Traditional rulers from the Niger Delta region have applauded the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for building the capacity of stakeholders and engaging them in the budgetary processes aimed at developing Nigeria’s oil-rich region.
The monarchs bared their minds during a one-day capacity building workshop, involving traditional rulers, civil society organisations and leaders of youth groups, at Watbridge Hotel and Suites in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Speaking at the workshop, the National President of the Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON), and the paramount ruler of Ibeno, Owong Effiong Archianga, stressed the need to carry stakeholders along in budget preparation and monitoring.
He remarked: “Since in budgeting, funding is very critical, I call on this august assembly to take a critical look on section 14, 2a of the NDDC Act of 2000 as amended.” The section, he said, states that the Federal Government would contribute the equivalent of 15 per cent of the total monthly statutory allocations due to the member states of the Commission from the federation account.
The TROMPCON President remarked that the provision was ambiguous and should be reviewed to enable the Federal Government contribute directly to the NDDC.
Archianga posited that NDDC project monitoring committee should include traditional rulers because most of the projects were done in their various domains. “In fact, they should be consulted when projects are to be executed in their areas,” he said.
The royal farther said that in future, NDDC budgets “should focus on youth employment and not just empowerment, so as to create a better future for the teaming young graduates in the region.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Chairman of the Abia State Traditional Rulers Council, Eze Joseph Nwabeke, harped on the need for NDDC to continually engage stakeholders at the local level to be able to get their buy-in and ensure that they participated in monitoring the Commission’s projects in their areas.
In his own remarks, the National President of the Host Communities Organisation in Nigeria, HOSTCOM, Dr Benjamin Tamiararebi, commended the NDDC for organizing the stakeholders’ engagement, stating that it was fundamental to have such discussions.
He remarked that such meetings were long overdue. According to the HOSTCOM President, oil-producing communities deserved a special attention from interventionist agencies such as NDDC, to ensure the sustainable development of the long neglected region, stating: “Our people deserve to be consulted in all development programmes designed for the oil-producing communities.”
Earlier in his presentation, an expert in budget and public finance management, Dr Greg Ezeilo, gave details of budgetary concepts, principles and techniques. His presentation was based on the theme: “Effective Budget Preparation, Implementation and Monitoring Strategies.”
He said that the only government some people in the rural communities know was the NDDC because it was providing roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructure.
Ezeilo said that budgeting was a tool for planning and controlling the nation’s resources, noting that a good budget would essentially provide the right information; fiscal transparency; be realistic and flexible, as well as demonstrate accountability and transparency.
He harped on the importance of accommodating stakeholders’ needs through effective participation in the budget process, stating that it was key to achieving synergy between all parties.
Ezeilo noted that in dealing with the core objectives of budgeting, it should be managed within predictable and clear limits of fiscal policy. He declared: “Budgets should be aligned closely with the goals of the government. It should be planned and monitored and budget monitoring should be encouraged.”
He further stated that stakeholders’ engagement was necessary to help organisations manage costs effectively and enhance their reputation.
The NDDC Director Planning, Mr. Davies Okarevu, said that it was the vision of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and the NDDC Interim Administrator, Mr. Efiong Akwa, to bring stakeholders together to be part of the budgeting processes of the Commission.
He expressed appreciation to the key stakeholders that had shown interest in collaborating with the NDDC in the challenging task of fast-tracking the development of the Niger Delta region.
He explained that the workshop was a technical session for the leaders of the various segments of the society.
Okarevu said that from now on, NDDC will be working with budgets with the inputs of the people of the region.