The Niger Delta Development Commission has for a while now come under serious criticisms over alleged financial impropriety, inadequate functionality and derailing from its mandate. Worried by this development, stakeholders recently held a workshop/retreat on How Best to reposition the interventionist agency.
External and internal stakeholders of the nine Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) catchment states namely Edo, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Abia, Imo and Ondo including government representatives recently met in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State funds to fashion a sense on how best to be sure the NDDC lives up to its mandate.
The three-day escape held between April 15 to 17, 2021 in the Ibom Icon Hotel & Golf Resort and Watbridge Hotel and Suites all in Uyo was labelled “NDDC Strategic Capacity Building Workshop/Retreat”, and had as its theme: “Collaborating, Planning and Re-strategising for a better Niger Delta Region.”
Papers presented by eminent personalities comprised, “Placing a culture of integrity, integrity and organisational citizenship behaviour at work and how to resolve the dilemma of political patronage civilization”;
“Successful budget presentation to the National Assembly”; “Driving Corporate Government for greatest productivity”;
“Effective collaboration between the Executive and Legislature for smooth functioning of Government Organisations”, and”Planning for sustainable and relevant NDDC against the backdrop of their petroleum industrial Bill (PIB)”; and the repeal and re-enactment of this NDDC Acts,” amongst others.
NDDC was established in 2001 roughly 20 decades now under the NDDC Act of 2000 for the evolution of its catchment states.
It appears since NDDC arrived on board as an interventionist agency to solve the developmental issues of the area, the reverse had been the case since the people rather continue to seek answers about how best to make the commission perform its responsibilities as enshrined in the Act establishing it.
A capacity-building workshop with critical stakeholders drawn from the National Assembly, the state governments of the area, the petroleum companies, the traditional principles, civil society organisations, both the youth and NDDC management preceded the retreat properly.
From the soul-searching collecting, various speakers started their minds on the negative and positive characteristics of the commission’s actions in the previous twenty decades.
The Minster, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio described the escape as a”family meeting” called to realistically rub minds, and to figure out ways to assist the commission to fulfil its vision.
“Twenty years of the establishment of NDDC, I believe our discussion should have been around the successes achieved, and how we can strengthen it achieve longer for the Niger Delta and our people.
“Sadly, we’re still interrogating the commission drawback and lost opportunities” he explained; adding that in 65 years of detecting oil, the area is still looking to have a better approach to advertising in the kind of growth that sustains the people’s livelihood and meets our shared dream of a better Niger Delta Region.
He said this moment, there should be a stronger dedication to restoring collaboration among stakeholders, in fashioning a frequent roadmap to growth noting that leading managers of this commission would agree about the strategies required to ensure collaboration and efficient implementation of the commission’s mandate.
“In fashioning this roadmap, in creating the protocols for effective and efficient strategies for sustainable development, we have to be bold on several fronts, to tackle factors which have continued to negate important work of implementing development strategies and policies”.
Akpabio identified a number of the downsides of the commission to include corruption, governance, absence of proper consultation and involvement with communities and state authorities, transparency and accountabilities in functionality, organisational behaviour and implementation issues, non-presence of observation and evaluation of projects and programmes captured from the funding amongst other challenges.
“And if we have to discover answers to these venerable questions, we then must positively alter the fortunes of our people.
If we have to facilitate a region that addresses our people’s longstanding, longing for a society that satisfies their expectations and provides for their needs, then we who are assembled here today must provide a powerful, unvarnished response, one which will help activate the type of development most of us seek and work for, “Akpabio declared.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Omotayo Alasoadura in a comment tagged”NDDC won’t walk alone” stated the gathering manifests a collective resolve to turn things around for the long-suffering Niger Delta area, positing the retreat, was the second of two obvious manifestations of an emerging new NDDC.
He recalled the month of March 2021, the new headquarters complex of the NDDC in Port Harcourt was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari, “Today, we’re here to rub minds with a huge array of stakeholders on cooperation and re-strategising for a better Niger Delta region.”
“These two events, coming back, hold enormous promise for the Niger Delta people and all that have stakes in the evolution of the region. These two events have the capacity to boost the service delivery capacities of the NDDC. These two events will go a long way in assisting NDDC shed the undesirable toga and appellations that have been its unfortunate lot previously.
“I am aware that many stakeholders of the NDDC have not been happy with its performance over recent years.
In his opinion labelled “NDDC, born to cooperate” the interim manager of the NDDC, Mr. Efiong Okon Akwa, beckoned on stakeholders to develop, reason and work together to make a common way ahead for the sake of these people.
“We are here now to work towards the production of commonalities among stakeholders to get speedy, development of our cherished Niger Delta Region.”
He commended the NDDC interim administrator for realising the need for cooperation between the National Assembly and the commission stating,
“Before we had assisted the NDDC, to receive the oil and gas companies to fulfil their statutory obligations to the commission. We amended the law and today the NLNG is paying their dues to NDDC. We have to always work towards cooperation and discussion for the good of everyone.”
In a similar vein, the Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta, Hon. OlubunmiTunji-Ojo stated the cordial relationship with the NDDC had facilitated some progress in simplifying the NDDC Act.
He gave credit to the interim administrator for the advancement, describing him as one of the greatest decisions this government had created. “I’m very proud of you along with also the National Assembly is pleased of what it is you are doing. We will provide you with all of the support you need,” he guaranteed.
He added his voice to the telephone to reassess the Niger Delta Master Plan, including that the NDDC must also consider generating income for the Commission. “We need to harness all available funds to get NDDC projects done”.
Tunji-Ojo remarked that one of the greatest things that had occurred to the NDDC was the setting up of the forensic audit, which he stated would help to clean up the Niger Delta.
A resource person from the National Assembly, Mr Gideon Jock, stated the budgeting process in Nigeria was a monumental task laden with challenges but noted that with all hands on deck,” the procedure will, be of a technocratic instead of a political process”.
Traditional rulers in the region applauded the commission, for building the capacity of stakeholders and engaging them in the budgetary processes aimed at developing Nigeria’s oil-rich region.
“Since in budgeting, funding is extremely crucial, I call with this august assembly to have a crucial look on section 14, 2a of the NDDC Act of 2000 as amended,” he explained. The department, he said, worried that the national government would contribute the equivalent of 15 per cent of the entire monthly statutory allocations on account of the member nations of the commission from the federation account.
The TROMPCON President reported the provision was ambiguous and should be reviewed to allow the national government to donate directly to the NDDC.
Archianga posited that NDDC project monitoring committee must consist of traditional rulers because most of the projects were done in their various domains. “In fact, they should be consulted when projects are to be implemented in their areas,” he said.
The royal dad said, later on, NDDC budgets”must focus on youth employment instead of simply empowerment, in order to create a better future for its teaming young graduates from the region”.
In his comments, the National President of the Host Communities Organisation in Nigeria (HOSTCOM), Dr Benjamin Tamiararebi, praised the NDDC for organising the stakeholders’ engagement, stating that it was fundamental to have such discussions.
He said such meetings were long overdue; imagining that, oil-producing communities penalizing particular attention from interventionist agencies such as NDDC, to guarantee the sustainable development of the long-neglected region, stating: “Our people deserve to be consulted in all development programmes designed for the oil-producing communities”.
In his paper titled”Putting a culture of integrity, ethics and organisational citizenship behaviour in the workplace and how to resolve the dilemma of political patronage”,
Col Wilson Ejide (Rtd) of the Department of Psychology, University of Ibadan observed that the inability of NDDC to facilitate rapid, even and sustainable development of the region to its desire state and end was related to the human factor element of organisational operation.
“Human factor akin to the organizational culture of impunity is deemed responsible for the current state of events in NDDC, therefore requires a powerful culture that places integrity, integrity and organisational citizenship behaviour.”
He revealed that July ending, 2021 was set as a deadline for the conclusion of the forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari; asserting that the audit was part of their inner reform of NDDC, he explained already 16 areas auditors are assembled to initiate physical affirmation of jobs across the Niger Delta area.
Akpabio clarified the physical verification is a severe exercise because the outcomes of the exercise might lead to the prosecution of those builders who left their contracts without finishing them.
There wasn’t anything our detractors have not done to block the forensic audit and that has led some people to be left wondering if the forensic audit has been aborted.
“The president is resolute he cannot leave the Niger Delta and the NDDC how he met it. As a demonstration of the commitment, he’s funding the forensic audit in the budget of the president”, Akpabio stated to the crowd.
On his part, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Dr. Babayo Ardo maintained the take-off of this physical verification stage of the audit indicated a milestone in the effort to reposition NDDC for effective service delivery.
He explained: “The audit of this headquarters was completed, we’re now starting the next phase of the exercise, and we’ll go round all the nine states to inspect the over 12,000 jobs which have been identified by the NDDC.”
Speaking on the forensic analysis, the interim administrator of the NDDC,” Mr. Akwa stressed that the practice was a serious and deliberate action which made it essential for the physical inspection of project sites from the mines of the Niger Delta.
According to him, where the over 12,000 projects are situated, the committee had been mandated to visit them as security staff was put in place to escort the committee members and ensure their security.
For the direct auditor, Mr. Joshua Basiru, the forensic audit instalment in 2019 is as a result of the alleged huge gap noted between resources spent and the infrastructural, human and financial development listed from the commission.
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“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that this forensic audit exercise is successfully implemented, in a bid to reposition the commission in terms of effectively delivering on its mandate, in addition to improving transparency and accountability in NDDC.”
“We shouldn’t permit this project to be scuttled by those who have benefited in the past, or people that are currently benefitting unjustly in the current loopholes in the commission’s policies and operating procedures as well as the profligacy exhibited from the previous management teams to the detriment of the vast majority of the Niger Delta people, and therefore do not want to see change coming into NDDC.”
The workshop/retreat addressed major issues facing the commission and develop outstanding recommendations and key action points, whose implementation to improve efficiency in, and repositioning of NDDC.
This presents a possible and far-reaching chance for a brand new chapter from the delivery of the NDDC mandate to quickly improve the quality of life of these people of the Niger Delta Region.
A communiqué issued at the close of the workshop/retreat tasked with the commission to improve its communications plan and implementation, in addition to 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 regarding programmes and projects.
It was also resolved that the commission’s Yearly budget Ought to Be assessed holistically, to guarantee continuous financial transparency and responsibility;
“The commission should produce a culture of budget realism, by eliminating moribund items, ensuring clarity, harmonisation, stakeholder participation, powerful monitoring and analysis, and post-implementation audits;
“That the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan shall be reviewed and updated, with clear goals and roles for all stakeholders laid out, as the under-girding framework and compass for future budget preparations;
“The commission ought to automate and upgrade all its operations and ensure advanced leveraging on the automation of its Job Monitoring & Supervision (PMS) Directorate.
“The mode of selection of Executive Management of the commission should be examined, with a view to giving greater emphasis to competence and professionalism, and much less on political factors;
“The roles of the Executive Directors of this commission ought to be properly spelt out in the enabling Act, which the requisite eligibility for executive positions must also be clearly stated in the Act;
“The commission should be contained in the listing of Statutory Protected Boards from the Constitution. This will reduce the large Board and Management turnover, in addition to the regular policy changes, with their attendant costs and inefficiencies;
“That there should be a halt on overseas scholarships, with a greater focus on local universities, which have the potential of reaching a wider range of debtors, in view of this COVID-19 pandemic and its travel restrictions;
“The commission should encourage tertiary institutions in the region to improve their capacities to impart the necessary knowledge and competencies;
“The commission should review its endeavours so as to streamline them, by ensuring successful financing and completion of critical projects and terminating contracts which bear no significance to the Master Plan.
“That while there should be emphasis on job new projects, owing to budgetary constraints in relation to outstanding obligations and the continuing forensic audit.
The commission, being the foremost interventionist agency of the area, should continue to intervene to cut the infrastructural deficits in the region, and in different areas of urgent need, such as was done in the height of their COVID-19 pandemic,” among other resolutions as contained in the communiqué.