Lindsay Barrett, Amassoma
The recent appointment of professor of Pharmacology, Dr. Nelson Brambaifa, as acting managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) came at a time of serious controversy and speculation over the continued efficacy of the commission’s ability to fulfil its mandate. Reports of deficiencies in the commission’s performance in meeting targets for the completion of major projects in the past were widespread prior to the appointment of the new board and many stakeholders in the Niger Delta have grown doubtful over the NDDC’s continued relevance as an intervention agency.
Prof. Brambaifa is, therefore, saddled with the difficult and thankless task of ensuring that many of the NDDC’s commitments that preceded his tenure are not further abandoned and that some of the key projects embarked upon by his predecessors are eventually brought to a successful conclusion. One of such major unfinished projects that should be of particular importance for the new head of the commission is situated on the campus of the Niger Delta University (NDU) at Amassoma. Prof. Brambaifa headed the committee that established the medical college at NDU when the university was founded. He is also regarded as one of the Niger Delta’s foremost academics and most experienced educational administrators.
A typical example of the kind of problems that have confronted him since he assumed office at the NDDC is one that must be of particular resonance for him. The construction of a cluster of residential hostels for NDU was embarked upon by the NDDC nearly a decade and a half ago but in spite of laudable efforts by the contractors to meet the implementation targets stipulated in the contract the projects remain unfinished. An investigation of the circumstances surrounding this particular project reveals a number of anomalies that have bedevilled attempts to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of success for many NDDC objectives.
Prof. Brambaifa must confront these difficulties with urgency as his appointment is being regarded by the majority of the people of the Niger Delta as being meant to correct past mistakes. He has made it plain since his assumption of office that his priority is to ensure that the endeavours of his predecessors will not be abandoned. His close associates over the decades that he has served in the academic community with say that they are not surprised that he would take such a stand since he is noted for his good-natured style of leadership as well as for the thoroughness with which he manages project planning. His achievement in establishing the medical college at NDU was a signal success and thus raises the hope that he will be able to overcome any obstacles in the way of completing the hostels.
According to knowledgeable observers of the NDDC’s record of performance, a major factor delaying completion of the hostel projects is deficient early planning on the part of the client. Prof. Brambaifa will, therefore, be tasked with ensuring that the execution of this seminal project is restored and completed as a symbol of the NDDC’s commitment to serving the best interests of the people of the Niger Delta regardless of political affiliation. Some critics of the NDDC’s policy thrust have suggested that where projects are meant to support state institutions, the federal intervention agency might be reluctant to make serious commitments.
In recent years, the issue of political differences arising between state governments led by the PDP and the APC rulers at the federal level have been the central obstacle militating against the development of partnerships between the intervention agency and state government projects. Prof. Brambaifa will be hard pressed to overcome this perception of political opportunism being a major factor in decision-making for the commission and his approach to the issue of the NDU hostels will provide him with the ideal opportunity to do so. The contractors have shown their ability and willingness to carry out the projects to the highest standard, if given the necessary assistance.
An added incentive for the completion of this project has arisen as the Bayelsa State government added incentives on, has established an additional university in the state where infrastructural objectives that set a high exemplary standard have been met. The establishment of the University of Africa in the governor’s hometown of Toru Orua gave rise to controversial arguments among some educational and political analysts in the state who argue that the governor should have concentrated on developing the existing campus at Amassoma rather than establishing a new one. However, supporters of the governor’s initiative have pointed out that such projects as the hostels at NDU were delayed not by the Bayelsa State government’s lack of support but rather because commitments entered into by the Federal Government to support the NDU have been undermined. They believe that collaboration between the institutions in the state will grow from strength to strength in the future once the infrastructural challenges are overcome.
Many Bayelsans now believe that the strategic focus of educational expansion encouraged by Governor Dickson will be a major element of the state’s future growth and that services provided for the improvement of the existing institutions will be paramount among objectives for the overall enhancement of development for the entire Niger Delta. Prof. Brambaifa’s special attributes as an educator and administrator as well as his reputation as an apolitical advocate of the best interests of the people will serve him in good stead as he faces the challenges that confront him over these issues.