As an interventionist agency, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), with the mandate to drive the process of developing Nigeria’s oil-rich region was established by the NDDC Act of 2000. Of course, the mandate of the agency was unambiguous; it is to facilitate the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.
It is no longer news that the Niger Delta produces nearly 75 per cent of the nation’s export earnings, but the news is that 43 per cent of the region’s population still lives below poverty line. This paradox is due primarily to ecologically unfriendly exploitation of oil and gas resources that expropriate the region’s indigenous people and their right to these resources. Hence, the Commission is determined to change this narrative and bring back prosperity to its land and people.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the story of the oil rich region has changed for the better since the coming on board of Dr. Samuel Ogbuku as Managing-Director of the Commission.
Since he took over the helm of affairs at the Commission, he has been able to articulate the demands of the people of the area, embarked on practical initiatives to complete the gargantuan projects which he met and conceived and carrying out the execution of several other projects for the benefit of the people, and by so doing, calmed the restiveness which abinitio signposted the region.
At the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Summit which was held at the Eko Hotel, Lagos State recently, Dr. Ogbuku made it clear that since its inception, the NDDC has tried to faithfully deliver on its mandate to fast-track the development of the Niger Delta region as envisioned in its enabling Act.
Speaking on the theme of the Summit: “Rewind to Rebirth” and re-igniting the importance of stakeholders in the agency’s engagements, Ogbuku disclosed that as part of the efforts to renew and reposition the NDDC, the Governing Board has stepped up collaboration with various stakeholders.
“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,” he said.
He disclosed that the NDDC has met with members of the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS), of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who are no doubt critical stakeholders of the Commission.
“This group, which embodies the International Oil Companies (IOCs), stand out for us because we need their cooperation to get full and prompt remittances of their contributions as prescribed by law,” the MD stated.
He maintained that it is was important to engage stakeholders in projects conceptualisation and execution, adding that the oil producers work in the communities and sometimes have first-hand information of the needs of the local people.
“We want them to engage with us in project selection. Also, we need the oil producers to sometimes avail us with their technical expertise in project management and monitoring. In other words, we are embarking on this journey of developing the Niger Delta with the full participation of all stakeholders.”
Speaking further, he disclosed the agency’s collaboration plans with the stakeholders saying: “In working with stakeholders, we have resolved to make our 2024 budget an all-inclusive one that accommodates the interests of all key players in the Niger Delta region. To achieve this, we have charged our Budget Committee to give stakeholders the opportunity to tell the NDDC the kind of projects they want in their areas, so that they can be included in our budget.”
Of course, it was against this background that the current Board and Management of the agency, in its bid to do things differently, so as to effectively drive sustainable development in the region, decided to adopt the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to provide alternative source of funding for key development projects and programmes.
Ogbuku said: “In January, 2023, we constituted a Management Committee on Public Private Partnership to drive our vision of fast-tracking the development of the Niger Delta region. The Committee is expected to review all the Commission’s existing partnerships as well as explore new partnerships that will result in enduring regional projects.
“Our approach to partnership is to engage specific sectors in their areas of strength. For instance, the private sector is better equipped with expertise, resources, and technology to drive economic growth and development. By partnering with this sector, we can successfully leverage these resources to implement our programmes and projects.
“Another stakeholder we cannot do without is the government at all levels. The government is critical in promoting sustainable development. By partnering with government agencies and departments, participating in government-led initiatives, and advocating for policies that promote sustainable development, we can access government resources, policies, and programmes that support our development objectives. We are keen on more collaboration with state and local governments to implement programmes and projects that address their communities’ specific needs,” he added.
Ogbuku also said that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and Community-Based Organisations (CBOs), are essential partners to be courted.
“These organisations understand the needs and aspirations of people in the Niger Delta region. By collaborating on specific programmes and projects, drawing from their knowledge and resources, and involving them in planning and implementation, we can ensure that our programmes and projects align with the needs and aspirations of people in the region.”
Other foreign government agencies he was looking at include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK, and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), which he disclosed, could equally partner with NDDC to promote sustainable development in the region.
“These agencies can provide funding, technical assistance, and policy guides, as well as collaborate with us on specific programmes and projects. Multinational corporations such as Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Total, have a significant presence in the Niger Delta region. We expect them to collaborate more with us in executing legacy projects. They have what it takes to provide funding, technical assistance, and expertise in environmental management, community development and corporate social responsibility.
“Our ‘Rewind to Rebirth’ initiative, which is the theme of this summit, is a strategic vision designed to recalibrate our engagement with the Niger Delta and the Commission’s overall intervention implementation plan. Embedded in this initiative include exploring more avenues for funding, for better technical expertise, for higher yielding varieties of crops, as well as opportunities for collaboration and investment in the Niger Delta region. This initiative aligns with the NDDC mandate, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals 17, which focuses on partnerships. This is the stirring story of our partnership with the SPDC Joint Venture on the celebrated Ogbia-Nembe Road, in Bayelsa State.
“As we share ideas on how to ‘Rewind to Rebirth’ for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region, we are looking forward to partnering with both local and foreign investors, captains of industries, and the corporate world in building a better future for the region. With a region as blessed with immense natural and mineral riches, with boundless youthful energy and optimism, and the remarkable possibilities of our shared dreams here, the future of the Niger Delta looks bright, indeed.”
As a realist, he did not forget to mention some of the challenges confronting the NDDC development roadmap which he said included inadequate funding for the Commission, 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 NDDC Act; Failure of ownership of the Masterplan by the sub-nationals and other key stakeholders; Frequent changes in the leadership of the Commission and Consistent delays in the passage of the Commission’s budget by the National Assembly, among others.
For optimization of the youth programme, the NDDC Youth Volunteer programme was changed to a Youth Internship Programme where youths will be attached to organisations for one year to learn different skills. “To facilitate this new scheme, we are developing a database that will capture unemployed youths and entrepreneurs in the region. Indeed, we have young entrepreneurs in the region that we want to showcase to the world.
Stakeholders and political leaders used opportunity offered by the summit to shower encomiums on the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana and the Managing-Director of the commission, Dr. Ogbuku, for engendering public confidence in the agency through their commitment to good governance.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Sen. Matthew Urhoghide; Senator-elect and former chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole; former Managing Director of the NDDC, Mr Timi Alaibe and former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Dakuku Peterside, were among those, who acknowledged the transformation of the Commission under the Umana and Ogbuku leadership.
The participants and stakeholders commended President Muhammadu Buhari for returning sanity and order in the running of the NDDC and noted the salutary impact of the president’s action on peace and stability in the Niger Delta.
The former Governor of Edo State, Oshiomhole wondered why anyone would run a government agency for three years with a handpicked Sole Administrator where there was no provision for such aberration in the enabling law that set up the agency, noting that such anomaly could never inspire public confidence in the NDDC. All the key speakers at the summit commended the Minister and the Management of the NDDC for the positive trend at the commission.
Earlier, while declaring the summit open on behalf of the Vice-President, Umana said his decision to reset and reposition the NDDC has made the commission attractive to development partners in the private sector “because it is now run on the template of international best practices in public governance.”
He emphasised that high on the template of good governance which he brought to the NNDC was ensuring there was a clear distinction between supervision and interference. “I have made sure there is no ministerial interference in the management of the NDDC,” Umana said.
In his goodwill message at the summit, former NDDC Managing Director, Chief Timi Alaibe, expressed delight at the PPP initiative of the new leadership of the Commission.
In another goodwill message, the former Managing Director of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, applauded the NDDC Board and Management for striving to leave legacies in the region.