Assessment of NDDC’s Successes and Shortcomings to date
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen…
The NDDC was created as a result of the agitations for improved redistribution of national wealth to the people of the Niger Delta from where the Federal Government earns majority of its foreign exchange.
The present state of the Niger Delta is a reflection of the governance challenges faced by NDDC, the 9 State Governments and the Federal Government.
The region has been wracked by persistent militant attacks and general breakdown in law and order with kidnapping rising to alarming level and causing capital and expertise flight from the region.
In the fulfilment of its mandate, since inception the Commission has awarded 8,557 projects of which 3,424 projects have been completed and handed over to communities and States. There are 2,257 on-going projects whilst 2,506 are yet to be started for various reasons.
The project portfolio is distributed across civil works such as buildings, canalization and reclamation, jetties and shore protection, electrification, roads and bridges, water supply, buildings, flood control and erosion and equipping, and furnishing of schools and health centers.
Our programme portfolio covers training and capacity building for Oil spill response, Telecommunications, Building technology, Entrepreneurship development and Waste-to-wealth amongst others. For instance, a total of 72,000 pairs of plastic chairs and desks have been produced and are about to be distributed to schools across the region.
The healthcare programmes have been quite extensive with over 1.2 million documented patients treated, 3,500 communities visited and 6,000 referrals cases managed. Emergency relief materials were recently supplied to several communities such as Okerenkoko, Oporoza, Opobo amongst others, 7 Healthcare facilities equipped, and over 30,000 protective kits against Lassa Fever distributed.
Our education programmes deserves a special mention: a total of 1,411 students have received scholarships since 2010 of which 1,066 were supported in M.Sc and 345 in Ph.D programmes. Five (5) of the M.Sc students graduated with distinction from Coventry University, England and one (1) from Aberdeen University. A Ph.D student, Mr. Ubong Peters won the three (3) minute thesis competition in Australia; Mr. Augustine Osarogiagbon of Memorial University is so brilliant he completed his Ph.D in less than the stipulated time and has been offered a dual Ph.D programme with two graduate assistants to work with him and a post-doctoral fellowship lined up. Finally Mr. Charles Igwe studying a Ph.D in Construction Engineering at Concordia University, Canada saved the Montreal Area Municipality over $1 billion by redesigning the TURCOT interchange road construction project costing $3.67 billion.
These positive results show the depth of talent within the Niger Delta and what can happen if we just encourage the younger ones to stay focused on their education. We also have to create an enabling environment for them to return to and be productive citizens.
Now let us focus on the future of the NDDC.
The new Board of the NDDC is committed to tackling the root causes of the numerous challenges besetting the Commission and by extension, the Niger Delta region. After a careful review of the issues, we are implementing what we call the 4R strategy which consists of the following components:
The goals are ambitious and the time we have is limited but we are confident that the right first steps have been taken and we shall remain focused on our objectives.
The reforms planned will also affect how we prepare our budget to ensure we are able to deliver high impact social welfare programmes that really touch the people and help us change the present negative narrative. Specifically we shall collaborate with our stakeholders including the Federal Government, National Assembly, State Governments and LGAs of the region, and most important, the Oil & Gas firms who directly fund our budget. For this later group we shall deliver interventions in host communities that address their specific needs.
At this stage I want to talk specifically to the youth. We are taking your issues very seriously and in the next few weeks we will engage the youth, agitators, ex-militants and other interest groups directly in a forum where we will collaboratively decide on the most viable and sustainable programmes for empowering youth so they can be productive for life. These programs will be supported by our partners and will be monitored closely to ensure they deliver on the promises we make.
We are also improving our partnerships with various organizations such as:
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has developed a framework for transparency and accountability in the reporting and disclosure by all extractive industry companies of revenues due to or paid to the Federal Government. Our planned partnership with NEITI will enable the NDDC track revenue
These partnerships are designed to create a more transparent NDDC that is driven by best practice, adherence to rules and creating value-for-money projects and programmes.
Finally I want to appreciate the continued good works of the Niger Delta Dialogue in keeping the narrative alive. I assure you that my time at NDDC will be different and with your support we shall change the narrative to a more positive story and deliver the basis for a more stable Niger Delta region for our collective benefit.
Nsima U. Ekere