The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has re-stated its commitment to collaborate with state governments in the Niger Delta in the efforts to quicken development of the oil-rich region.
The NDDC Managing Director, Mr Nsima.Ekere, stated this during a meeting with members of the Bayelsa State NDDC Project Verification Committee at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt.
He said that the current NDDC Board and Management were forging a new relationship with various stakeholders in the region, stressing that the Commission was working with a new attitude of cooperation and collaboration.
According to him, “one way that we can successfully make a difference is to increase the level of engagement with major stakeholders in the region.”
Ekere said that one of the first decisions taken by the current board was to start the process of re-activating all dormant organs of the Commission. One such important organ, he said, was the Advisory Committee made up of all the governors of the NDDC member states.
He observed that it was necessary to revive the structures that serve as platforms for harmonising ideas with the governments of the NDDC member states to ensure that they took ownership of the Commission’s projects and programmes, as well as check the duplication of efforts.
Ekere said: “We set up budget committees in the states to liaise with the governments and agree on priority projects. Of the nine states in the region, it was only Bayelsa that sat with the NDDC committee to agree on areas of need. We commend the Governor for this.”
As part of the collaboration with states, Ekere added: “We are re-activating the Partners for Sustainable Development (PSD) Forum, which serves as the clearing house that brings all the stakeholders under one umbrella to aid the process of harmonizing development projects.”
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer remarked that the Commission enjoyed a very robust relationship with Bayelsa State government, assuring it of its continued cooperation, especially in monitoring and verification of projects. He commended the state for setting up a project verification committee, assuring that the NDDC would give it the necessary support.
Ekere expressed concern over the issue of stalled projects, which he said was often erroneously referred to as abandoned projects. He said that the NDDC was determined to change the narrative.
He declared: “We will be happier if we have fewer quality projects that can be completed on schedule for the benefit of the people.”
The NDDC boss said that the Commission had so far awarded 893 projects in Bayelsa State, out of which 351had been completed, adding that it did not include the recent emergency interventions in the state.
He said that other projects that were on-going came up to 271, while contractors were yet to mobilize to site for another 196 projects. He further said that 54 projects were stalled and 4 were taken over by the state government, while 17 have been terminated.
Ekere decried the rash of agitations coming out of Bayelsa State, describing them as born out of ignorance and mischief. He said that in some cases, the protesters had listed completed projects as being abandoned or relocated from Bayelsa state to Akwa Ibom. “I hope the committee will help to resolve these issues,” he said.
The Chairman of the NDDC Projects Verification Committee, Engr. Charles Ambaiowei, said that their assignment was that of fact-finding and not quarrelling.
He said that during the recent visit of the NDDC board and management to Governor Seriake Dickson, the impression was given that the state was one of the greatest beneficiaries of NDDC projects.
According to him, “that came to the governor as a surprise because the status of some of the projects listed were doubtful. The governor felt that there was need for verification of the projects to determine those that have actually been executed.”
Ambaiowei, lamented that the NDDC had been short-changed in terms of funding since its inception in 2,000.
He condemned the non-release of statutory funds due to NDDC, noting that the Federal Government under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, failed to meet its statutory obligations to the Commission. He explained that the NDDC was getting only 10 per cent of funding from the central government, instead of the statutory 15 per cent, stating that this may have contributed to the problem of stalled projects.