After several months of speculations ,the mantle of leadership at Niger Delta’s premier interventionist agency, the Niger Delta Development Commission ,NDDC finally fell on Prof. Nelson Brambaifa. The intrigues and drama leading to his appointment are unprecedented in the chequered history of the NDDC. At a point it was so uncertain if indeed the Federal Government was committed to the spirit and letter of the NDDC Act which clearly spelt out the tenure and duration of the Board. Equally intriguing was the status of the immediate past Board which observers and stakeholders felt had held fort beyond their statutory term.
This led to series of protests from the youth in the region who insisted that the continued stay in office of the erstwhile board posed a serious threat to the laudable aims and aspirations of the agency as stipulated in the NDDC Act.
Among other things, the outgone board was accused of insensitivity.
President Mohammed Buhari,it was learnt, was under pressure from stakeholders who were unequivocal that that Board had not only outlived their tenure but that for as long as they remained in office the core mandate of the NDDC as an interventionist institution in the region would remain elusive.
From its inception about 18 years ago, the NDDC has rightly or wrongly been tagged a cash cow of sort by politicians in the region. Once you have the right connection, you could walk into the NDDC Corporate Head Office on Aba road, Port Harcourt in the morning and return with billions in your bank later in the day for practically doing nothing. The name of the game was contract profiteering. As at the last count there are no fewer than 8,000 abandoned projects in the region on account of this malfeasance.
From available records almost every helmsman at the NDDC had curiously become a governorship candidate in his home state,confirming fears that milk and honey flow freely at the agency. Ironically, no past chief executive at the NDDC had indeed won a governorship seat. But what most stakeholders have seen in the region is a plathora of abandoned and uncompleted projects. As a Professorsor in Pharmacology, we are confident that Professor Nelson Brambaifa knows what pills to administer on this ailing region.
He must do things differently if he wants to achieve a different result.
Here is my 4-point Agenda for Prof Nelson Brambaifa
■ Abandoned projects
The NDDC under your watch must change the narrative of being a cash cow where anyone could pick up mobilization money and walk away scot free. We have enough laws in our statute books to deal with contractors who fail to honour their contractual obligations. If you ask me, these are the real economic saboteurs of the Niger Delta people. Your first assignment on assumption of duty would be to summon such failed contractors to Dappa Biriye House with a warning to return to site or face the full wrath of the law. It is not in our collective interest to continue to shield these enemies of the Niger Delta from prosecution .The new song under your watch should be “it can’t be business as usual “.]
■ Youth empowerment
Our youth remain the bedrock of development of the Niger Delta region. Your administration should continue to see youth empowerment as one of its cardinal goals. I urge you and your new management to seek partnership and collaborate with key agencies such as the Bonny LNG,Maritime Academy of Nigeria, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and the Nigerian Content Development Board etc in the area of capacity building. These partnerships will surely open a new vista of hope for our teeming youths who have not hidden their appetite for the requisite academic exposure to tackle the myriad of problems facing our region. Do make out time from your busy schedule to visit these agencies , and explore the limitless opportunities that you may garner.
■ Remittance by 10Cs
The NDDC was established in 2000 with the mandate to facilitate the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into an area that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful. Funding of the NDDC was to come from the Federal Government, the 10Cs and the ecological fund .While the Federal Government is said to be owing the Commission in excess of #1.3trn, the huge chunk owed by the 10Cs is not yet ascertained.
Besides, the NDDC is yet to have a kobo from the Ecological Fund. With the signing into Law of the amended NDDC Act ,the gas prospecting and exploration companies are now expected to make a mandatory contributions to the Agency
This is where the Brambaifa-led management would need to redouble its efforts and ensure that every kobo owed the Commission is collected. With no fewer than 8,000 projects abandoned in its core areas of operation, there is no doubt that the new NDDC management has an uphill task on its sleeves.
■ Niger Delta Master Plan
The Niger Delta Master Plan initiated by the administration of Ndutimi Alaibe remains the most far reaching attempt to re-write the history and right the wrongs of the region. With a population of 27.1 million (2002 census), the region is endowed with rich natural resources, high quality Crude oil, solid minerals, agricultural land capable of growing diverse crops and vast fishing waters. The vision of those who mooted the idea of the master plan was to improve the quality of life of the Niger Delta people.
While addressing the inaugural board in 2001, President Olusegun Obasanjo had hoped that the NDDC would bring sustainable and even development to establish a region that is economically regenerative and politically peaceful.
As you take over as the new helmsman of the NDDC, I urge you to take a second look at this document. As ambitious as the master plan seemed ,I think it is doable. I urge you and your management team to hire a consultant to take a second look at the document with a view to lifting the Niger Delta people from our present beggarly disposition.
I wish you and your team a most rewarding and successful tenure.
► Beks writes from Lagos