The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has declared that the efforts of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to restore collaboration among stakeholders will help in fashioning a common roadmap for the development of the Niger Delta region.
Senator Akpabio stated this at a three-day Strategic Capacity Building workshop/Retreat for directors of the Commission at Ibom Icon Hotels and Golf Resort in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
He said that the retreat was a family meeting called to rub minds and to find ways to help the Commission fulfil the vision to offer a lasting solution to the socio-economic difficulties of the Niger Delta region.
He observed that the theme of the retreat, namely: “Collaborating, Planning and Re-strategizing for a better Niger Region,” was very apt.
Akpabio affirmed that the retreat was meant to challenge NDDC to interrogate and define, as well as prescribe a viable and formidable pathway towards facilitating the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.
He noted: “If strengthening NDDC, as an institution through its budgeting systems, as well as through its procurement, monitoring, evaluation and compliance processes, is not achieved, then the bells of doom would, inevitably, begin to toll harder.
“Weak political and institutional governance in the Niger Delta has led to the misuse of public resources, poor service delivery, and the poor enforcement, of the law. The consequence has been the lingering restiveness, the breakdown of trust, abuse and misuse of power between officials and the communities, and embezzlement and attendant violence.”
The Minister called attention to the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan (NDRDMP) which was activated in 2005 expired in 2020, stating: “There should be discussions of renewing the plan with the policies of the 17 SDG Goals incorporated in the new plan. It would also be healthy for the Commission to consider adopting some or all of the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact for carrying out business.
“Such institutional support would help budgeting, planning and implementation processes to achieve effective and efficient service delivery.”
“Several efforts at managing the oil and gas resources, in a way which fosters the development of the communities where they are extracted, have brought us to this day, to the existence of NDDC and to this retreat. This retreat recognizes that what is critical right now is to recalibrate our budgeting systems and processes, at all levels, internal and external.”
In his opening remarks, the NDDC Interim Administrator, Mr. Efiong Akwa, said the retreat was in furtherance of the on-going consultations with internal and stakeholders of the NDDC to distil commonalities.
He stressed: “We are here today to work towards creation of commonalities among stakeholders for speedy development of our beloved Niger Delta region.
“The NDDC is born again. Contrary to its distasteful past ways, the core of our new personae is continual consultations and collaboration with stakeholders to co-create commonalities for effective development of the Niger Delta.”
Akwa called on all stakeholders of the NDDC and the Niger Delta to join hands and work with the Commission to create a common way forward for the benefit of Niger Deltans.
In his own remarks, the Chairman Senate Committee on NDDC, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, said that there was need for all stakeholders to work together to ensure that the Niger Delta moves forward.
He commended the NDDC Interim Administrator for realizing the need for cooperation between the National Assembly and the Commission. He added: “In the past we had assisted the NDDC, to get the oil and gas companies to meet their statutory obligations to the Commission. We amended the law and today the NLNG is paying their dues to NDDC. We must always work towards cooperation and discussion for the good of every one.”
Speaking in a similar vein, the Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, said that the cordial relationship with the NDDC had facilitated some progress in amending the NDDC Act.
He gave credit to the Interim Administrator for the progress, describing him as one of the best choices this government had made. “I am very proud of you and the National Assembly is proud of what you are doing. We will give you all the support you need,” he assured.
He added his voice to the call to review the Niger Delta Master Plan, adding that the NDDC should also think of generating income for the Commission. “We need to harness all available funds to get NDDC projects done,” he said.
Tunji-Ojo remarked that one of the best things that had happened to the NDDC was the setting up of the forensic audit, which he said would help to clean up the Niger Delta.