With the recent plans of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to review the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan, it is a welcome development.
But judging by the activities of the commission in the Niger Delta, this body that berthed in June 2000, and was created by Federal Acts No. 6, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, has not really upheld the purposes it was created.
The Niger Delta is still reeking in abject poverty and underdevelopment. From Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers states that are the joined oil producing states in Nigeria that the commission was supposed to look after, are behemoth of their old self.
Since the time of Chief Onyema Ugochukwu as the pioneer Chairman of the body till date, the NDDC seems much interested in hyping skill acquisition programmes it renders to the indigent persons in the Niger Delta in the media in lieu of going by the core rules it was formed which inter alia, include, ‘NDDC was established with a well mapped out mandate which include but not limited to the conception, planning and implementation, in accordance with set rules and regulations, of projects and programmes 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’.
We can say that the body is much interested in awarding skills programmes leaving the major mandates it was formed. In its early days, the NDDC was replete with some pockets of scholarships to some members of the oil producing states. It used this programme for media friendliness.
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. We are not sure where the NDDC has thrown the strength of awarding education to Niger Deltans, protecting the environment and developing infrastructures too.
In its early days, the body dotted the Nigerian roads with buses but this is no more today. Pundits have said that the NDDC lost its stand immediately Chief Onyema Ugochukwu and Timi Alaibe were out from the organization as its respective chairmen.
The worst is that the NDDC is today much interested in abandoning projects than it was bent on executing projects in its early days. Today, this once vibrant body has become a body that works by spending on media relations and fence mending than on the primary responsibility it was created.
However, having known the current acting managing director of the commission, 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 view that he deploys that garnered leadership attributes and professional sagacity in re-positioning the commission so that their positive impact will once again be felt by the people in Niger Delta.
Similarly, the NDDC being a parastatal under the ministry of the Niger Delta, we are 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 area 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.
We however commend the Cross River State Governor, Prof Benedict Ayade who gave a nod that the master plan of the NDDC should be reviewed, when the NDDC Acting Managing Director, Prof Nelson Brambaifa, who was accompanied by the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Dr Chris Amadi and other directors of the Commission, paid him a visit at the Government House, Calabar, recently.
Notwithstanding, 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 needed to criticize or commend the activities of this Board.