Port Harcourt — Civil Society Organizations in Rivers State, have regretted that the Niger Delta region has remained under-developed despite several interventions, including the 13 percent oil derivation.
The CSOs bare their minds on Tuesday, at a one-day Stakeholders Engagement with the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, in Port Harcourt.
The Guest Speaker and Founder of the Centre for Social Studies and Development, Mr. Ken Henshaw, affirmed that the NDDC had the onerous task of fast-tracking the development of the Niger Delta region.
Henshaw speaking on the theme: “Niger Delta Development: What roles for Civil Society Organisations,” said right from the days of the Willink’s Commission in 1957, the Niger Delta region was identified as an area in dire need of development.
He lamented that about 88percent of Niger Deltans were living below the poverty line, worse than the national average of 67 per cent.
“We need a paradigm shift to bring development to the Niger Delta region.”
He regretted that abandonment of projects was the biggest problem confronting the NDDC and advised the Commission to collaborate with the Civil Society Organisations to monitor its projects.
Also, a civil society activist and environmentalist, Mr. Iniruo Wills, said that NDDC owed its existence to the efforts and works of the Civil Society Organisations.
Wills called for more attention on environmental challenges in the region, urging that it should be incorporated in the proposed amendments of the NDDC Act. He also demanded that a Civil Society Desk be created in NDDC for better synergy.
Responding the NDDC Interim Administrator, Mr. Efiong Akwa, said the engagement with the Civil Society underscored the need to tap the knowledge of the groups on a broad range of issues in the Niger Delta.
Akwa assured that the Commission would continue to engage critical stakeholders in its effort to ensure collaboration and partnership in the development of the oil-rich region, emphsising the importance of robust and productive engagement.
“The engagement is not just a talk shop but an open space for deep discussions and debates involving a broad spectrum of how the NDDC can be supported to manage the resources of the region more efficiently and also deliver its mandate in a manner that puts smiles on the faces of the people.
“It is part of this challenge that has made us to explore the possibility of revisiting the Niger Delta Regional Development Master plan that expired in 2020, so we are able to define our development gap and meticulously face them for better outcomes.”
Akwa thanked the civil society groups for their advocacy in the past and implored them to join hands with NDDC to do more. He said that in the past few months, the NDDC leadership had taken time to engage different levels of stakeholders to cross-pollinate ideas on how to improve the fortunes of the region.