The Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has reaffirmed its resolve to refocus the Commission to its original mandate and make it the vehicle to bring development and peace to the Niger Delta region.
The Chairman of the Board, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), said this in his remarks at the inaugural meeting of the board held at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt on Thursday.
Senator Ndoma-Egba regretted that the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan meant to accelerate the development of this hitherto turbulent and underdeveloped region has so far failed to achieve that objective. Rather, he said, “the region has become even more turbulent and more underdeveloped than when the Master Plan was launched, clearly because the Master Plan was abandoned after all the fanfare that attended its launching in 2007.”
The chairman said: “The Commission lost its focus as a development commission or agency and has rather acquired the reputation, rightly or wrongly, of a contract awarding factory or machine, delivering little impactful development to the Region.
“We are coming on board at a very challenging time. The public image of the Commission is not edifying. The militancy, restlessness and lack of development are most unnerving. We must rebrand the Commission and change the public perception of it as a slush fund and this we must do through our honest work and single minded focus and discipline.”
Senator Ndoma-Egba stressed the need to reform the processes of the Commission, adding that things must be done differently if different results must be achieved.
He added: “We must see our appointments as a life time opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of the ordinary people of the region and write our names in gold for posterity and not an opportunity for our own slice of the proverbial national cake or short term benefits. We should keep our eyes on history.”
He said that the need to make the difference was an imperative choice the NDDC board and management must make if history must judge them fairly, noting that how history would judge the Commission was a matter of choice.
Senator Ndoma-Egba noted that previous interventions in the Region had been unremarkable, starting from the Niger-Delta Development Board (1961 – 1972), Niger-Delta River Basin Authority (1972 – 1983), Oil Minerals producing Areas Development Commission (1972 – 2000) to the NDDC.
According to the Chairman, these intervention agencies failed for loss of focus, mismanagement, inadequate funding, corruption and the lack of the appropriate will to develop the region. He said that though the time for the current board was short, it was long enough to chart a new path.
Senator Ndoma-Egba stated that the Commission must shed weight and unnecessary baggage and burdens to be effective and transparent. He said further: “In keeping with Mr. President’s change agenda and global best practices we have to audit our systems, processes, projects, and staff. The Commission must be transparent so that we can get more support from stakeholders and engage the attention of International Development partners.”
“We shall engage constantly with stakeholders and ensure that all organs of the Commission are activated and are functional. We should commit to transparently removing all impediments to the effective delivery on our mandate, and build strong systems and processes. Ours is the very first Board under the APC government. Our attitude, policies and programmes must reflect the values of the government and party. We are bound by the Party’s change agenda.”
The chairman said that the Commission would remain open to suggestions that would facilitate its vision and ensure value for money spent. “The Board will set quarterly targets, milestones, benchmarks and responsibilities that will form the focus for each quarter. Achieving these targets will be the core oversight function of the Board committees that will be set up soon,” he said.
Senator Ndoma-Egba assured that the budget process of the Commission must be stakeholder and end user driven and owned with clear impact assessment. He said further: “We shall evolve strategies to enhance staff productivity and compensation. Staff welfare shall be given priority attention. It will no longer be business as usual. The story in the public is that a “Commission” of 10-15% is paid by contractors to get their payments from the Commission. This is absolutely wrong if it is true. Getting payments for contractors has become an industry by itself. There is no reason why contractors who have met conditions for payment should not be paid without any intervention.”