The Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, has expressed willingness to support the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in its quest to refocus the interventionist agency to the task of fast-tracking development in the Niger Delta region.
The governor was speaking at the Imo State Government House, Owerri, when he granted audience to the Governing Board of the NDDC, led by its Chairman, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, on Friday.
The visiting team included the NDDC Managing Director, Mr Nsima Ekere, the Executive Director Finance and Administration, Mr Mene Derek, Executive Director Projects, Engr. Samuel Adjogbe, and other members of the Board.
Governor Okorocha said that NDDC needed the support and partnership of key stakeholders to turn things around in the oil-rich region. He said he was optimistic that the new team in the Commission would change the narrative, adding: “This is the time for me and my people to smile.”
He said further: “I want NDDC to do something about its image and when it does, I will be the person to sing its song loud to Abuja and to the whole world. He also expressed confidence that “things will change in NDDC.”
The governor appealed to the NDDC board to always inform the government about projects to be executed in Imo State. “Let us know the contractor so that we can follow them up and ensure that they carried out the assignment,” he advised.
The Chairman of the NDDC board, Senator Ndoma-Egba, told the governor that one of the first decisions taken by the board was the re-activation of all dormant organs of the Commission. One such important organ, he said, was the Advisory Committee made up of all the governors of the NDDC member states and two other members appointed by Mr. President.
Senator Ndoma-Egba noted that it was necessary to revive the Advisory Committee because the NDDC must work with the government of the member states to ensure that they took ownership of its projects and programmes, as well as check the duplication of projects. He added: “We want to maximize the scarce resources that we have so that we can achieve as much as we can in other to create a regional economy in the Niger Delta.”
He said that for NDDC to achieve maximum efficiency, it must move away from the usual annual budgets that sometimes contradict previous budgets, stating that what was needed was a Master Plan for the region. He acknowledged that the Niger Delta Regional Master Plan was launched in 2007, but that 10 years this year after, it had largely been unimplemented. “So we have to agree whether to terminate that Master Plan, update it or upgrade it. But a Master Plan is needed so that our annual budgets will be annual incremental steps towards achieving the vision of the plan,” the chairman said.
The chairman added: “The ad hoc arrangement that we have cannot endure. So, we have to have a long term policy for the region. The determination of this board is to do things different if we must achieve results. We cannot continue to do things the same way and expect different result.”
Senator Ndoma-Egba regretted that the story of the NDDC was not most edifying. He said: “We want to change that story. We want to change that narrative. We want to change that song, not just for the NDDC but for the region and the member states of the region.
“To change the story, to change the song, to change the narrative, we have to do things differently and to do things differently; we want or change our processes. We want to strengthen our systems, strengthen our monitoring capacity and our personnel to achieve just two objectives, accountability to the people we serve, accountability to those who fund us and transparency. This will make our development partners to have more confidence in the Commission and give us even greater assistance so we can bring greater good to the member states of the commission.
The NDDC Chairman called the governors attention to the on-going intervention of the Commission on the Port Harcourt-Owerri Road, noting that it was a very professional and a very thorough job. “We want to introduce standards to what we do and we want to ensure that we get value for every kobo that is spent,” he said.
He assured the governor that the NDDC board “will bring new energy, new urgency, and new vision, to the development of the Niger Delta,”.