By Our Editorial Board
Established in June 2000, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was created by Federal Acts No. 6, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
The commission is an amalgam of all the oil producing states in Nigeria which includes Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers states.
Very concisely also, ‘NDDC was established with a well mapped out mandate which includes but not limited to the conception, planning and implementation, in accordance with set rules and regulations, of projects and programs for sustainable development of the Niger Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunication’.
Upon inauguration on the 8th of June, 2000, NDDC has religiously and rigorously carried out the above responsibilities with Chief Onyema Ugochukwu as the pioneer Chairman.
This is evident by the appreciable number of success stories recorded on projects thereby signposting NDDC presence in all the states that make up the oil-producing states.
Compelling evidence is particularly spotlighted in the area of transportation. The commission in the early hours of the year 2000 littered as well as dotted the Nigerian roads with Mazda Liteace buses. That initiative assisted in no small measure in ameliorating the plights of commuters within and outside the NDDC catchment areas.
As part of the mandate on education during this pioneering period, NDDC administered some pockets of scholarships to an appreciable number of students from these oil-producing states.
But today as it stands, the above has become a story of the past as those buses have since fizzled out of the Nigerian roads. But instead of taking a pragmatic step to get them replaced, the current NDDC Board sings from a different hymn book.
The same fate as painted above has befallen education, environmental protection and infrastructural development under the current NDDC Board.
This development has made many to question if transportation, education, and others have been removed from the mandates as given to the commission.
More worrying part of this episode is the discordant tunes resonating from all the states that make up NDDC as listed above but pointing at the same direction.
That direction happens to be the indiscriminate as well as reckless abandonment of projects in all the states with Bayelsa claiming to be the worst hit. This claim as stated was made known in a recent release by the Bayelsa State Government and was made available to the press including our very own.
This tragicomic drama and visible advertisement of the administration ineptitude has made us as a media group to believe that the soul of NDDC departed the commission with the exit of Chief Onyema Ugochukwu and Timi Alaibe from the organization.
Reversing the above trend will require the current Board as constituted to borrow a soul in order to raise that corporate body called Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Also, it has again raised the credibility question on the part of the commission, lacking in capacity to practice a sustainable development as currently preached the world over. This is evident as NDDC presently enjoys more moral burden than goodwill.
GbaramatuVoice arrived at the above opinion based on the fact that the commission is currently more inclined to abandoning projects than their successful completions. The evidence abounds and testimonies are endless.
Again, even the few projects executed are not spared of criticism as they are viewed as shoddy and toxic. In our views, some of these NDDC road projects could be best described as plastered and not tarred as they are lacking in thickness and often without drainage. This has accounted for a very high number of failed road projects under NDDC’s watch.
Again, as a watchdog of the society, GbaramatuVoice has observed with dismay the incessant abandonment of projects that were at one time or the other flagged off by the commission, most especially in the riverine communities of the Niger Delta region.
In all these, as a group that has freely taken the responsibility of serving the people through a provision of symmetrical information dissemination devoid of bias, it is our view that the NDDC Board be alive to its responsibilities in serving the people as the organization currently exists only in the frame.
In the same manner, we have observed that NDDC as a commission feels more at home spending on media relations and fence mending than on the primary responsibility of project design and execution.
However, having known the current Chairman of the Board, Senator Ndoma Egba (SAN) as a man of impeccable character when it comes to the service of his fatherland at both state and federal levels, it is also our views that he deploys that garnered leadership attributes and professional sagacity in repositioning the commission so that their positive impact will once again be felt by the people of the region.
Similarly, the NDDC being a parastatal under the ministry of the Niger Delta, GbaramatuVoice is calling on the ministry to always perform its supervisory and oversight function on the commission by paying a disciplined attention to its activities.
In the same vein, the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) in the region, the Human cum Environmental Rights Groups, the traditional rulers and prominent indigenes of the region should develop the habit of performing supervisory functions to the commission by commending when they can and condemning when they should.
We are equally calling on the Federal Government via the Niger Delta Ministry to ensure the availability of funds to the NDDC so that they can be alive to their statutory responsibilities.
Again, the ministry should periodically ask how the already disbursed sums were spent and still go a step further to juxtapose the said claim with the reality on ground. And when a gap is discovered, a complaint should be lodged with the appropriate government quarters for further questioning and disciplinary actions when necessary.
Finally, we call on the media to remember their social responsibility role to the people, of bringing information to their doorsteps. Reporting NDDC projects should not be an exception as that will avail the people the vintage information need to criticize or commend the activities of this Board.