[OPINION] NDDC: Transiting From Transactional To Transformational Management Approach

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Dr. Samuel Ogbuku

By Willie Etim

The concept of “Rewind to Rebirth” introduced by the NDDC in 2023 provides the foundation for the Commission’s “Transition from Transaction to Transformation” approach to the development process.

That explains why the Commission is strengthening its processes and improving on its corporate governance system to provide the necessary framework for the actualisation of a thriving Niger Delta through the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led Federal Government.

As part of this effort, the Commission is doing things differently and a new NDDC is emerging by the day. The strategy being to improve delivery of projects and services by enthroning and shoring up the transparency of the commission’s processes to ensure accountability and efficiency.

At the core of NDDC’s new strategy, is the widespread partnership consultations with stakeholders to gain their support. Partnership is a key aspect in United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It advocates a shared vision, shared responsibility, shared commitment, as well as shared budgeting process and implementation of development initiatives. This way, the NDDC will be able to do far more, with far less funds.

That was the spirit in fashioning a regional Master Plan for the Niger Delta.

After so many years of neglect, it is important that Development Agencies work together for the development of the region which has provided the bulk of Nigeria’s wealth, and accounted for the rise of Nigeria in the comity of nations.

For the past 24 years, the journey with the Commission, as a vehicle designed for the rapid and sustainable development of the Niger Delta region, has been contending with varied challenges.

While there have been many successes and achievements, there have also been gaps and deficiencies that need to be remedied to be able to realise the goal of sustainable regional development.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

As part of the efforts to do things differently, the NDDC adjusted its mantra to a more assertive declaration.The original tagline of the Commission was “Determined to make a difference.” The phrase emphasised the Commission’s intention to make a difference in the region.

However, the newly adopted tagline, “Making a difference,” is a more accurate representation of the Commission’s on-going efforts towards improving living conditions and strengthening livelihoods in the region. It is a more aspirational reflection of the Commission’s achievements. It reflects the NDDC’s belief that it is creating a real and positive difference in the lives of people in the Niger Delta region through its projects and programmes.

The new mantra: “Making a difference,” emphasises the Commission’s efforts to achieve tangible results for its mandate states.

It is more realistic and it acknowledges that the Niger Delta is diverse with many challenges. It reminds people that the Agency is only one part of the solution and that more needs to be done to improve the overall condition of the Niger Delta region.

NEW APPROACH TO BUDGETING

The importance of planning can not be overemphasized. Hence, adequate attention is being paid to processes of budgeting for the projects and programmes of the NDDC. The Commission now relies on a properly constituted Budget Committee to proactively prepare its financial estimates through engagements with stakeholders. The Budget Committee is charged with the responsibility of identifying the vision of the NDDC as an interventionist Agency in order to prioritise the allocation of available resources.

The Committee is expected to balance funding of new projects, funding of ongoing projects, as well as debt financing in order to get the buy-in of stakeholders. The Committee is expected to actively engage stakeholders in its activities.

Even as the Committee consults various stakeholders, which may entail organising conferences, it must have a clear vision for the budget. This way, in implementing the budget, there will be proper guidelines and it will not be tampered with when it gets to the National Assembly.

Pre-budget conferences will give stakeholders an opportunity to tell the NDDC the kind of projects they want in their areas of operations, so that they can be included in the financial blueprint. Henceforth, it is necessary for the NDDC to always involve its key stakeholders, such as the state governments, the IOCs, traditional institutions, in its budget processes. What the NDDC should be working with should be an all-inclusive budget of the people of the Niger Delta.

PARTNERING WITH UNIVERSITIES ON RESEARCH

The vast intellectual resources in the universities need to be fully exploited and a collaboration with NDDC will help in achieving this objective. There is no doubt that partnerships will encourage research to help in finding solutions to some of the challenges confronting the region.

As a measure of the seriousness of the NDDC in working with the universities, it had a meeting with a delegation from the Rivers State University; the Niger Delta University, Amassoma, Bayelsa State; the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, as well as the Governing Council of the University of Port Harcourt.

Partnering with universities in academic research will make it possible to produce life-saving vaccines, as well as finding lasting solutions for medical and social problems.

The NDDC acknowledges the contributions of universities in manpower development and the overall development of the Niger Delta region, hence the need to enhance the capacity of universities in the region.

The Commission and the universities are development partners and must therefore collaborate in research projects that add value to the society and solve the challenges facing the people of the Niger Delta region.”

FUNDING CHALLENGES

Funding has been a major challenge for the NDDC over the years and breaking loose from the vice-grip of inadequate funding remains a bridge to be crossed by the Commission.

The Treasury Single Account, TSA, has not helped matters for a Commission which is owed over N2 trillion, arising from withheld funds and underpayments by both the government and the oil companies. Most of the issues arose because of non-compliance with the NDDC Establishment Act.

The NDDC Act says the monthly allocation from the Federal Government is 15 per cent of the allocation of nine states of the Niger Delta but since the inception of the NDDC, it has not received that.

The perennial shortfall in funding placed a huge debt burden on the Commission, forcing it to adopt alternative means of financing its key projects and programmes. Even as it rues the negative side, there is a bright side. As is often said, necessity is the mother of invention. In this case, because the NDDC was boxed into a conner, it was forced to think out of the box.

The Commission settled for the Public Private Partnership, PPP, arrangement to fund big-ticket projects. From all indications, the PPP approach is the right way to go, considering that so much is expected of the NDDC.

Statutory contributors to the funds of NDDC have consistently failed to meet their obligations to the Commission. Available records show that right from inception, the NDDC was getting only 10 per cent, instead of 15 percent from the Federal Government.

This is contrary to the provisions of the law, as the NDDC Act states clearly how the Commission shall be funded. Section 14[2] provides that “there shall be paid and credited to the fund established pursuant to subsection [1] of this section; [a] from the Federal Government the equivalent of 15 per cent of the total monthly allocation due to the member states of the commission from the federation account, this being the contribution of the Federal Government to the commission; [b] three per cent of the total annual budget of any oil-producing company operating onshore and offshore in the Niger Delta area, including gas processing companies; [c] 50 per cent of monies due to member states of the commission from the ecological fund…” and other sources such as grants and loans.

The oil companies have not been paying the three per cent of their annual budget as required by law. Available facts indicate that they deduct first charges before calculating the three per cent from the balance. In doing this, they are more or less, hurting themselves because what they spend for the development of the Niger Delta is for their own good at the end of the day.

Given the enormous impact of their activities on the environment, the oil companies are expected to be at the forefront in the critical task of urgently developing the oil basin that has suffered so much neglect in the past. It is, in fact, in their interest to develop the communities where they operate in order to guarantee peace, which is very necessary for them to continue with their work.

Proper funding will help NDDC to adequately address the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region, noting that the challenge of developing the region was enormous and that all relevant contributors to the NDDC must play their roles diligently.

It is comforting to note that both chambers of the National Assembly are concerned about the disturbing funding challenges facing the NDDC and that they are doing something to redress the situation.

Dr. Willie Etim is the Special Adviser on Media to the NDDC MD

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