April 21, 2024

Niger Delta stakeholders charge NDDC on corporate governance, transparency, as US firm agrees to connect 9 oil producing states by rail

Oredola Adeola
Having demonstrated commitment to repositioning and resetting its statutory obligation to drive the process of development in Nigeria’s oil-rich, Niger Delta region, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States Consulate and a United States-based firm, Atlanta Global Resources Inc., AGRI, to build a railway network that will connect the nine(9) states of the Niger Delta region.
This was one of the major highlights of the one-day Public Private Partnerships Summit organized by the Commission in Lagos on Tuesday.
EnergyDay gathered that AGRI as part of the MoU is expected to provide locomotives, construct railway lines and operate same in the oil-producing states of Rivers, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Imo and Abia.
The MOU was signed by the managing director/CEO of the NDDC, Dr Samuel Ogbuku, on behalf of the Commission, Mr Chamberlain Eke, on behalf of the United States Consulate, and Mr. Tony Akpele, on behalf of AGRI.
NDDC confirmed that work on the preliminary stages of the project, perhaps the biggest in the history of the Commission, is expected to start immediately.
In his address at the summit in Lagos, the NDDC’s MD said that the Commission was determined to renavigate the process of its intervention in the Niger Delta so that it can achieve its mandate “of facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.”
He stated that the MOU represented a big harvest for the NDDC from the PPP Summit.
Ogbuku further stated that given the several legacy challenges facing the Commission, including inadequate funding, failure of ownership of the masterplan by the sub-nationals and other key stakeholders, frequent changes in the leadership of the Commission and consistent delays in the passage of its budget by the National Assembly, we decided to do things differently to prepare the grounds to reasonably expect better outcomes.
He said, “As part of our efforts to renew and reposition the NDDC, the Governing Board stepped up the collaboration with various stakeholders. We have started engagement with the key stakeholders, such as the oil companies who contribute three per cent of their operational budget to the Commission; the state governments, traditional rulers, Civil Society Groups, youth organisations and contractors.
“Last month, we met with members of the Oil Producers Trade Section, OPTS, of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who are no doubt critical stakeholders of the NDDC. This group, which embodies the International Oil Companies, IOCs, stand out for us because we need their cooperation to get full and prompt remittances of their contributions as prescribed by law.
“Secondly, it is important to engage them in project conceptualisation and execution. The oil producers work in the communities and sometimes have first-hand information of the needs of the local people. Thus, we want them to engage with us in project selection.
“Also, we need the oil producers to sometimes avail us with their technical expertise in project management and monitoring. In other words, we are embarking on this journey of developing the Niger Delta with the full participation of all stakeholders.
“Obviously, the NDDC cannot shoulder the enormous responsibility of developing the Niger Delta region alone. All hands must be on deck, especially to provide the necessary funds for the task.
“In working with stakeholders, we have resolved to make our 2024 budget an all-inclusive one that accommodates the interests of all key players in the Niger Delta region. To achieve this, we have charged our Budget Committee to give stakeholders the opportunity to tell the NDDC the kind of projects they want in their areas of operations, so that they can be included in our budget.
“It was against this background that the current Board and Management, in its bid to do things differently so as to effectively drive sustainable development in the region, decided to adopt the Public Private Partnership, PPP, model to provide alternative sources of funding for key development projects and programmes,” the Commission’s boss said.
Ogbuku also affirmed the Commission’s commitment to foster partnership with its the government at all levels including agencies and departments. Adding that through the partnership, the Commission is participating in government-led initiatives, and advocating for policies that promote sustainable development, we can access government resources, policies, and programmes that support our development objectives.
He further stated that NDDC will continue to work with Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, and Community-Based Organisations, CBOs, including foreign institutions such as multilateral agencies, foreign government agencies, donor agencies and multinational corporations to promote sustainable development in the Niger Delta region.
He however noted that  the Commission’s“Rewind to Rebirth” initiative, which is the theme of this summit, is a strategic vision designed to recalibrate our engagement with the Niger Delta and the Commission’s overall intervention implementation plan.
Ogbuku however noted that NDDC is exploring more avenues for funding, for better technical expertise, for higher yielding varieties of crops, as well as opportunities for collaboration and investment in the Niger Delta region. He also solicited for partnership with both local and foreign investors, captains of industries, and the corporate world in order to build a better future for the Niger Delta region.
Mr Umana Okon Umana, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, in his speech at the summit commended the new management of the NDDC, adding that the Public-Private Partnership summit was in line with the emphasis of Government to harness the expertise and energies of all stakeholders and partners in the drive to develop the Niger Delta region.
He disclosed that the event was part of his “Action Plan” to reset and reposition the NDDC. He said the Nigerian Government has set in motion an era of accountability and transparency by publishing in national newspapers a list of 2,506 completed projects executed by the Commission under the Buhari administration from 2015 to 2022.
He said, “In keeping with the Action Plan to do things right, Government approved for implementation some of the key recommendations of the Forensic Audit into the activities of the NDDC, while the White Paper on the Forensic Audit Report is being awaited.
“As recommended in the Report, contracts for 4000 projects were cancelled for non-performance and the cancellation was published in the newspapers. The process for recovering money paid for the cancelled contracts has begun.
“The plan is fully on for the Niger Delta region to optimise the benefits from its abundant natural resources, especially oil and gas, which have contributed significantly to the national economy and development. But the region faces many challenges, such as environmental degradation, poverty, unemployment, insecurity, and underdevelopment,” the Minister said.
He however revealed that the Ministry and the NDDC cannot meet all the development needs and aspirations of the Niger Delta people alone, He noted that in order to effectively address the development challenges of the region, the Ministry and NDDC need the support and partnership of the private sector to complement our efforts.
According to Umana, the private sector is vital in providing capital, technology, innovation, expertise, and employment opportunities for the region. He also noted that the Ministry is open to dialogue and receptive to feedback from the private sector on ways to improve our policies and processes that would facilitate partnership and participation.
Chief Timi Alaibe, in his goodwill message at the summit, former NDDC Managing Director, expressed delight at the PPP initiative taken by the new leadership of the Commission.
He said “This is the first time in 15 years that I am attending an NDDC function. This is because the new board is charting a new course that is impressive.”
He added: “Far back, after the implementation of the Master Plan, we decided on an implementation plan which involved all key stakeholders. We decided that the Master Plan cannot be funded by the government alone. We needed the private sector, which is why I support holding the summit in Lagos, Nigeria’s financial capital. The concept of rewinding and rebirth is sweet to the ears.”
 Comrade Adams Oshiomole,  former Governor of Edo State, in his remark at the Summit, commended the NDDC for admitting that it had suffered from goal displacement.
He said, “The NDDC Management and the Board have shown courage by putting the Summit together. The NDDC has our prayers and support. What is missing is not the ideas, but the courage.”
 Dr. Dakuku Peterside,  former Managing Director of NIMASA, in his comment, applauded the NDDC Board and Management for striving to leave legacies in the region.
According to him, the founding fathers of the NDDC intended that the NDDC should be a catalyst for development.
He further noted that the PPP arrangement is a new way of getting good results. There must be a fusion between the private sector and the public sector. It is important to bring in the resources and expertise of the private sector.
Engr. Simbi Wabote, Executive Secretary of the NCDMB in his address keynote address at the summit, charged the new management of NDDC to deploy the key provisions of the NDDC Act by ring-fencing the mandate of the Commission despite the attempts by some stakeholders strive to turn the Commission into Father Xmas.
He said, “The Rewind for Rebirth initiative provides a great opportunity to set a new agenda for the Niger Delta Region. As the Commission enters this uncharted territory in its developmental efforts, it brings huge opportunities as well as huge responsibilities to ensure the success of the PPP arrangements being considered.
“The sources of your funding from the Federation Account, Oil Producing Companies, State Governments, and local or international grants are quite massive and first requires the Commission to demonstrate financial ingenuity before leveraging for more capital.
“This should be evident in your branding, your signature projects, the type of interventions you get involved in, your eagerness to open your books and project sites to scrutiny, your prudence in funds management and others.
Wabote however charged the board and the management of the Commission to do all within their powers to project the Commission in the best of light.