NDDC And The 10th NASS As Partners In Niger Delta Development

By  Jerome-Mario Utomi

In the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the current ruler of Dubai, and serves as the vice president, prime minister, and minister of defense of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), ‘teamwork is obviously the major driving force of any great undertaking. When each member of a team fully understands its part, he feels more committed to the team and more determined to provide his best. To realize our common goals in today’s complex economic scene, we need a higher level of coordination, not only by members of individual teams, but also, on a collective level. In fact, as public office holders, we should often always consider ourselves as Generals in the Army of nation building and development’.

Comparatively, very recently, Nigerians with critical minds have come to an exciting discovery that the above ordinance on teamwork, need for a higher level of coordination and view of public office holders as ‘Generals in the Army of nation building and development have finally found a home in Nigeria ; it daily reflect on the healthy working relationship between the leadership/members of the nation’s 10th National Assembly, and governing board and management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

For a better understanding of the direction the piece is headed, it is imperative to underline that Niger Delta is a region that in the past experienced uncountable hiccups which made it look rudderless and about to sink. At some point, the region and its people appeared to have mastered the challenges it was contending with and poised to the formidable which on the long run became elusive.

It is equally relevant to the present discourse to emphasize that right from the inauguration of the present governing board and management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), all those hitherto rumble, tumble and insurmountable hiccups and challenges confronting the region and its people, now appear solvable.

Essentially, while the above feat of sustainable transformation by the Commission is celebrated with great appreciation to the presidency for its unalloyed support through the supervising Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, another silent but salient point this piece is fixated at is the support and healthy working relationship the Commission enjoys with the members of the 10th National Assembly, particularly the Senate Committee on NDDC and its counterpart at the House of Representatives.

Aside from the prompt but painstaking screening and subsequent confirmation of the NDDC board and management by the Senate and House of Representatives, I recently had a fortunate opportunity to witness the commissioning by President Bola Tinubu, electricity and road projects executed by the Commission at Okitipupa in Ondo state and Ogbia in Beyelsa state respectively.

At the separate but related events, I listened with rapt attention to the goodwill messages delivered by Senator Asuquo Ekpenyong, Chairman, Senate Committee on NDDC. I also listened with interest to that of Honourable Erhiatake Ibori-Suenu, Chairman, Federal House of Representatives Committee on NDDC.

Clearly, the content of their messages, going by objective assessment, showcased a senate and House Committees desirous of seeing NDDC board and management succeed in their statutory responsibility and the region blossom in infrastructure, healthy environment and human capital development.

Take as an illustration, while the duo at the events congratulated the NDDC and the people of the region for the breakthroughs, they were particularly loud and clear in their promise of willingness to take any positive legislative step that will assist the NDDC governing board and management as presently constituted, succeed in its present statutory responsibility of bringing sustainable infrastructural and human capital development to the region and its people.

Indeed, the present understanding and pragmatic alliance by Barrister Chiedu Ebie led NDDC governing board and management, the Senate and House of Representatives Committees, for Niger Delta region development is not only commendable but timely. And if sustained, it will definitely usher in something new and different to the region and its people.

The reason is not farfetched.
First and very key, the long existence of total absence of infrastructure and deplorable state in some cases in the region particularly in the coastal/riverine communities was not only condemned but a reality worried about for years by Niger Deltans of goodwill, development professionals, Civil Society Organizations(CSOs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and of course, international community.

More specifically, for many years, most of the towns, communities and villages in the region had no potable water. Even those that initially had were no longer functional.

However, if what happened in the past concerning infrastructural absence and decay in the region was a challenge, that of education was a crisis.

Take as another illustration, a visit to the coastal part of the region reveals that they have not vanished physically but only exist in the frames. In the riverine communities, many children, particularly the children of fishermen and women, are out in school not because they are not willing to be educated but because the cost of education is beyond the reach of their parents.

For the majority in school, no learning takes place as a greater number of public schools sited in the area are short of teachers and dotted with dilapidated buildings. On the other hand, the private schools where the environment is conducive for learning are not only far from those communities but also capital intensive.

But, despite these sorry stories coming from the region, there are individuals and communities in recent time that are of the opinion that the ghost of dark days in the region have been put to rest and there is light at the horizon. Very recently, many communities going by reports have benefited tremendously from NDDC as a commission particularly under the present leadership and want it to continue. All they ask of the lawmakers is to creatively devise legislation that are coastal areas-specific to aid the NDDC achieve more in those localities particularly, as it concerns access to education, infrastructure, loveable environment, job opportunities, human capital development and sustainable future.

Catalyzing the process of achieving the aforementioned request will, from what analysts are saying, demand two immediate actions from the nation’s 10th National Assembly.

One, it calls for increased funding of the Commission. This is a reality that members of the NASS must not allow to go with the political winds if they are desirous of seeing their commitment and declarations at different occasions bear the targeted result.

For me, adequate funding of the agency must be implemented not for political reasons but for the survival of the region, its people and our democracy.

Still, another urgent demand from the national Assembly to assist NDDC perform its responsibility and fast track the development of its mandate states is the development of political will via effective legislations to compel International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the region pay their statutory fees to the Niger Delta Development Commission. This piece holds that it is not in any way a good commentary that IOCs and other corporate organizations operating in the region that are duty bound to make remittance to the Commission will complacently owe the agency with making any frantic effort to offset such indebtedness.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA). [email protected]/080327253 74.

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