As part of its efforts to carry all stakeholders along in the task of developing the Niger Delta region, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has engaged the Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, in the region in a one day interactive session.The meeting which took place yesterday in Port Harcourt offered a platform for the stakeholders to reappraise the policy focus of the NDDC with a view to offering alternative options for efficient and effective delivery of its core mandate.
The Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said that the interventionist agency required building synergy with critical voices like the CSOs to develop new perspectives that would deepen the socio-economic fortunes of Niger Deltans.
She noted that if the NDDC failed, the burden on the people would be huge. “My concern is born out of the fact that previous interventionist efforts in the region such as the Niger Delta Development Board, NDDB, Niger Delta Basin Development Authority, NDBDA, and the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, have all added to the statistics of failed efforts in the region,” she said.
Mrs. Semenitari stated that the NDDC has a mandate to deliver to meet the expectations of President Mohammadu Buhari, and the entire people of the Niger Delta in terms of best practices and standard of excellence.“This will require a quick overhaul and reinvigoration of our systems and procedures in line with global standards anchored on innovation and creativity. Our focus shall remain the core mandate of infrastructure development and provision of services to the people of the Niger Delta region,” she said.
According to the NDDC Chief Executive Officer, the Commission would endeavor to ensure the effective transformation in its service delivery to the people, adding that it was determined to sustain the drive to eliminate waste in procurement and public expenditure; strengthen transparency and accountability in the conduct of government business and support the present administration’s fight against corruption.
Presenting a report on behalf of the of the Civil Society Organisations, Mr. Harry Udoh, observed that more than 15 years after the establishment of the NDDC and many years after the launching of the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan, the Niger Delta continued to be a case study of underdevelopment.
The CSOs urged the Federal Government to de-politicise the management of the NDDC and set up structures to ensure transparency, accountability and proper prioritization of projects. It added that the NDDC needed to develop a template for more qualitative and meaningful involvement of civil society organizations in the region.
The report also charged the NDDC to make substantial investments in human and social infrastructure in the region, especially towards the reduction of youth unemployment, which it said was the most pressing challenge of the region.
Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Ledum Mitee, former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, said that he did not envy the Acting MD of the NDDC because she came at a time of dwindling oil revenue matched against the high expectations of the people of the Niger Delta.In spite of the challenges, he said, the NDDC must ask itself how it could add value and fill the gaps in the development of the region.
Mitee noted that it was very courageous of the NDDC to have initiated the interactive session with the civil society groups, knowing that they were usually very critical of the activities of government agencies. “This is a group of people that will say it as it is without mincing words. They are not people that would sing the praises of any one to please them.”
He said that the civil society was well placed to add value to what the NDDC was doing by pointing out areas of deficiency and suggesting better alternatives. This type of interactive session should not be a one-off event; it should rather be a continuous process.