New Telegraph

Exploring NDDC’s Optimal Performance Amid Challenges

Background

The Board and Management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) held a two-day retreat at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, recently, with a renewed vigour to address the challenges facing the region. The intervention agency in its bid to set a strategic direction for the Seventh Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and inspired by the desire to consolidate President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, within the Niger Delta region, invited all its former Board Chairmen led by Chief Onyema Ugochukwu and former Managing Directors. Also in attendance were prominent politician including Senator Asuquo Ekpeyong, Chairman Senate Committee on NDDC, Senator Patrick Ifeanyi Uba, former Minister for information Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr, and Hon. Erhitake Ibori Suenu, Chairman, House Committee on NDDC.

The theme for the retreat was: Renewed Hope: A New Era for Vitality, Peace and Development. Participants commended the Governing Board and Management for the full-scale engagement with its former management and key stakeholders. Available records showed that this was the first-time former Chairmen and Managing Directors of the Com- mission were invited to be part of the Commission’s Board and Management retreat since inception. Welcome remarks by the Chair- man, Governing Board, MD/CEO’s address, goodwill messages by key stakeholders, paper presentations by resource persons, review of presentations and then question and answer sessions entertained in the course of the two days gathering.

Forensic audit report

Speaking while declaring the retreat open, the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Engr Abubakar Momoh, who acknowledged the significant role being played by NDDC in fostering development in the region, charged the commission to faithfully implement the recommendations of the report of the Forensic Audit in line with the Renewed Hope Agenda of Mr President. He urged the Board and Management to make meaningful headway in charting a roadmap for sustainable development of the region while also drawing the attention of the Board to the need to constantly monitor and evaluate the performances of all contracts to ensure compliance with the scope and other details.

Momoh said, “As you are all aware, the Forensic Audit had been concluded and its report submitted to the government. While the White Paper on the report of the Forensic Audit is being awaited, some of its recommendations, are being implemented; an example is the constitution of a new Board for the Commission “The tasks before this new Board shall include a faithful implementation of the recommendations of the re- port of the Forensic Audit, in line with the President’s “Renewed Hope agenda ‘‘I want to remind us that if we must make any headway in charting the desired roadmap for sustainable development of the region, all hands must be on deck, with every courage it deserves, to tackle those factors that have constituted a clog in the wheel of development programmes and policies in the region,’’ said the minister.

Adding, “It is expedient that I draw your attention to the need to constantly monitor and evaluate the performances of all contracts to ensure compliance with the scope and other details”.

Financial independence

Managing Director of NDDC, Dr Samuel Ogbuku noted, “To truly deliver on the Renewed Hope Agenda, we need to remove funding impediments. We advocate the removal of the NDDC from operating under the TSA framework due to the Commission’s unique characteristics and the potential benefits of increased autonomy in financial management” He said operating under TSA framework may limit the commission’s financial autonomy and hinder it from quickly adapting to emerging needs or unforeseen circumstances as well as limiting its flexibility in resource allocation. He averred, “The TSA framework may limit the NDDC’s financial autonomy, as all funds must pass through a centralised account, potentially affecting the speed of financial decision-making in response to regional development needs.

“The rigid budgetary discipline enforced by TSA may hinder the NDDC’s ability to quickly adapt to emerging needs or unforeseen circumstances, limiting its flexibility in resource allocation. “While we embrace the TSA’s transparency goals, its centralized control has undoubtedly created hurdles, particularly in maintaining project pace. The limited construction window further compounds these challenges.” The chairman of NDDC Board Mr Chiedu Ebie, said that the gathering was a reflection of President Bola Tinubu’s desire to have a Niger Delta transformed into a zone of peace and development. He said, “Since our inauguration as a highly accountable and proactive board, we have achieved progress together, we have worked to dispel the negative narratives that once plagued the commission.”

Eno seeks partnership

Akwa Ibom State governor, Umo Eno who was represented by his deputy, Senator Akon Ayakenyi, called for effective collaboration between the state and NDDC to enable it achieve it mandates of sustainable development in the region. “I hope and trust that this new leadership will move away from being political. Yes, we cannot take out politics in all we do, but we need to be able to balance it so that the people of the South South can begin to feel very strongly the impact of the NDDC. “I am happy about the theme of this retreat, “Renewed Hope: An Era of Vitality, Peace and Sustainable Development,” this theme aligns deeply with the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he added.

He expressed optimism that the Renewed Hope Agenda of the President and the inspiring theme of the retreat will foster collaboration between the Commission and the State government for attainment of the agency’s core mandate to usher in the era of vitality, peace and sustainable development in the State. General resolutions were reached and contained in a communique that was issued and obtained by New Telegraph, with the following resolutions:

NDDC master plan

In a communique endorsed by the Chairman of the Board Mr. Chiedu Ebie and the Managing Director Chief Samuel Ogbuku, the Commission ex- pressed its desire to consolidate on Mr. President’s Renewed Hope Agenda within the Niger Delta region A far reaching decisions and action plans were arrived at, which according to the communique include the following; “A reviewed and updated Niger Delta Regional Developmental Master Plan remains a crucial framework for guiding and implementing development initiatives in the Niger Delta, as there can be no sustainable development without developmental plans”.

It added, “The frequent changes in the Governing Board of the Commission have largely accounted for the challenges in project execution and delivery in the development of the region. Thus, the Federal Government should ensure that the current Board completes its tenure and that there is continuity in succeeding Boards to ensure sustainability of the Commission’s projects.”

Call for synergy

The communique called for proper synergy, collaboration and coordinating framework between the Ministry of Niger Delta Development, State Governments in the regions, the NDDC and development partners. Describing procurement as the heart of governance and one of the government activities most vulnerable to corruption, the Board and Management of the NDDC vowed to effectively discharge their responsibility to manage the procurement process, involving all stakeholders, without sacrificing the core objectives as provided under the Procurement Act. The retreat emphasised on the need for the urgent release of all outstanding statutory contributions of the Federal Government to the NDDC fund, as the non-release of these funds has significantly hampered the ability of the Commission to deliver on its mandate.

Financial autonomy

This is as the communique further highlighted, “In view of the peculiar construction window of the Niger Delta region, there is the need for some form of financial autonomy for the NDDC outside the Treasury Single Account (TSA) regime. This is as part of the process of getting the Commission take advantage of traditional credit sources in completing its projects and deliver real impact and sustainable development to the longsuffering people of the region”. It added, “The Commission should establish clear, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound (SMART) goals that the Commission will demonstrably commit to and deliver upon, fostering increased public trust.

“The leadership of the Commission need to consistently demonstrate their commitment to ethical principles, through their decisions and behaviour. There is need for the development of key governance policies and procedures to promote clarity of roles and minimize discord on the Board, as well as defined reporting framework covering key stakeholders and transparency”.

Call for reforms

The retreat emphasised that the purpose of all reforms must be the improvement of the lives of the people. “Reforms tailored to the local context have a better chance of success. Therefore, the NDDC must deploy creativity and innovation to drive reforms and development in the region”. They also agreed that there is need for intentional partnerships and conflict management imperatives to secure value, stressing that stakeholder engagement and management must be strategic and improved continuously. “There is need for strategic communication of the value added by the NDDC to its stakeholders, to change the negative perception about the Commission”. While acknowledging the existence of political pressure on the operations of the Commission, the retreat canvassed the need for the Board and Management of the Commission to develop the political will to manage the pressure.

The Intervention Agency specifically appealed to the federal government to remove the commission from Treasury Single Account (TSA) financial framework for maximum performance and efficiency. It said though it recognises the importance of transparency and accountability, principles enshrined by TSA policy, such as financial framework has it weighty limitations for the interventionist agency. It should be noted also that at the end of the two days session, a performance bond between Akwa Ibom government and NDDC Board and Management was signed with each party pledging to uphold the tenets of the bond to its fullest.

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