*Ndoma-Egba urges more partnership with states
05 February 2017, Lagos — The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere, at the weekend said, notwithstanding the expenditure of a whopping $40 billion on capital projects, the commission has failed to realise its 15-year master plan. The $40 billion represents 80 percent of the $50 billion required to implement the vision for the oil-rich region.
Ekere gave this revelation at a three-day retreat of the commission in Onne, Rivers State, where the chairman of the NDDC Board and former Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, advised the NDDC to cease seeing member-state governments as competitors but as development partners in the overall interest of the region.
He, however, contended that for the commission to maximally realise its potential, it must firstly confront and tame what he described in his paper as the “dangerous beasts” that are stalling development and progress at the commission.
“The NDDC master plan originally required 15 years to implement at a cost of $50 billion. The region has received $40 billion over the past 10 years and sadly, there is little evidence to show for the sums spent. Poor governance of self and institutions are at the heart of public sector delivery challenges,” he said, adding that the result of such a posting was disheartening.
Giving some practical approach to tackling the NDDC challenge through his power-point presentation, Ekere, who claimed to have drawn inspiration from JK Rowling, author of the Harry Porter franchise, who recently released a movie, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, identified seven vices he reckoned were at the root of the NDDC challenge.
He listed the vices to include pride/humility, gluttony/temperance, sloth/diligence, envy/kindness, greed/charity, wrath/forgiveness and lust/chastity, arguing that the impact of these vices on development was evident in the parity evaluation amongst Nigeria, China and South Korea, with the two other countries leaving the nation behind in terms of development indices after 50 years of starting at a competitive level.
He also identified some of the implications as “poorly delivered infrastructure that decays rapidly; lack of social services to the citizenry; pervasive poverty and resurgent militant attacks on oil and gas installations, which leads to pollution of the environment and reduced income to the government and the NDDC.”
These elements he described as the beasts at the commission, he further noted, had affected majorly, the organisational performance, financial performance as well as the NDDC master plan, the three of which he further broke down into smaller and comprehensible sub-headers.
But to tame the menace, he came up with a 4-R cage solution that could help address the challenges faced by the board. They are Restructuring, Reforming, Restoring and Reaffirming. All of these, he claimed, would help control the debt offspring, constrain daily operations in line with the rules, chart a new course for the board and ultimately, reiterate its commitment to doing that which is right at all times.
Ekere also said with about N1.2 trillion contingent liabilities on its balance sheet, the NDDC needed to find ways to free funds for urgent development projects and programmes in line with new strategic focus, in addition to effective deployment of the 4-R cage.
Corroborating Ekere’s position, the General Manager, External Relations at the Shell Petroleum Development Company, Mr. Igo Weli, said contrary to insinuations that Shell was not paying what it should for the development of the region, it had so far paid N135 billion and $1.1 billion with the current exchange rate differential.
He also mentioned other areas the company had played its support part like the joint reconciliation of statutory payments, which comes up once in two years; project/activity specific partnership and collaboration like the Ogbia/Nembe road and the support work of National Assembly committees on the region.
In the same vein, representative of NEITI Executive Secretary, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, also hinted at some of the remittances the agency had paid to the NDDC, a majority of them not accounted for. According to NEITI FASD report of 2007 to 2011, he said about N7.4billion funds allocated to 9 states were not accounted for.
In addition, he said about 22 projects were duplicated and valued at N1.188 billion, even as he claimed companies were underpaid by $390 million in the years under review. He, therefore, urged the commission to embrace cooperate governance that is built on openness, efficiency and accountability.
In his remarks, however, Ndoma-Egba said, “We must be partners, development partners to state and local governments, and not competitors. Therefore, our vision should be the creation of a regional economy with drivers that will be youth-friendly as a motivated, educated and empowered youth remains the real source of any nation, not oil or mineral resources.”
On the flip side, he said “An ill-motivated, uneducated and un-empowered youth, on the other hand, will be a curse and a danger to the nation. We, therefore, have a sacred responsibility to make our youth a real resource and a blessing to our region and country.”
“Governors complain that member-state governments make no inputs whatsoever into the NDDC budgets, projects and programmes and these are foisted on them to their disapproval. Rather, than being a partner to member states, the commission is instead in competition, not only with states but with local governments in terms of projects and programmes,” he said.
Quoting Section 7(1) (b) of the NDDC Act, the former Senate Leader said the Act envisages a diversified but integrated regional economy for the region, adding that “Youth-friendly drivers for this regional economy will be ICT, sports, the creative industry, agriculture and manufacturing supported by inter-modal transportation, health, and education infrastructure with adequate power supply.”
*Olawale Olaleye – Thisday