The Managing Director observed: “We have started engagement with the key stakeholders, such as the oil companies who contribute three per cent of their operational budget to the Commission; the state governments, traditional rulers, Civil Society Groups, youth organisations and contractors.”
Ogbuku said that the NDDC would be banking on multinational corporations such as Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Total to collaborate with the Commission in executing legacy projects such as the Warri-Escravos Road.
The NDDC boss said that the management had sought to expand the development scope in the region through the involvement of private sector partners.
According to him, “Through this policy dialogue, NDDC seeks to comprehensively map donor interventions and compile data on projects in the Niger Delta that complement the mandate of NDDC and establish a coordination framework by identifying any gaps and ensuring harmonization and alignment.”
Earlier, the NDDC Executive Director, Projects, Mr. Charles Ogunmola, in his opening remarks, stressed the need for joint efforts in developing the Niger Delta, noting that it would not be difficult to tackle the challenges of underdevelopment alone.
Ogunmola said: “The scale of infrastructural deficiency and human development gap in the Niger Delta is enormous. We realize that we cannot do this alone. So, we decided to look at other ways to address the deficiencies. This is the next in the series of meetings we will have with partners, to help us drive our agenda for the Niger Delta. On coming on board, we resolved that we must make a difference. I enjoin you to listen, let us reason together as you figure out how you want to partner with us in the great task ahead.”
In a lead presentation, entitled: “A Sea of Opportunities in the Niger Delta Region,” the Chairman, NDDC-PPP Committee, Engr. Emmanuel Audu-Ohwavborua, remarked that inadequate funding was a major challenge for the Commission. He noted that the poor funding was emanating from inconsistent statutory contributions from the Federal Government, and failure of some Oil and Gas Companies operating within the region to remit their contributions in line with the provisions of the NDDC Act.