The Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Nsima Ekere, has stated the commitment of the Governing Board and Management to fashion a new path for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.
Mr. Ekere was speaking as the new Board, led by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, took over the reins of the interventionist agency at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt on Monday.
He said the new NDDC will operate a 4-R Initiative, as a strategic roadmap for development, adding that “this would involve restructuring the balance sheet, reforming the governance protocols, restoring the Commission’s core mandate and reaffirming its commitment to doing what was right and proper.”
The NDDC boss reaffirmed the need for cooperation in the Niger Delta, stating: “We will work to promote cooperation, collaboration and synergy among stakeholders, such as state and local governments, oil and gas companies, donor agencies, civil society organisations, community-based organisations and other traditional institutions, in order to make regional development a shared vision and common aspiration.
“We would have to do things differently to improve the transparency of our processes, leverage technology to increase accountability and efficiency, consult stakeholders frequently, engage proactively and be creative about the programmes that we design, to uplift the people and the region.”
Mr. Ekere said the focus of the Commission would be on intervention programmes that would deliver real measurable developmental outcomes for the region and its citizens.
“Five priorities of NDDC,” he said, “will be to focus on regional development and integration; ecological management and health awareness; stakeholder engagement and work with development partners and NGOs; human capital development and fostering youth engagement as well as developing the non-oil sector to attract new industries.”
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer commended the deep interest shown by Mr. President Muhammadu Buhari in changing the Niger Delta narrative. “The recent engagements with leaders and stakeholders of the region, the inauguration of a new Board, the transfer of oversight responsibility over the Commission to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Lagos-Calabar rail link project. These are significant actions that are bound to impact the region positively,” Mr. Ekere said.
He noted that the new board was starting at a critical time for the region and the country, highlighting reduced revenues resulting from the combined effect of decline in global oil prices and the crippling economic sabotage of Nigeria’s oil production activities.
According to the Managing Director, “NDDC needs to look to innovative and more efficient ways of doing things. We need to find new partners to help execute our mandate for the Niger Delta; strengthen existing relationships to ensure that all stakeholders are working towards common goals and promote the peace that is necessary for the development of the region.”
The Chairman of the NDDC Board, Senator Ndoma-Egba, remarked that the NDDC was the first to get a full board under the current administration of the All Progressive Congress, APC, saying, for this reason, the NDDC should be guided by the principles of change being espoused by the Federal Government.
He said: “Things will be done differently because circumstance have changed. The economy is now more challenging and when the times are changing you must get more innovative. We must cut excesses. So, we must be leaner. Our books must be cleaned up. Our projects must be properly supervised and processes, must be audited. Our finances must be audited so that we are lean and efficient.
“The times are different and we must change with the times. We must be creative and more efficient. I will chose the part of history that brought change. I will not be part of the group that would want to remain with the status quo.”
Senator Ndoma-Egba assured that the Commission would design programmes and projects to engage the young men and women of the region to ensure that they were gainfully employed, stating: “We will teach them how to fish.”
He regretted that the NDDC is perceived in some quarters as a contract awarding factory. “We must rebrand. We mush refocus. We are determined to change the story in the NDDC,” he declared.
In her speech before handing over to Mr. Ekere, the former Acting Managing Director, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, noted that the only constant thing in life was change. “The good thing about a relay race, is that all those running are set to achieve one goal,” she said.
She thanked President Buhari for giving her the privilege to serve the Niger Delta region and the country and also for appointing the new Board, describing it as a crack team of tried, tested and distinguished gentlemen.
Mrs. Semenitari revealed that when she started work at NDDC, the percentage of job completion from inception, hovered at less than 25 per cent. “By September 9,” she said, “that figure had gone up to 41per cent. As at today, we are in the 50 per cent range.”