By Kole Brown
There is no doubt that there is a paradigm shift at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, as the current board and management are now doing things differently by adopting new strategies. Indeed, it is a new dawn at the Commission and the era of underhand practices are over.
It is, therefore, surprising that some ill-advised or even mischievous groups have been casting aspersions on the activities of the Commission and its principal officers.
Recently, an obviously uninformed group, calling itself the Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade (FHRACC) made spurious allegations against the Commission that were totally out of sync with reality.
The group, which seems to be hands-in-glove with other misguided bodies like the National Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-Agitators, Egbesu Union, is apparently being used as a tool of destabilization by those working against the development of the Niger Delta.
One of the misguided groups, the Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-Militant Leaders, was forced to recant recently. They publicly apologised to the Nsima Ekere-led NDDC Management, over the unruly behaviour of its members.
The National Chairman of the group, Stephen Ebisintei, admitted that they were misinformed. He said: “Unknown to us, the sixth management team is desirous of implementing programmes and policies that would develop the Niger Delta and empower the youths of the region.”
He added: “We were acting on wrong information as we should have expressed ourselves in a much calmer, more diplomatic and respectful manner.”
This particular group is now convinced that the NDDC is pursuing innovative policies aimed at delivering services more efficiently to the people of the Niger Delta.
They have realised that the Commission is serious about its drive for a well-articulated reform programme tagged the 4-R strategy. It has become obvious that the new NDDC is determined to do things differently to improve the transparency of its processes; leverage technology to increase accountability and efficiency; consult stakeholders frequently; engage proactively and be creative about the programmes that it designs to uplift the people and the region.
The new 4-R Initiative entails: “Restructuring the balance sheet which currently has about N1.2 trillion worth of on-going projects; Reforming the governance systems to ensure that as an organization, NDDC complies with extant rules and regulations and prevent mistakes of the past from recurring; Restoring the core mandate of the Commission by ensuring availability of a properly prepared set of Master Plans for the 9 states; Reaffirming commitment to doing what’s right and proper at all times.”
Seventeen years after the NDDC was created, N1.4 trillion naira spent and an estimated 3,424 projects later; the NDDC is now focusing on the technological boom.
The Commission is currently focusing on Information and Communication Technology as a broad base from which the Niger Delta could tackle education, transportation, healthcare, social services, agriculture, environment and disaster management, financial inclusion, youth and unemployment, governance and security.
In preparation to participate productively in the global knowledge and technology driven economy, the NDDC invested immensely on health and education over the years. So far, 1,411 students have received scholarships since 2010 of which 1,066 were supported in M.Sc and 345 in Ph.D programmes. In health, over the years NDDC programmes have extended to over 1.2 million documented patients treated, 3500 communities visited and 6,000 referral cases managed.
By working in partnership with international donor funded organisations such as the World Bank (Nigeria), Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND), Facility for Oil Sector Transparency (FOSTER), and Market Development for the Niger Delta Programme (MADE) the NDDC has created opportunities to amplify the impact of its activities in the region.
The NDDC believes that by engaging credible partners to switch on the Niger Delta with broadband capacity, it would provide citizens with options for communicating, organising, working, learning, accessing and sharing information. It hopes that by connecting and integrating the Niger Delta via Internet, it would eases the pressure on our roads and allow our younger generation and entrepreneurs to innovate.
If the current Board and Management of the NDDC can pull off the ICT-related plans for the Niger Delta, it would have gone a long way in fast-tracking development in the long-neglected region.
The NDDC needs the support and cooperation of all stakeholders to drive development in the Niger Delta. The last thing it needs is unnecessary distractions from mischief makers.