Ford Foundation gives kudos to NDDC, begins partnership
The Ford Foundation has commended the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, on tackling the development challenges of the region.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to the NDDC Acting Managing Director, Mrs Ibim Semenitari and other directors at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt, the Head of West African office of the Ford Foundation based in Lagos, Mr Innocent Chukwuma, said he was impressed with the new drive in the Commission.
Mr Chukwuma, who led a delegation from the Ford Foundation, said that a meeting with the NDDC would enable both parties to share ideas, determine areas of priority and explore opportunities for partnership. He stated: “The meeting today is a combination of a process that we spoke about when we had a breakfast meeting in Abuja some weeks back and I promised that I will come to Port Harcourt with my programming team because since your appointment, we have been encouraged by the turn around and development within the NDDC.”
The head of the Ford Foundation commended the transparency and accountability that had now been introduced in the activities of the NDDC. He said that the publication of the Commission’s first quarterly report was good sign. “That shows that you have put the organization on the pedestal of transparency. We are here to hear from you about the priorities of NDDC and we would also have the opportunity to speak individually about the programmes that we came with. And then we will look at areas that are mutual and explore them because it is not a one sided affair. We will do our best to ensure that whatever agreement we reach, we will keep our side of the bargain,” Mr Chukwuma said.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer detailed the activities and performance of the Commission through a power-point presentation to the Ford Foundation delegation. Her presentation preceded the business meeting where details of the partnership were discussed.
Mrs Semenitari observed that NDDC’s mandate was very elaborate, giving the Commission enormous responsibilities that went beyond building physical infrastructure. She said that despite the wide scope of the mandate, funding of the Commission had been grossly limited, noting that none of the sources of funding had ever complied fully with the statutory obligations given to them. She remarked that the ecological fund had not been paid at all since the inception of the Commission.
The NDDC boss highlighted the need to work with the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan. She regretted that the Master Plan, which was launched in 2005, had not been implemented as it should, even though it was due to be reviewed last year.
Mrs Semenitari stated that the Commission had awarded 8,600 projects since its inception, adding that of this number of projects; only 38 per cent performance level had been achieved. She blamed the poor performance level on grossly inadequate funds; discontinuity in government; crisis in management; white elephant projects and duplication, among others.
She said further that the multiplicity of actors meant to drive development in the region without properly defined roles had not helped matters, adding that institutional weaknesses and a breakdown of trust had given room to the resurgence of violence and chaos in the region.
The Acting MD said that the Commission had in the last six months confronted the challenge of engendering trust and building confidence in the Commission. This she said had been approached from several angles, including publishing a quarterly report for the first time in the life of the Commission, professionalising the workforce, campaign against bribe, decentralising the functions of the Commission and strengthening the State offices, improved Directorate and Departmental autonomy, as well setting service delivery targets.
Mrs Semenitari said that there was need to move away from militancy in the Niger Delta to creating an environment for gainful employment, stating that apart from being endowed with oil and gas, the region had a youthful population that was waiting to be fully engaged.
In his contribution, one of the consultants for Ford Foundation, Mr. Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima, underscored the need to link education to employment and noted that skills training should be geared towards providing employment for the beneficiaries. He said that the Ford Foundation usually assisted governments to initiate policy reforms that could match training with appropriate jobs for the people. “We also focus on mentoring young people to give them direction,” he said.