The Impact of Niger Delta Development Commission in the Eyes of the Ordinary Niger Delta People
I wish to thank the organizers of this lecture for extending invitation to me. I see this as an opportunity to defend most of the issues we have raised in other platforms especially in the print media about whether or not the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has met the goals for which it was established. I am of the view that when we set up development agencies, we should also do some periodic evaluation of such agencies to know whether the aims and objectives for which they were established are being fulfilled. The topic of the lecture “The Niger Delta Development Commission in the Eyes of the Ordinary Niger Delta People could ordinarily have passed for a fait accompli, given the climate of internal power struggle and distrust among principal officers, compounded by board-management politics. Politics of this nature stultifies development.
It does appear that President Obasanjo fulfilled his 1999 electioneering promise by establishing the Commission in the year 2000 with a mandate of “improving social and environmental conditions in the South-South region, which it acknowledges as horrific in its own reports. To achieve its mandate, the NDDC board identified the following areas of focus: Development of social and physical infrastructure Technology Economic revival and prosperity Ecological/environmental remediation and stability Human development.
This paper seeks to examine the NDDC wearing the binoculars of the ordinary Niger Delta people. The paper should be seen as part of efforts to address the development challenges facing the Region. Therefore, the paper shall be striped of the scholarly gravity or the hard-headed analysis that may be expected. It should be seen more as a practical paper. If we acknowledge that development or lack of it is more of a practical thing than theoretical, appraising the impact of NDDC must start with what the people say, how they perceive the Commission to be, its policy direction and implementation templates. Again the appraisal of government development Agency involves policy, programme or ideas, which in other lands are used to propel development. For two years, I have had a romance with the Commission that is being discussed. So I have the benefit being a distant observer as well as a close but powerless player in the Commission. That was why I elected to narrate most of my personal experiences to allow this distinguished audience judge whether NDDC had
On a broader plain and within the context of a nation, there seems to be a consensus that there is an obvious disconnect between development agencies and the people especially when the implementation of programmes and projects are concerned. We refuse to accept the damning verdict that Nigeria is a failed State even though there is no much controversy that Nigeria failed in 2005. It is against this background that we assess the impact of any development Agency.
2. The Niger Delta Region:
Apart from Middle-East, which has a long historiography of interminable crises, the Niger Delta Region, NDR, is the most studied Region of the world. It is not surprising that there is a repertoire of literature covering the various epochs of the Region. Part of the literature is written objectively to genuinely address the development challenges of the people while part of the literature was tilted to satisfy some sectional interests especially that of the oil majors. It is not surprising that measures put together as palliatives often pale into insignificance. Could this be the reason for the increase in the misery index, the resurgence of militancy, compounded by frustration, marginalization, alienation and poverty in the Region?. Some analysts believe that the situation has been taken advantage a band of self-serving benefit captors, economic opportunists, political adventurers and conflict entrepreneurs, all feasting on the honey pot of crude oil.
The predominant settlement type in the Niger Delta is small and scattered hamlets. The vast majority of settlements comprise largely rural communities in dispersed village settlements. In total, there are 13,329 settlements in the Niger Delta Region. Extrapolations from the 1991 National Population Census show that at a growth rate of 2.9% the population of the Niger Delta Region by 2004 was about 30 million. Projected to 2015, it is expected that the population will be 41.5 million people. The projection is shown in table 1.
Table 1: Population Projection of the Niger Delta States
State 2005 2010 2015 2020
Abia 3,230,000 3,763,000 4,383,000 5,106,000
Akwa Ibom 3,343,000 3,895,000 4,537,000 5,285,000
Bayelsa 1710,000 1,992,000 2,320,000 2,703,000
Cross River 2,736,000 3,187,000 3,712,000 4,325,000
Delta 3,594,000 4,186,000 4,877,000 5,681,000
Edo 3,018,000 3,516,000 4,096,000 4,871,000
Imo 3,342,000 3,894,000 4,535,000 5,283,000
Ondo 3,025,000 3,524,000 4,105,000 4,782,000
Rivers 4,858,000 5,659,000 6,592,000 7,679,000
Total 28,856,000 33,616,000 39,157,000 45,715,000
Source: NDR Survey - based on National Population Commission
The NDR is characterized by widespread poverty with about 70% of the population live below the poverty line. This might have increased in recent years when so many graduates have been turned out without jobs. The pervasive poverty is due largely to the low the level of industrialization. This has been made more difficult by the activities of Trans-national Corporations TNCs, which have adversely affected the traditional economy of subsistence fishing and farming. In the NDR infant mortality and maternal morbidity are estimated to be 20% which is among the highest in the world. Modern transport infrastructure is inadequate and often hampered by a poor road network and harsh conditions especially in the coastal areas. Whereas there is hardly electricity supply in many riverine areas, telecommunication facilities are in acute short supply. Healthcare is less than desirable while the schools are ill-equipped hence they serve more as youth restive factories than institutions of learning. Waste management is culture is poor and this is exacerbated by the activities of oil companies. These harsh conditions provide a fertile ground for social unrest, conflict and instability.
The exclusion of Niger Delta communities in the control and management of the upstream and downstream operations of the oil industry is disastrous to their very existence as a people. For instance through the instrumentality of the Petroleum Act 1969 (as amended and other legislations), the local communities on whose lands oil is exploited, have been divested of their entitlements to their land and the oil produced from it. Indigenes of the Niger Delta hardly ever benefit from the allocation of Oil Prospecting Licenses (OPL) and are totally excluded from crude oil sales notwithstanding the fact that it is the local communities and the people that directly suffer from oil spillage, gas flaring, acid rain, and other forms of environmental degradation and pollution.
A Gallup Poll conducted on April 28, 2008 by Magali and Tortora (2008) . The Poll showed that 61% of Nigerians think the inhabitants of the Niger Delta are suffering and 63% of the respondents believe the people of the Region have a right to protest, however, a vast majority of Nigerians reject pipelines vandalization, hostage taking and kidnapping of women and children as means of protest. Damnable as it may seem, some sympathizers of the insurgents describe the crisis as part of a global move by an oppressed class to fight for freedom and economic justice.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the problems confronting the NDR is the myriad environmental hazards. The dangerous scenario was graphically captured in Article VI of the Kaiama Declaration:
The un-abating damage done to our fragile natural environment and to the health of our people is due largely to uncontrolled exploration and exploitation of crude oil and natural gas, which has led to numerous spills, gas flaring, the opening up of our forests to loggers, indiscriminate canalizations, flooding, coastal erosion and earth tremors…
The leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force: Dokubo Melford Goodhead aptly captured the situation thus:
The Niger Delta is a conquered territory. It is a place of ruthless internal colonization; it is a place where the gun, the tanker, the battleship, and the marauding war planes of the nation are always at the ready to deal destruction and death. The Niger Delta ware planes of the nation are always at the ready to deal destruction and death. The Niger Delta is the festering sore of the nation…The NigerDelta is a beggar by the roadside. The Niger Delta is a person raped and left for dead in a dark alley. It is a place of deepest sorrow
Generally, the familiar areas of crisis in the NDR bother on revenue allocation in terms of basis for equitable fiscal federalism; agitations pertaining to the creation of States and LGAs; boundary adjustments; key government appointments and the distribution of federal projects. All these challenges are exacerbated because of general governance failure.
Presently, Nigeria is reputed to be the sixth greatest oil producing country in the world. Nigeria is also an influential member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Nigeria earns about 95% of her foreign exchange from crude oil and gas, and these resources are produced in the Niger Delta Region. The paradox is that the NDR is marginalized in addition to the burden of severe environmental degradation and their negative multipliers .
3. The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC
The Willink Report of 1958 succinctly declared that the NDR are a group of independent and autonomous kingdoms and peoples, with separate languages, culture and religion, equal in status and in no way subordinate to one another but united as a corporate body to form the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The report also recommended that the Niger Delta be given special attention. This eventually led to the establishment of various interventionist agencies.
Following the Willink Commission Report of 1958, the Niger Delta Development Board, NDDB, was created in 1960. The Board did not create any impact until the 30 month fratricidal civil war. This was followed by the establishment of the Niger Delta Basin Development Authority, NDBDA. Like its predecessor agency, the NDBDA was under-funded in such a manner as not create any meaningful impact. Besides, the Federal Government created ten (10) other Basin Authorities and funded the others to the detriment the original one. The NDBDA was also emasculated by the Nigerian experience.
The renewed agitations during the Second Republic led to the establishment in 1980, of the 1.5% Presidential Task Force. The Task Force could not create the desired impact because of poor funding. The Babangida regime in 1992 created the Oil Mineral Producing Development Areas Commission (OMPADEC) which was killed by the conspiracy of official highhandedness, under funding and lack of accountability. Now, the subsisting Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC is under-funded and there are genuine complaints about lack of internal accountability within the Commission. For the past 12 years of its existence, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has achieved very little.
Nigeria is a crude oil mono-culture and a rentier state par excellence because it relies exclusively on foreign exchange on crude oil. A rentier State and rentier economy lead to a rentier mentality, which dooms a country's economy and long-term prospects. The implication is that there is exceptionally high value for oil and a corresponding usually high level of external interventions in shaping the affairs of the country. Essentially, Nigeria has less subject to the internal countervailing pressures. This explains why the conflict in the NDR snowballed into a mini-form of insurgency.
The local population suffers from economic exclusion – they do not participate in the ownership, production and enjoyment of their own resources because of an unfair legal regime.
4. Functions and Powers of the Commission:
The Functions and Powers of the Commission, are provided for in Part II of the NDDC Act
7. (1) The Commission shall-
(a) Formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger- Delta, area,
(b) conceive, plan and implement, in accordance with set rules and regulations, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of tie Niger-Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, education, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications;
(c) Cause the Niger-Delta area to be surveyed in order to ascertain measures which are necessary to promote its physical and socio- economic development,
(d) Prepare master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the Niger-Delta area and the estimates of the costs of implementing such master plans and schemes;
(e) Implement all the measures approved for the development of the Niger- Delta area by the Federal Government and the member States of the Commission;
(f) Identify factors inhibiting the development of the Niger-Delta area and assist the member States in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the Niger-Delta area,
(g) assess and report on any project being funded or carried out in the Niger-Delta area by oil and gas producing companies and any other company including non-governmental organizations and ensure that funds released for such projects are properly utilised;
(h) tackle ecological and environmental problems that arise from the exploration of oil mineral in the Niger-Delta area and advise the Federal Government and the member States on the prevention and control of oil spillages gas flaring and environmental pollution etc.
The functions of NDDC as provided by the Act are nebulous hence until the management and Board of NDDC exercises substantial discretion, the Commission may be tempted to do everything and achieve nothing.
The implication of carrying out these functions is that the Commission has to partner with other agencies, hire the services of contractors and consultants and or interact with other stakeholders. For Example, the NDDC hired about 32 Sector Consultants in preparing the Master Plan, yet till date, the plan has not been fully owned-up by the agencies and peoples of the Region. Attempts at establishing a clearing House called PARTNERSHIP FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT failed woefully. But even at this monumental failure, NDDC continues with this ritual and rendezvous. The proposed PSD PROTOCOL was rejected by the Governors of the nine States and even the 185 LGAs are yet to fully buy into it in spite of several attempts at constructive engagement and consultation workshops.
It may be right to observed the NDDC produced the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan, but the claim has been that the modest inputs of stakeholders in the process were not factored-into the finished product. While it is difficult for me to disown the Master Plan, I can say without any qualm of conscience that the Master Plan process from conception, crafting to finishing did not include the people hence it is neither acceptable to the people nor can it be implemented. Whereas one consultant said the Plan stands on one leg, another said it was totally removed from the socio-cultural milieu of the people. The Commission is believed to have spent several billions of Naira in the crafting process.
There is the fear that if the NDDC limits its role to that of infrastructural development, it might as well be merged with the Ministry of Niger Delta. But it does appear that the Amnesty Programme has brought about peace in the Niger Delta and this account for the increase in the production of crude oil.
5. Appraisal of the Performance of NDDC
It will be futile to examine the entire development agency in one single paper. Here, what I chose to do was to examine a few of the programmes of NDDC to ascertain whether or not the Commission has done well in the eyes of the ordinary Niger Deltan. Under consideration here are projects that were designed to alleviate poverty, curb youth restiveness and enable the people to create wealth.
i. NDDC Quick Impact Projects
In most stakeholders meetings, NDDC had explained that while the Master Plan was being crafted. It implemented an interim Action in which it embarked on interventionist programmes that would have direct and immediate impact on the people. In the interim plan, the Commission identified what it called Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) which according to NDDC would accelerate the temps of development in some key sectors of the regional economy. Seven of such QIP areas are identified. These include:
Education or Regional Model Secondary Schools
HIV/AIDS and Malaria Control
Institute of Good Governance and Sustainable Development
Micro and Small Business Development
Sports Development and
Power Supply and Energy.
The Commission could not deliver in any of these Quick Impact Projects. These are areas that could have had direct bearing on the lives of the ordinary Niger Delta people. NDDC's score card in the education QIP is perhaps the worst. In May 2005 the Technical Committee on Education was mandated to do valuation work and financial estimates were worked out. The model schools were billed to take-off in September 2005, but the date was put forward to 2006. Sadly, till date NDDC has not built even one Model Secondary Schools in spite of engaging professional consultants in that regard. The effort and money spent on the QIPs is a monumental waste.
ii. The NDDC Mass Transit Scheme:
NDDC procures buses and the intention was to give out these vehicles give them out on hire purchase to the public. Sadly, while the Commission procured the wrong type of buses considering the nature of Nigerian Roads, the project was hijacked by those who administered it. What became the practice was for NDDC principal officers to own as many of the buses as possible and then give them out to drivers who had to work themselves out to pay a balance of N7, 000.00 per day. The result was that in less than two years of its operation more than one-quarter of the buses were either destroyed or abandoned. The Mass Transit Scheme was conceived to alleviate poverty but it led to the aggravation of the scourge for the ordinary Niger Delta people.
iii. The NDDC/Glo Empowerment Scheme:
This was another grand deception designed to create a false impression of empowering the ordinary people. NDDC entered into a multi-billion Naira partnership with GLo Nigeria Limited. Initially expectations were very high but what did the Commission deliver? A handful of youths, mostly relatives of NDDC staff were listed and each was given a starter pack of Acatel GSM worth about N6, 000.00, an umbrella, two plastic chairs and a table. The empowerment programme was so ridiculous that some youths sold the entire starter pack for less than N9, 000.00 and spent the money on alcoholic beverages at the Commission's gate.
iv. NDDC NTAC Contracts:
The Niger Delta Technical Aid Corp, NTAC Projects, which are capacity building programmes for graduates have been grossly mismanaged. The integral part of NTAC Projects is computer Training Programmes. Till date the Commission is indebted to NTAC because the monies for defraying the fees are lodged in private accounts to yield interest for the account holders. At the inauguration of the present Board, Mr. President said unequivocally that” Government needs a technocrat as the Managing Director in NDDC to inject seriousness, focus and professionalism in handling the affairs of the Commission, to effectively position it as an intermediary organ to follow up the Presidential vision” This Presidential Vision appears to have been negated.
In the 2010 fiscal year, 28 jobs were given to Bayelsa State to tender for, and these are jobs under N250 million. Unfortunately, 19 out of the 28 jobs were given out from the Commission without the knowledge of the State Commissioner while only 9 jobs were given to the State concerned. Other State Commissioners made similar complaints. Actions of this type erode the powers and undermine the integrity of the Board.
v. NDDC/SPDC MOU on the Yenegwe-Kolo-Nembe-Brass Road Project
The Yenegue-Kolo-Nembe-Brass Road has been on the drawing board for about 50 years. Federal Government of Nigeria has had the Yenegwe-Kolo-Nembe-Brass Road on its drawing board since 1960. In 1972 but has failed to give us this road ever since. The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) made various public commitments to build the Otuegila-Nembe Road. It even called for tenders for the construction of the road, (Vide its advert in the Guardian newspaper of Monday August 2001), in which it indicated the commencement date as January 2002 and completion date as December 2005. SPDC has again not met that publicized commitment by failing to commence work up till now.
From the few projects and programmes mounted by the Commission, the verdict has been that, within the limits of financial constraints, NDDC failed woefully to execute those programmes that would have yielded positive results in the life of the ordinary Niger Delta people. The Commission focuses on big projects that will satisfy contractors rather than the ordinary Niger Delta people.
6. Challenges Facing the NDDC
Self-aggrandizement of the top shots of NDDC, as all of them are jostling to benefit from the contracts. When the leaders of an organization place their interest first before the overall interest, the people's interest will be scarified on the Golgotha of self-interest. Because of the poor impression created by the leaders most people see NDDC as a mere contract awarding agency. The aim of every contractor is to maximize profit and this is why most people find it difficult to understand terminologies as QIPs, master plan, partnership for sustainable development etc. This is the major challenge the commission is facing now in trying to sell the master plan to stakeholders. NDDC is trying to do everything ranging from mass transit; dust bins; glo-starter packs; fishing equipment; school furniture to cassava farms. Lack of clear focus and attempting to “do all” can only help spread available resources thinly without critical mass and lack of specialization.
Violation of the Act Establishing NDDC
The MD has consistently flouted and brazenly violated parts of the Act establishing the Commission. Incidents of such violations are legion and deliberate. They range from the award of contracts without due process; non-implementation of the Board's decisions, undue interference with the statutory functions of State Representatives to creating a Due Process Unit, which is used as an excuse to perpetrate heinous financial crimes in the Commission.
Creeping usurpation of The Functions Of The Board
The NDDC Board has statutory functions as stated in Part II (8). These functions are as follows:
The Board shall have power to:- (a) manage and supervise affairs of the Commission; (b) make rules and regulations for carrying out the functions of the Commission, (c) enter and inspect premises, projects and such places as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out its functions under this Act; etc.
The Board is made up of credible people with impeccable integrity yet we discovered to our utter dismay that asserted that the Board cannot give him directives and therefore made it impossible for the Board to function. In the recent past, there was undue interference in the affairs of NDDC by the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government. As one State Commissioner describes it “the office kills every viable programme and policy initiatives by the Board and stifles their implementation. It ridicules the decisions of the Board by permitting NDDC contract award letters to be flaunted outside the Commission and sole cheaply to contractors”. These reports point to the fact that there have been flagrant abusees of contract procedures and due process in the Commission.
State offices were created out of the necessity for the proper coordination of State projects and to create employment opportunities for the people. Now State offices are not being run effectively because of politics. As we speak, there is conflict between the Management and the State Commissioners and this negatively affects policy implementation in the States. There are allegations that while Management is most inclined to use Federal Government circulars and memos to administer the Commission; the Board insists that Management should make reference to the NDDC Act in matters concerning administration. There is disconnect between the Board and Management and this has culminated in mutual antagonism, distrust and high wire politics –all these stifle initiative and productivity of the staff.
Official Corruption: Over-invoicing and the Use of Cronies
The Public Procurement Law of 2007 also applies to the NDDC. Recently, it is public knowledge that the Due Process Unit has been empowered to draft contract agreements, whereas the Commission has a Legal Department. This negates bidding and open tendering process. The impression being created is that most Niger Delta people believe that NDDC contracts are given to only those who are politically connected; hence they do not make serious efforts to secure jobs. The conditions for tendering and bidding are so harsh that not many Niger Delta people can meet them. It therefore implies that Therefore, NDDC contracts are indirectly meant for people outside the Region. One of the conditions is that contractors will not obtain mobilization and are expected to deliver on the first milestone. My investigations show that these harsh conditions were unilaterally introduced by the present Management without the approval of the Board.
Procedure of Awarding Contracts
Whereas the Board has raised alarm that the award did not follow due process and in breach of the Public Procurement Act, the beneficiaries/consultants were found to be close allies of some principal officers. The question is: Where is the Due Process Bureau when all these fraudulent activities are perpetrated?
Contradictions in the NDDC Act of 2000
The Act establishing the NDDC has inherent contradictions. Some of these contradictions are highlighted below:
Part III, (II) 2 states that the Advisory Committee shall be charged with the responsibility of advising the Board and monitoring the activities of the constitution, with a view to achieving the objectives of the Commission. The Advisory Committee has never been seen to play any significant role in NDDC. I refer it to another layer of inefficiency which must notv be funded. This weakens the control mechanism of the MD and other executive Directors of the commission. The Federal Government has not been very fateful in the release of funds due the commission. While the MNC's can be said to be doing their best the same cannot be said of the Federal Government. Part V (14). b 3 percent of the total annual budget of any oil producer's company operating on-shore and offshore, in the Niger Delta shall be credited to NDDC
Languid Budgetary Procedure:
The NDDC's recurrent expenditure is too high. The gestation period between the award of contracts and their completion time gives rise to project cost-overrun because the payment system is done in milestones, which creates room for the upward review of contract values. It is therefore difficult for even external auditors to detect cases of fraud in respect of over-inflation of contract values. There are projects that have occurred and reoccurred in the NDDC for 5 years without being completed. NDDCs budgets, in the formative years such as between 2 to 6 years have always been unrealistic budget. The attitude of the Federal Government in releasing allocations to the Commission does not help matters. In NDDC's budgetary process, the Federal Government through the NASS exercises an over-bearing influence.
Lack of Focus
In the eyes of the masses, NDDC has become a jack of all trades and master of none. The Commission embarks upon any project ranging from the building of six classroom blocks; cottage hospitals; provision of laboratory equipment, building of bridges construction of roads, canalization rural electrification to the provision of potable water. The Commission's inability to concentrate on a few areas results in wasted efforts.
The issues the report highlights are corruption; environmental degradation; bunkering of oil; lack of development; no business climate, and the need to diversify the economy away from its reliance on oil and towards agriculture to increase job and investment prospects. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDCC), in charge of managing development projects in the region, is too focused on big projects with little effort or thought on its sustainability. This means that the money tends to be wasted. The situation on corruption in Nigeria shows that President Obasanjo is tackling the issue, but more needs to be done. The government needs to support the Finance Minister's proposals for reducing corruption and improving the country's economy.
Persistent Internal Crises:
For the better part, NDDC has become a theatre of interminable crises. When there is conflict within the Commission, such conflicts are sometimes allowed to snowball into a crisis level and they command robust media attention. Inability on the part of principal officers to resolve inherent conflicts within the NDDC creates several windows for politicians to exploit. Recently, the Presidential Committee headed by Mr. Steve Oronsaye is a case in point.
Establish a Trust Fund with the revenues through natural resource funds. In Norway, there exists the Norway's State Petroleum Fund or the Alaska Permanent Fund such that these funds are deployed for the development of infrastructure in a transparent manner. In Nigeria, monies accruing to the state above projected revenue are declared as “excess crude oil “funds” and shared among the three organs of government without spilt-over effect on the real sectors of the economy. Only recently, a Sovereign Trust Fund has been established, but whether it will be effective or not is yet another matter.
The Niger Delta Region has a lot of conflict entrepreneurs who derive enormous political and social capital hence the place has been rendered a war zone where beneficiaries engage in economic opportunism and military adventurism. Only a well-articulated and holistic development plan can reverse the orgy of violence, hostage taking and cyclical instability. Therefore, all stakeholders should muster up the will and determination to entrench justice and fairness as a sine qua non for lasting peace in the oil rich NDR. The NDR cannot afford a relapse to a state of lawlessness, anomie and insecurity.
In the Niger Delta Region everybody is ordinary because even the few that try to build empires have to grapple with a very high dependency ratio. The Niger Delta agitation was anchored on the issues of marginalization, environmental despoliation, and infrastructural decay and poverty amidst plenty. As far as these conditions still persist, there can never be sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region. The reports of the Niger Delta Technical Committee must be gathering dust somewhere but the reality is that not an ounce of that report has been implemented. The resources and energy government is spending to sustain the amnesty program should be intensified, but government should focus on a more enduring solution to the Niger Delta challenge – the most critical being youth unemployment.
Basically, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Ministry of Niger Delta, have the same approach to development. The aim has been the need for structural transformation of the region's economy and societies. In the NDR, about 80% of people of the region are unemployed, but the NDDC does not have a clear policy on job creation. The implication is that majority of the people in the Region will continue to remain poor, unemployed and underemployed. The 2011 budget of the Ministry of Niger Delta, the ministry also has no plan for investment. In effect, it has no plan to diversify the economy of the region. Its capital expenditure is mainly on infrastructure. Furthermore, both the commission and ministry approach, at best will reinforce subsistence forms of livelihood in the informal economy.
The news that President Goodluck Jonathan, while campaigning in the Delta State capital Asaba, pledged that if elected he would “refocus the (Niger Delta Development Commission), NDDC to generate people oriented projects rather than crises “has raised public scrutiny on the entire idea of Niger Delta Development leaning on the NDDC strategy. From 2003 to 2007, the NDDC was turned into a political competitor of the constituent States so from the outset it could not get the states to cooperate by paying their dues. I was dumbfounded that the Commission could expend such huge sums of money, men and materials to produce a Master Plan without anyone raising an eyebrow. Nworisara (2006) one of the foremost critics of the document in an essay titled “A departure from the Niger Delta Master plan” published wondered why the people of the Niger Delta have not queried the Master Plan crafting process. The non-implementation of the Master Plan is a huge disadvantage to the Region. This is a huge distraction that the Commission now faces. The Agency must now be refocused as the President had earlier pledged.
The following On the strength of the analysis, the following recommendations are made:
The Federal Government should pay more attention to the developmental challenges of the NDR. Niger Delta. It is no longer sufficient for them to deal with the region solely through the Nigerian government. The federal government has failed repeatedly to live up to its responsibilities.
The Federal Government should abrogate the Land Use Act of 1978, as the Act has destroyed the use of land as a factor of production. By Sections 34 and 36 of the Land Use Act the Government has by this single stroke of the pen given to her that which it does not have did not have in the first place. The Governor under the Land Use Act has assumed ownership of what it never owned. Therein lies the (blind) fallacy of Government in the abuse of the principle of Nemo Dat Quod Non Habet (No one can give what he does not have) established under the Common Law.
It has become imperative for government to revisit the NDDC Act to ensure the Commission's functions are limited in scope. The present Act gives the powers to do everything and that is why it does appear that nothing is being done in the Region.
Memorandum of understanding between the Federal Government and the Oil companies in their joint venture agreement and the production sharing contract should be harmonized to ensure the preservation of Nigeria's national interest.
The multinational companies are sources of conflict and the Federal Government has a moral responsibility to supervise their conduct, even though they are private business.
The policy recommendation here is that the present administration should establish Niger Delta Industrial Development Corporation (NDIDC) as a development finance institution. States in the Region should invest in the proposed NDIDC to become shareholders. Also, a certain percentage of their annual budget should be dedicated to industrial development, to among other things support industrial development, especially high value-added manufacturing.
Boards and Agencies should be set up to address the issues of: agricultural development, housing, education, health, employment, Water supply, Power and Energy, Infrastructure (roads, rail, sea and air), Security.
The way oil companies respond to environmental damages and pollution in the other parts of the world must be the same way they handle such problems in Nigeria.
Government at all levels should proactively engaged in compelling the multinational oil companies to change their corruptible, exploitative, destabilizing intimidating, brutalizing and destructive business.
Government should compel the MNCs to employ a certain percentage of their workforce come directly from the oil producing communities. This will encourage ownership among the people of the Region. As part of their corporate social responsibility, the MNCs should invest a certain percentage of their resources in the region through infrastructural and institutional development. This will help in confidence building and reduce conflict. This should be implemented along with a sustainable and proactive re-orientation of youth.
On the long run, the abrogation of the Land Use Act, the Petroleum Act and other laws alienating the host communities will create a sense of ownership, douse tension and entrench lasting peace in the Region. Let us discredit the idea that oil is thicker than blood. It is a pseudo dogma that should not apply in the Niger Delta.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Sept 6th 2011
Deputy President, Niger Delta Integrity Group