A clarion call has been made for the outright overhauling of the operational modalities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) upon completion of its ongoing forensic audit.
The call was made in a heavily worded, duly referenced, and well-crafted fifteen-page treatise titled ‘NDDC: Promises Made. Promises Unfulfilled’, by a renowned scribe, astute manager, and political strategist, Mr. George Omo-Idehen. It provides an in-depth venture into the historical and foundational metamorphosis of the NDDC, stating in lucid terms the developmental course into its formation, purpose, and mandate, as well as recommendations to achieving its objectives.
Mr. Omo-Idehen stated that the NDDC was set up as a regional intervention agency by the federal government to improve the living conditions of indigenes of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, culminating in an effective economic impact, that would prevent restiveness in the region which is the main source of the nation’s oil resources.
According to him, it was projected to fill the inadequacies of prior erstwhile federal government intervention agencies for the Niger Delta region; such as the Niger Delta Basin Development Authority (NDBDA) and the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), set up to meet the infrastructural development of the area; two agencies are known to have been self-euthanized on the grounds of mismanagement, corruption, and political tussles.
He however noted that the NDDC presently trails a similar path as it has garnered notoriety for “underperformance and delivery of poorly executed projects” which have no direct or meaningful impact on the lives of the Niger Deltans.
According to him, “successful organizations, government or private, achieve positive results only when members of the organization incorporate new policies and innovations into existing operations.”
He further opined that the federal government must present a new policy architecture to subsequently drive the commission. Such policy framework like the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) recently passed by the National Assembly, is plausible since it gives host communities a set percentage from oil revenues for accelerated development, among others.
Mr. Omo-Idehen however noted that sensitive laws such as the PIB must be passed to reflect equity, viability, reason, and reality. While he commended members of the National Assembly for their hard work and courage in finally passing this bill, he cautioned them that the work was not quite complete yet.
He posited that the PIB has not done justice to oil communities, therefore a reconciliation and harmonization of both versions (that of the Senate and the House of Representatives), should be mandatorily and carefully done, with all objections voiced by the Niger Deltans, adequately addressed before a meticulously revised version can be forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
“In the fore of their objections, is the demand for an upward review of the equity sharing and its reversal to the initially proposed figure of 10percent, from the passed figure of 3percent and 5percent respectively, which is proper. While the prescription of a disproportionate figure of 30percent of NNPC profits to fund exploration activities in “frontier basins” be reduced to an acceptable 15percent, and the accrued difference of 8percent be added to the management funds of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to facilitate additional projects,” Omo-Idehen said further.
He noted that the Niger Delta region has been plagued by political and policy instability, lack of accountability and transparency, inadequate programs coordination, and poverty which has made the indigenes unable to attain a minimum standard of living, despite the magnitude of contribution its natural resources make to the overall benefit of the nation.
This he blamed on lack of targeting remedial actions to the poor; a defect that can be conveniently catered for by a higher percentage share of oil revenue in the PIB, as well as placing the right management in place at the NDDC for the proper administration of funds that would directly benefit the region.As part of the discussion of the panoramic compass for the NDDC, Mr. Omo-Idehen noted that the NDDC in its 20 years of existence has received over N1.4 trillion in funds (as of 2019), with little or nothing to show for it, which prompted its ongoing forensic audit.
He said, “the region is littered with numerous substandard projects, and the forensic auditors have uncovered over 12,128 abandoned projects, of which 1,082 are in Edo State alone, which confirms the allegation of corruption.Several of its projects he described as “visionless, pedestrian and poorly thought out”, and in many cases, actual oil-producing communities are ignored in the award of projects due to varying political interests.
He noted that as a result of its laughable projects, the Edo State Governor, His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, in November 2020, ordered the NDDC contractors in Edo State to immediately stop further execution of projects, while he expressed his dismay and gross displeasure over the poor quality of work being executed and delivered, and therefore sought to approach the courts for a stay order against the commission from further embarking on any projects without the consent of the State’s Executive council.
While commending Governor Obaseki for his action, Omo-Idehen in his recommendations, stated that key values critical for the operational success of the NDDC include its working hand in hand with the State Executive Council if any meaningful progress is genuinely desired by the commission.
He also suggested the institutionalization of accountability and transparency by the enabling laws of the NDDC in project execution, as it has become pertinent for Governments to maintain an open and public discourse with their citizens.
He also advocates community participation and inclusion of indigenes in the operations of the NDDC as a veritable means of meeting the cardinal needs of the region, by including their voices in planning and decision-making processes, as a valuable key to its future success.
The NDDC according to him must be stopped from continuing on its present trajectory. He noted that with a sincere political determination bereft of sentiments and corruption, the NDDC can and will go a long way in the execution and fulfillment of the master plan.