THE NEW DAWN AT NDDC By; Jerome-Mario Utomi
The recent happenings (or developments) within the Niger Development Commission (NDDC) has further supported the age long leadership postulation that no organization was born with self-confidence. Rather, corporate ‘self-confidence’ is predicated on, and a function of successes and experience derived by the organization’s leadership from its operational environment.
Essentially, for those that have followed the agency in the past two decades of existence and under study the ‘politics’ that kept it going all these years, it will not be groundless if one characterizes as a new dawn, and describes NDDC of today as an interventionist body with a fresh beginning to develop and be more focused in response to the tragic condition of the Niger Delta region in terms of infrastructure and human capital.
This coordinated plan to have the region positively impacted, as subsequent paragraphs shall reveal, becomes even more appreciated when one remembers that the same NDDC was some years ago assessed by stakeholders as an agency that has achieved little considering the enormous resource committed and hope placed on it by both the government and citizens of the Niger Delta region.
Separate from the recently awarded Foreign Postgraduate Scholarship to 200 students designed to produce top-level professionals with technical knowledge, capacity and expertise to compete in the oil and gas industry, as well as other sectors, which was transparently conducted in ways that made it possible for most of the beneficiaries to be those who never knew anyone from the NDDC or anyone who works there, another typical example to the above assertion is the recently reported news that the World Health Organization, WHO, has agreed to partner the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to implement a Health Insurance Project, as well as other health programmes that will benefit the people of the Niger Delta region.
Even as this interesting awareness and other related developments within the agency, without doubt, calls for celebration, it will on the other hands elicit the questions as to; why the sudden change at NDDC? What set the stage for this transformative occurrence within the agency? Were these occurrences accidental, planned or happening as a result of the natural order of things? What are the factors or forces fuelling this new dawn at the agency and how do we make it sustainable?
Indeed, while this piece may appear too short to provide answer(s) to the above questions, it is however, spaced enough to spread out the insight recently provided by the NDDC Managing Director, Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, during an interview with newsmen at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Beginning with the rancour-free relationship between the board and the management of the agency, which in the opinion of this piece may have paved the way for peace within the agency and anticipated development of the region, Ogbuku expressed satisfaction with the synergy between the Board and Management, attributing it to the experience and knowledge of the Board Chairman, Mr. Chiedu Ebie. “The Chairman has a rich administrative background in both public and private sectors,”.
“Certainly, we will achieve more together as Management and Board, because if there is one thing we must do, it is to work together to bring development to the people of the Niger Delta region.
Reacting to concerns about the approach of the current NDDC Board to the policies introduced before their inauguration, Ogbuku declared that the board members were happy with the initiatives and had keyed into them.
He said: “We have had opportunities to interact with members of the Board, especially the Chairman, and they were convinced on the need for the programmes. In some cases, they asked for details of the key programmes.
“In our last board meeting, our consultant on Holistic Opportunity Projects of Engagement, HOPE, made a presentation and the board members were impressed. They have also requested that we have a meeting with KPMG to also make a presentation on the progress in producing a Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, to cover all aspects of the Commission’s activities and transactions.
On the partnership with WHO, the NDDC managing Director said something that should be of interest to entire Niger Deltans; “The participation of WHO in Commission’s medical outreach programme will ensure that those vaccines that we don’t have access to, are procured through them for the benefit of our people.
The Commission recently held a meeting with WHO officials, where it made a presentation on a Health Insurance Project for the Niger Delta region. The World Health Organisation is discussing with us on our health programmes. In fact, they have written to us, saying that they want more meetings to explore collaborations in the execution of our free healthcare programme. They want to add professionalism and credibility to what we are doing. He concluded.
At this point, he said something else; “We are not only looking at what they will bring to us in terms of funding, we are looking at their contacts, reach and expertise in the medical field.”
Away from WHO related engagement to another area of interesting development within the agency; the NDDC according to the Managing Director was also discussing with the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, in the areas of youth development and rebuilding public trust to enhance service delivery in the Niger Delta region.
Speaking on collaborations with other organisations, Ogbuku noted that the NDDC had made significant gains since it embraced Public-Private Partnership, PPP, as a major policy thrust.
He remarked: “Partnership is one of the major ways to achieve sustainable development in the Niger Delta region and it is important that NDDC, as the driver of development in the region, stays at the forefront of building the right partnerships.” He insisted that the PPP arrangement went beyond collaborations with International Oil Companies, IOCs, as it extends to other critical sectors such as health, education and youth development.
“In some areas, we are seeking technical assistance, not necessarily money. I can assure you that the PPP programme is gaining momentum and it is also gaining the interest of a lot of people.
“We are currently looking for technical support in the area of training for our staff, because we need properly trained staff that will be able to lead most of our programmes and they need to be updated on a regular basis.
“Some of these collaborations, especially the ones from the private sector, need to be studied carefully, because we can’t afford to mortgage the interest of our people. We are not just working for ourselves; we are representing the people of the Niger Delta and we must ensure that the right decisions are made.”
For other fall-outs from the partnership arrangements, lets listen to the NDDC Managing Director; there had been positive fall-outs from the partnership arrangements, citing the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, between the NDDC and the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Limited, NLNG, to collaborate on diverse fronts in the delivery of sustainable development projects. He stated.
For me, just like the generality of Niger Deltans of goodwill, NDDC has finally gotten a board and Management with the understanding that it is their duty to serve our communities and embrace its aspirations, both now and in the future, by assuring the people economic growth, education, health, security, stability, comfort, leisure opportunities and freedom in ways that will allow for the most conducive atmosphere to achieve the targets that will guarantee our welfare and a bright future.
In fact, as stated in my recent but similar intervention, it will not be wrong to conclude that the pre-condition for sustainable development now exists in NDDC.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374.