I thank you, Your Excellency, for your gracious hospitality and kindness. You and our Governors are vital stakeholders in our earnest effort to make the Niger Delta region politically peaceful, socially stable, economically prosperous and ecologically regenerative.
It therefore gives me great pleasure to be here today in Government House, Umuahia, in God’s own state of Abia. This visit is part of my on-going region-wide tour of the Niger Delta; first, to acquaint myself with the status of projects being implemented by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in all the states and, also, to meet with the Governors of the nine NDDC Mandate states because of their strategic importance to the success of the Commission and the sustainable development of the region
On this visit, we will inspect some of our projects, including the Umuyogo New Layout Road in Isimiri Umuorie, the construction of two hostel blocks at 144 Battalion Barracks, the construction of Ohia Ulolo Amangwu Roads, Ukwa West, and a solar water project, Ozar, Asa-Ipu, Ukwa West, all of which have been completed. We will also visit the construction of Ihie Ukwu Road network, which is about 98 per cent completed and Ukwa West where we have the 132 kv line and 2 x 30mva/33kv transmission substation. Sadly, this project was awarded as far back as 2004 to B.M.A. Nigeria Limited. I have sought to know why this project has dragged on for so long and remains at 45 per cent completion, so that I can take immediate and appropriate action.
On this list are also projects that also compel questions and demand answers. Such projects are the Obohia-Ohanku-Aba Road, with spur to Ohambele-Obeaku, in Ukwa East, a 32.3-kilometre road awarded to Hebertech Nigeria Limited, since 2009, which has only achieved 25 per cent completion status.
Abia state is the second state I would be visiting on this regional tour, after Imo state. I have inspected many projects and commissioned a few since my appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari as Acting Managing Director. I have been confronted by the sad state of many of our projects across these states. Many of them are not implemented to specification and standards, while many wallow at different stages of abandonment, disregard and disrepair. I have been saddened by this unfortunate situation, which your distinguished colleagues had pointed out to me. I am sure I will hear some more from you, Your Excellency.
As sad as this state of affairs has made me, there have been stories which have lifted my spirits, and convinced me that, if the right processes are put in place, strengthened and promoted, indeed, we can bring to this great region the kind of development it has longed for all these long years. One such good story is the Ogbia – Nembe Road project in Bayelsa State.
That project, a collaboration between the Commission and the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, is one of which the people of the Niger Delta – and, indeed, Nigeria – should be proud. As I told the leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council when they visited me in Port Harcourt, the road is a good example of what can be achieved through partnership, because when we join our hands together as partners on specific projects, on specific initiatives, we can achieve more and spend less.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee, Distinguished Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, echoed the same sentiments when he spoke at the project site. He was quoted as saying: “I wish that we can have this type of project all over the Niger Delta and I wish we have this success story in all the projects. This is what an interventionist agency is supposed to be doing. To link up these towns. That is the essence of NDDC.”
As I drove to Umuahia, these thoughts ran through my mind, because I am convinced, more than ever before, that this is the path we must walk, as strategic stakeholders in the Niger Delta, to ensure that we give to the people the region of which they have dreamed, of which they have hoped, of which they have agitated and fought for. Clearly, this is what the framers of the Niger Delta Development Master Plan had in mind and this is why it is imperative that all of us work together to return the plan to its place of pride as the central document to drive development in the region.
As the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, says: “One of the main lessons I have learned during my five years as Secretary-General is that broad partnerships are the key to solving broad challenges. When governments, the United Nations, businesses, philanthropies and civil society work hand-in-hand, we can achieve great things.”
The Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan, which the NDDC facilitated, takes this strategic option into account. Developed by a coalition of all relevant stakeholders in the region, working with local, national and international agencies, collating data from every community of the Niger Delta, on every sphere of human activity, the plan took from frameworks and established action plans from all over the world, built it around our peculiar realities, and made it homegrown and Niger Deltan.
To make it work, the Partners for Sustainable Development (PSD) Forum was established, involving and creating important partnerships needed for programme and project implementation. The Forum, among many objectives, also sought to engage all stakeholders, service and project implementers, on project conceptualization, budgeting and implementation. The vision was, and still remains, to build a one Niger Delta where every one worked as one unit, instead of at cross purposes, to achieve one, collective dream. “The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other,” says Japanese poet, Ryunosuke Satoro.
Abia state retains a special place in the Commission’s scheme of things and presents many worthy areas of possible collaboration. From physical infrastructure projects vital to other socio-economic programmes and projects, Abia state and NDDC can deliver great change to our people. One of the key components of sustainable development is in strengthening the livelihoods of the people and making them sustainable, because the wealth of nations is not in the absence of poverty but in the constant renewal of wealth. This is important, because Abia is an artery and nerve centre of commerce, not just in the Niger Delta, but in Nigeria and West Africa.
Aba, as famous now as it was when I was a child, offers great possibilities, and showcases the enormous human capacity and industry of the people. It offers us, working as partners, the charm of a business incubation centre, where manufacturing, production and processing of agricultural and aquacultural produce are huge opportunities. This we can begin to work on, going forward, as a first step towards building the kind of partnership needed to tackle the enormous development challenges still evident in all my journeys.
Henry Ford, great American industrialist, says that “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” I thank you, Your Excellency, for this opportunity to share my thoughts, my vision and, I hope, my passion towards helping make the Niger Delta the region of which we have always hungered. I believe a lot can be achieved. It is easy to look back and confer blame on what had been done in the past, where mistakes were made and things were not done well. But it takes more courage, a tougher mettle to look forward, employing and deploying the best principles and strategies, to make things right and better.
That is the future I see and advocate. That is what I bring to you today, Your Excellency. But, permit me, also, Your Excellency, to make one request. We are in the process of building a befitting state office for the NDDC and believe that a more central location would add immense value to our work. We pray Your Excellency, therefore, to approve the relocation of our new office complex from the current site at Okeikpe to a more central location at Obehie. This would ease access and improve our work in serving the people of Abia state.
Once more, Your Excellency, thank you for your very warm welcome and kindness. The Lord bless you and the good people of Abia State, in all things, always.
BEING SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE ACTING MANAGING DIRECTOR/CEO, NIGER DELTA DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION, NDDC, MRS. IBIM SEMENITARI, DURING A COURTESY CALL ON HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. OKEZIE IKPEAZU, EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR, ABIA STATE, AT GOVERNMENT HOUSE, UMUAHIA, ON TUESDAY, APRIL 5, 2016