The Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Efiong Akwa, says that the Commission will focus on completing on-going projects, particularly the university hostels in the nine Niger Delta states.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer stated this when he led a team of directors from the Commission to pay a courtesy visit to a foremost Niger Delta rights activist, Ann-Kio Briggs, at her residence in Port Harcourt.
Akwa enumerated several interventions that the NDDC would focus on, noting that the Management Committee identified education, agriculture and regional projects as top priority areas. According to him, uncompleted projects, especially in the area of education would be tackled expeditiously.
He stated: “We have decided to complete all the university hostels we started in the nine states. This is very important to help in addressing the problem of overcrowding at a time the world is battling with the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The NDDC boss underscored the need for collaboration with critical stakeholders to drive the process of development in the Niger Delta region, stating that the Commission would engage the governors, traditional rulers and other stakeholders of the region to ensure harmony in the execution of projects.
Akwa stated that the Commission would step up its intervention in several sectors, including regional roads. He said: “We want to work with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to complete the East-West Road. We will also initiate work on the dilapidated Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Works.
“In the area of shore protection, we will do our best to save our communities that are suffering from the effects of climate change.”
The Interim Administrator noted: “On assumption of office, we noticed that there were quick things we needed to fix in the system. Number one was to work on the image of the NDDC that has been bruised over time.
“Next, we tackled the aspects of extra budgetary expenditure. I had to get in touch with the leadership of the National Assembly to enable us defend our budget. They showed understanding and commitment to the people of the Niger Delta by allowing me to appear before a joint session of the two committees of the National Assembly overseeing NDDC in order to defend the budget. So, as we speak, we have a budget that will enable us to run and carry the people forward and complete the activities for which the commission was set up.”
Akwa explained that the Interim Management in the NDDC was composed of all the directors in the commission, dismissing the notion that the interventionist agency was being run by a sole administrator.
He said: “I hear people say that I am doing the job of a sole administrator.There is nothing like that because within the NDDC, we have up to 47 directors that join hands with me to take decisions in the joint management meetings.”
In her remarks, Ann-Kio Briggs commended the Interim Administrator for recognising the role of women in the issues that affect the Niger Delta region, stating that it would be unfair to blame the new leadership in the Commission for the rot that has taken place over the years.
She declared: “Women across the Niger Delta region are ready to support the Interim Management. We will mobilise the ethnic nationalities so that no matter the duration of the interim administration, we will make sure that you succeed in achieving tangible results.
“The issue of education is very critical and we are happy that you are going to intervene in that area. Completing the hostel projects in universities across the region is a welcome development.”
She urged the NDDC boss to take measures to ensure that beneficiaries of the Commission’s postgraduate foreign scholarship programme were not exposed to unnecessary hardship.
In the area of health, she observed that the people of the Niger Delta were suffering on account of oil and gas exploration and exploitation.
Briggs said: “The women and mothers in the region have been in the forefront of the struggle to bring development to the region. Women participated in the processes that led to the creation of the development agencies in the region, including the NDDC. We are glad that the NDDC Interim Administrator has recognized the role of women in the development efforts in the region.”
Briggs said that women will no longer accept the reduction of the NDDC to a cash cow for politicians, stating that the Commission was established to facilitate the rapid development of the region.
She lamented that the NDDC was being owed several billions of naira by the Federal Government due to shortfall in its contributions right from inception of the Commission in 2000 and called on the government to release the funds for the development of the Niger Delta region.
Briggs also regretted that the NDDC had not received contributions from the Ecological Fund since inception, in spite of the fact that the Act establishing the commission stated that it should get 50 per cent of monies due to member states of the commission from the ecological fund.