Towards new roadmap for Niger Delta
Contrary to allegations that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is enmeshed in corruption and spent a fortune buying 70 exotic cars for members of its Governing Board and management, indications are that the commission is evolving into a responsive and transparent public institution, with a new strategic road map to deliver on its mandate. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI who has been monitoring the development reports
SINCE the new management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) came into being last November, it has pledged to embrace due process, transparency and become responsive to the ideals of the law which set up the body as an interventionist agency to create synergy and sustainable regional development. As part of this openness, the budget of the commission is now available on its website. Besides, a project-monitoring portal has also been launched.
The new management of the commission, led by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba as Chairman and Mr. Nsima Ekere as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, believes that due process and transparency will facilitate sustainable development in the Niger Delta region and end the era of uncompleted projects and corruption.
Against this background, the new board and management has promised to adhere strictly to processes and procedures that conform to international best practices. This new vision is encapsulated in the commission’s 4-R Initiative of restoring its core mandate, restructuring its balance sheet, reforming its processes and reaffirming a commitment to doing what is right and proper at all times in facilitating the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.
In this regard, the commission is also partnering with Bureau for Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and Open Government Partnership (OGP), to improve its governance systems, procurement and project-implementation processes, in order to plug loopholes and eliminate incidences of mismanagement and corruption.
The ground rules was set by the new management during its first stakeholder retreat in February, which took place under the theme: “Collaboration for Sustainable Development”. The event, which was the first of its kind in the 10-year history of the NDDC, was charged with the duty of jointly formulating the commission’s vision, and the drawing up of a roadmap for the actualisation of this vision.
At the event, Ekere presented a paper where he identified poor governance as the biggest challenge to achieving sustainable development of the Niger Delta region. This, he added, has been responsible for the poorly-delivered infrastructure which decays rapidly, lack of social services, pervasive poverty, resurgent militant attacks, pollution of the environment and decreased revenue to government.
He disclosed that the Niger Delta Master Plan, which originally required 15 years to implement at a cost of $50 billion, has failed to achieve its vision and objectives, despite the region receiving, according to figures released by the Ministry of Petroleum, $40 billion in 10 years, declaring: “Sadly, there is little evidence to show for the sums spent.”
The NDDC boss identified weak internal processes, procedures and control, weak organisational culture and unethical practices, among others, as factors impeding the successful implementation of the NDDC mandate and declared that the 4-R Initiative of the Governing Board was set to change things for the better.
He said the 4-R strategy encapsulates the solution required to address the myriad challenges facing the NDDC and that the board will restructure the balance sheet, reform governance protocols, restore the core mandate of the commission and reaffirm “a commitment to doing what’s right and proper”.
Ekere said: “With about N1.2 trillion of the contingent liabilities on its balance sheet, the NDDC needs to find ways to free funds for urgent development projects and programmes.” He promised to review over-invoiced projects, determine wrongly-procured contracts and recover mobilisation from abandoned projects.
He called for collaboration among stakeholders to achieve sustainable development in the Niger Delta. He assured that the NDDC Governance and Reform Project (NGRP) will catalyse the irreversible reform of the NDDC by enforcing compliance with rules and regulations, adding: “We must begin to do the right thing in the commission, no matter what it takes. Two things are likely to happen: it’s either we tame the beast or we get bitten by the beast. We hope to tame the beast, for the good of the people.”
It was agreed during the retreat that the NDDC would embrace corporate governance, built on openness, efficiency and accountability. This was agreed against the background that the NDDC, like NEITI, was set up to fight the resource curse.
Speaking on the idea of embracing corporate governance, Ekere said: “Engagement with the Bureau of Public Procurement is what will make NDDC better. The narrative has been that our procurement processes are opaque and tainted, and we don’t know how to run a transparent and efficient system. My take-home is that we must create an opportunity for the bureau to interact more with the NDDC, so that we can strengthen our procurement processes and capacity of the procurement unit. We must begin to comply not just with all extant rules and regulations of government, but international best practices.”
Contrary to allegations that the NDDC is enmeshed in corruption and spent a fortune buying 70 exotic cars for members of its Governing Board and management, Ekere said the commission under his watch has been evolving into a responsive and transparent public institution; with a new strategic road map to deliver on its mandate.
In his response to the allegations of financial recklessness by the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Ekere said over the weekend that the commission under his watch has been putting a system in place to achieve the goals set for it.
Ekere said: “We will work to promote cooperation, collaboration and synergy among stakeholders such as state and local governments, oil and gas companies, donor agencies, civil society organisations, community-based organisations and other traditional institutions in order to make regional development a shared vision and common aspiration.
“Let me restate that this administration will work to enthrone a management vision that emphasises efficiency, transparency, effective deployment of resources, promotes due process and the quality implementation of projects and programmes.”
He added that his administration would focus on intervention programmes that will deliver real measurable development outcomes for the region and its citizens.
Sagay had alleged at the opening of the two-day National Dialogue on Corruption that the NDDC has just bought over 70 cars, with money meant for the provision of infrastructure, water, housing, hospitals, school, etc., to the people of Niger Delta, without sparing a thought for the wretched people of the region.
Sagay added: “Of those, about eight of them are Super Lexus Jeeps, costing N78million each and about 10 are Land Cruisers, costing N63million each.
“This money was taken from funds for infrastructure, water, housing, hospitals, school, etc., without conscience, recklessly, without a thought for the wretched people of the Niger Delta.”
This, he said, is coming at a time the commission’s Managing Director was quoted as saying that the NDDC lacked funds to execute projects and was in debt to the tune of N1.2trillion.
But, the NDDC has reacted through its Head of Corporate Affairs, Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, saying no such purchases had been made since assumption of office of the current management and Governing Board on November 4, 2016.
Amu-Nnadi said: “Indeed, it is a known fact that the Chairman, Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), the Managing Director/CEO, Nsima Ekere, and the two Executive Directors are still using their private vehicles three months after assumption of duties.
“The NDDC is only now in the process of acquiring work vehicles, and is adhering strictly to due process. These include five Toyota Prado jeeps, 10 Toyota Hilux trucks, four (4) Toyota Landcruiser jeeps, one (1) Toyota Coaster bus and two (2) Toyota Hiace buses.
“The Commission has just received the Due Process Compliance Certificate from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and is preparing the mandatory memo for the approval of the Federal Executive Council.
“We wish to restate that the current Board and Management of the NDDC is committed to making its transactions transparent, by adhering strictly to processes and procedures of Government, as espoused in the Board’s 4-R Initiative of restoring the Commission’s core mandate, restructuring the balance sheet, reforming our processes and reaffirming a commitment to doing what is right and proper at all times in facilitating the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.
“NDDC is always ready to open its books for audit. We are also committed to responding to all inquiries from well-meaning individuals and groups seeking clarification on rumours and possible false information.”
Prof. Sagay has since clarified his position, saying his allegations of corruption against the NDDC were not directed at the current board and management. In its reaction to the NDDC rebuttal, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) insisted its chairman was right with the allegations, but blamed the commission for not seeking for clarifications.
A representative of PACAC, Okon Eminue, said in a statement: “The NDDC ought to confirm the claim by the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay by seeking clarification on the administration under which the said vehicles were purchased. Prof Sagay is quite right. The vehicles were bought by one of the past administrations of the NNDC.”
PACAC said when the details of the purchase were first published, the immediate past Managing Director of NDDC, Dan Abia, was still in office. Abia was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan, and left office in 2015.
Eminue added: “To be sure, President Muhammadu Buhari had assumed duties when the scam came to light. One would have thought that the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies would wade into the allegations at that time. Consequently, Prof. Sagay’s accusation or allegation does not say that the scam is perpetrated by the current leadership of the NDDC.
“For emphasis, Prof Sagay’s allegation does not, in any way, pertain to the present Board and Management of NDDC under the leadership of Distinguished Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN (Board Chairman, NDDC) and Obong Nsima Ekere (Managing Director, NDDC). The scam even came to limelight before Mrs Seminitari was appointed Acting MD, NDDC.”
Source: THE NATION NEWS