Posted by News Express | 1 April 2016 | 4,101 times
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established in 2000, with the mission of facilitating rapid and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful. The commission has the mandate of formulating policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta area, as well as implementation of all the measures approved for the development of the region by the Federal Government and the nine oil-producing states of the region.
NDDC is also conferred with the constitutional powers of identifying those factors inhibiting the development of the Niger Delta region for the purpose of assisting member-states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources in the oil-rich region.
However, it seems the commission has conspicuously failed to either perform effectively or discharge its mandate in compliance with the law that established it. This was however, echoed by the Senate Committee on NDDC Affairs, during a recent visit to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in Government House, Umuahia. The leader of the delegation and chair of the committee, Senator Peter Nwoboshi, unambiguously and without contradictions explained their mission. To inspect and carry out on-the-spot assessment of NDDC projects in the state and situate findings with the commission's budgetary allocations; to interface with the state government to mutually identify priority projects for inclusion in the 2016 NDDC budget and, finally, to underscore and measure the level of impact by NDDC projects in the overall development of Abia State.
The visit, therefore, provided the much-needed opportunity and forum for Ikpeazu to unveil his informed opinion on the activities of NDDC in Abia. After detailed enumerations that unarguably suggested the failure of NDDC in its intervention programmes in the state, the governor, however, took further steps canvassing for a strategic review in the policy formulation and operations of the commission towards impacting positively on the states and lives of the people in the region.
According to him, NDDC should evolve a strategic action plan that will comparatively and corroboratively fuse its intervention programmes into alliance with the developmental agenda of each of the nine states of the Niger Delta. This shall involve identifying areas of advantage and strength of each of the states. With particular reference to Abia, NDDC should identify and embark on projects and programmes that expressly conform with the development agenda and entrepreneurial recreation policy of the Ikpeazu-led government.
For instance, Ikpeazu has within 10 months he assumed office ambitiously embarked on massive road construction in Aba, the commercial nerve-centre and other areas in the state. About 60 roads are presently under reconstruction with about 10 of them completed and even commissioned. The focus on Aba is not only targeted at addressing the infrastructural deficit and decay that had enveloped the city, but strategically aimed at resuscitating trade and commerce, as well as revive entrepreneurial activities that were hitherto the hallmark of the great Enyimba City. Most of these roads are solidly constructed using the new modern cement rigid technology that prescribes a guarantee of about 20 years. That is why in his opinion, the governor canvassed that NDDC road projects must be of same standard and rigidity with those being constructed by his government. The ultimate purpose is to ensure that Abia overcomes the backwardness orchestrated by bad roads and collapse of public infrastructure via rigidly constructed roads guaranteed to last for over 20 years. To achieve this lofty objective in Abia, NDDC as an interventionist, must seek the recommendations and input of the state administration in choosing contractors for Abia road projects. The commission must closely liaise with the state government in identifying priority projects for purposeful and meaningful development. This will definitely ensure that only people-oriented and economically viable projects are executed to complement the efforts of the state government. For Ikpeazu, the tradition of awarding projects for states and appointing contractors from Abuja, apparently to satisfy individual interest, will always rubbish the good intentions of NDDC and continually slow down development in the Niger Delta region.
On the collapsed federal roads that link Aba to neighboring states/cities, Governor Ikpeazu, after a pathetic narrative, wondered why NDDC is yet to intervene and possibly rescue the state from total collapse. The Port Harcourt road that links Aba to Rivers is nothing but a disaster and completely impassible; the Ikot-Ekpene road linking Aba to Ikot-Ekpene, Uyo and Calabar has also collapsed and remains impassible; the Umuahia -Ikot-Ekpene road that links the capital city to Akwa-Ibom is also impassible. Toeing the opinion line of Ikpeazu, NDDC, as a federal government intervention body for oil-producing states, should have prioritised and focused its programmes in Abia by fixing those dilapidated and collapsed federal roads that connect the two major cities of Umuahia and Aba to the neighbouring states. The pitiable situation whereby Aba-Owerri road now serves as the only access and exit road to Aba could not have been so if the commission had rightly prioritised its programmes in Abia State.
Also, considering the present economic down-turn and sudden crash of crude price in the global oil market, which presently pose stiff challenges to the economy of the nation and states, the governor, in his submission, expects NDDC to identify areas of economic survival. In Abia State, Ikpeazu has evolved certain policies and programmes aimed at reviving trade and commerce, small and medium manufacturing as well as promote entrepreneurial skills. The Education for Employment Programme, christened E4E, the Standardisation of Made-in-Aba products, the creation of Abia Market Development Committee, the Campaign for the Patronage of Made-in-Aba products are among potent measures already put in place to boost the economy of the state and shore up internally-generated revenue for the state government. With the level of progress so far recorded via some of these economic policies and programmes, Ikpeazu expects NDDC to strategically collaborate with his government by working out certain empowerment schemes. These include offering credit facilities/loans to small-scale manufacturers and artisans, providing essential facilities for enhanced skill acquisition programmes, procuring and donating essential equipment and machines for small-scale manufacturers and artisans. Rather than embark on projects that lack socio-economic sense, Ikpeazu strongly believes that purposeful collaboration with the state government towards boosting the economy of Abia State via trade and other concerted entrepreneurial activities will ultimately reposition the state economically and create job opportunities for the people.
Therefore, what could be summarily deduced from the governor’s prescriptions for a refocused NDDC programmes, not only in Abia but entirely the nine states that form the Niger Delta, is the urgent need for the commission to operate as a partner with the oil-producing states in the business of development. Rather than operate as a ‘compensatory contract centre’ for some greedy politicians who are friends of the Federal Government, the commission should identify the policy direction and agenda of each of the nine Niger Delta states and formulate programmes expected to fast-track development in each of the states in the region. With the current wobbling economic situation in the country, NDDC should judiciously utilise whatever budgetary allocation approved by the National Assembly on people-oriented projects. This will be mostly achieved by engaging only competent and God-fearing contractors who will not see the jobs as compensation for either loosing elections or supporting the ruling party at the centre.
•Uzoukwa, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Umuahia.
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