From Transaction To Transformation; The NDDC Way

By  Jerome-Mario Utomi
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Hon. (Barr.) Chiedu Ebie (Chairman, Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)

A peep into the profile of members of the present board and management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), an agency conceived in the year 2000, as a fresh beginning and a more focused effort on development in the Niger Delta with its mission chiefly to sustainably develop the region in terms of infrastructure and human capital, will reveal that it is arguably filled with some of the best trained and most highly skilled personalities from the Niger Delta region, in the history of the Commission.

For instance, while Hon. (Barr.) Chiedu Ebie, Lawyer, technocrat, Former Commissioner, Former Secretary to the Delta State Government and a player in the oil industry whose ward harbours oil-yielding wells and crude gathering stations from many drilling points in Pan-Ocean’s OML 147, functions as the Chairman of the governing board, Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, the Managing Director of the Commission, from crude oil rich Bayelsa state, boasts of an impressive profile spanning over twenty years of experience and expertise in crisis management and capacity building, built across diverse fields of excellent human endeavor, among others.

Aside from being laced with personal intelligence, excellent leadership and managerial acumen, also working in favour of the team, in my view, are three separate but related factors. First is the board and management’s early recognition that it is their responsibility to search for new field to increase the wealth and wellbeing of the people, make Niger Delta succeed and give the poor within the region a future.

The second has to do with their understanding of leadership as an endless circle of transition that calls on public office holders to look back in order to more productively look forward. Third and very key is the board and management’s appreciation of proper information management as the life wire of the agency's business- more particularly as it is evident that when an organization pays no attention to information management, it invariably leaves the survival of such an organization to chance.

The above assertions naturally came flooding after listening avidly to Dr. Sam. Ogbuku, Managing Director/CEO, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) speaks on the topic; NDDC; the Journey so far and the Road Ahead, at the Organization’s just concluded strategic retreat held in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom state, where he among other remarks described the 24years old interventionist agency as a palliative to the people of the region, that its activities, projects and programmes were not only brazenly underreported but failed to tell its own story. And as a result of this fundamental mistake, allowed others to push to the general public information, that is, of course, not true.

In an effort to change the narrative, Ogbuku, on behalf of the board and management presented to the stakeholders a scorecard that amply deconstructs previous perceptional challenges hanging on the neck of the agency.

He told the gathering that NDDC has in the last over two decades of its existence executed more than seven thousand projects and awarded over two thousand scholarships, adding that the agency has done a lot connecting communities and villages.

While noting that NDDC has through its developmental strides in the region, particularly the rural communities, discouraged urban migration, the NDDC Boss further highlighted critical programmes and policies that the agency recently initiated and currently seeing through within the region.

According to him, these policies/programmes in no particular order, include but not limited to; Rewind to Rebirth, Project Light Up the Niger Delta region, Transiting from Transaction to Transformation and Project Hope among others.

While Ogbuku observed that Project Hope will create opportunities in ICT, Tech and other areas of expertise that will be transported to the other parts of the world, he also hinted that the agency is investing in promotion of good governance in it's operations aimed at regulating the agency as well as protect the investments of those that want to do business with the agency.

As to why the future looks bright at NDDC, Chiedu Ebie , the Governing board Chairman, provided insight to it during his welcome address at the retreat.

In his words, 'Since our inauguration just over two months ago, as a highly accountable and proactive board, we have achieved progress. Together, we have worked to dispel the negative narratives that once plagued the Commission, aiming to make that a thing of the past. Similarly, we have adopted a leadership style that aims to instill confidence in our people, prioritizing their well-being through constructive collaboration and mutual respect.

‘’We will propose strategies for the reintroduction and reestablishment of coordinated development to its proper place in the Niger Delta discourse, design implementation ideas and ideals that will remind members of the board and management that we are confronted with a larger responsibility of nation building. At the end of this retreat, we should become aware that the main parameter for our assessment as board members and management staff will largely be dependent on the way we discharge our duties and the legacies we leave behind in terms of developing and improving of the region’’. He stated.

Echoeing a similar ''policy framework'', to what was canvassed by the board Chairman, the Managing Director of the agency, on his part, ''whispered'' a development that all Niger Deltans of goodwill should be proud of.

He captures it this way; our focus in 2024 will be on continuous engagement with various strata of NDDC’s stakeholders, in order to grasp and understand the needs of the peoples of the Niger Delta region. The Commission is set to bring relevant stakeholders in the region together to discuss ways of improving on the development of the Niger Delta region. We will chart a new course for the region.

The stakeholder’s summit and forum, he added, will serve as a yardstick for feedback and possibly finding ways of improvement in line with the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It will not just be interaction with individuals, but an open interaction with members of the National Assembly, ministers from the region, and the private sector, to discuss the Niger Delta and the mechanisms for effective delivery of services and projects. He concluded.

Indeed, while this commentary on the Commission' s planned development of the region flourishes, for me, the invitation to the 2024 strategic retreat, of the past NDDC leaderships; the likes of Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Pioneer Chairman of the board, AVM. Larry Koinya, former Chairman and of course, Chief Timi Alaibe, Pioneer Managing Director, among others, was not only a right step taken in the right direction but exemplified a board and management that is ready, willing and eager to recognize as well as draw lessons from the wealth of experience of their predecessors.

This fact becomes even more appreciated when one brings to mind the fact that these past leaders in question in their goodwill messages at the retreat appreciated such gesture, adding that ever since they left NDDC, they have never been invited for such event.

This understanding of leadership as an endless circle of transition by the present board and management is in the opinion of this piece very commendable and worthy of emulation by other agencies, and Commission.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;[email protected]/08032725374.