July 15, 2024
NIGER DELTA: Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Total should collaborate more with us in executing legacy projects
Middle East: Oil demand remains low despite the ease in COVID-19 lockdown
– By Godswill Odiong

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By Dr. Samuel Ogbuku
I am indeed honoured to stand before this distinguished audience. I welcome you all to this historic gathering for a summit that will make a difference for the Niger Delta region.

The Niger Delta Development Commission, as an interventionist agency, established by the NDDC Act of 2000, is mandated to drive the process of development in Nigeria’s oil-rich region. Our mission being: “To facilitate the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.”

Since inception, the Commission has tried to faithfully deliver on its mandate to fast-track the development of the Niger Delta region as envisioned by its stakeholders.

The NDDC was set up in response to agitations by the people of the Niger Delta for an interventionist agency which will offer “a lasting solution to the long-standing socio-economic difficulties of the Niger Delta region.”

Remember that NDDC continued from where its predecessor, the defunct Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, left off. That meant that there were lots of baggage it had to contend with.

Perhaps, to move away from the shortcomings of OMPADEC, the NDDC midwifed the Niger Delta Regional Development Masterplan, NDRDMP, which was a holistic sector by sector approach for the overall development of the region within a fifteen-year period.

It was hoped that by the end of the fifteen years of careful and religious implementation of the plan, the region would have been transformed from its parlous state to an area that is “economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.”

Unfortunately, the Masterplan which was supposed to belong to all Niger Deltans was left for the NDDC alone to implement. This, regrettably, led to a situation where the grandiose plan could not achieve its objectives.

The celebrated roadmap became ineffective for many reasons, some of which are:
1. Inadequate funding for the Commission, emanating from inconsistent statutory contributions from the Federal Government and failure of some oil and gas companies operating within the region to remit their contributions in line with the NDDC Act.
2. Failure of ownership of the Masterplan by the sub-nationals and other key stakeholders.
3. Frequent changes in the leadership of the Commission
4. Consistent delays in the passage of the Commission’s budget by the National Assembly.

Given these challenges, we decided to do things differently to prepare the grounds to reasonably expect better outcomes. This is the message we have been sending to all our stakeholders and our staff since we assumed office.

When we mounted the saddle, we met a few things in the internal administration of the NDDC that were not proper and we started by correcting them.

Today, we have introduced a lot of innovations that have have helped in boosting the moral of our staff. We have also restructured the administrative system of NDDC by going back to the 13 Directorates recognised in the NDDC Act. It was necessary to reorganise the administrative system to enhance better service delivery.

We are showing in our operations, through our example and conduct, how diligence, due process and transparency are key ingredients to building confidence and trust among all partners and stakeholders. We are committed to not just being transparent, but we want to be seen to be transparent.

Having put our house in order, we have started commissioning completed projects. Recently, we commissioned three roads in Bayelsa State to mark the beginning of many other project inaugurations across the nine Niger Delta states.
In the coming weeks, some of our major projects will be commissioned. Among this is the the 132/33kv sub-station constructed by the Commission in Okitipupa, which will provide electricity for over 2,000 communities spread across five local government areas of Ondo State.
These communities have been in darkness for the past fifteen years and the affected people are in the oil production belt of Ondo state.

Another key project that is ready for inauguration is the Ogbia-Nembe Road, which was jointly funded by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, and the NDDC. That partnership delivered the 25.735-kilometre road, running through the most challenging terrain imaginable in the region. The project has seven bridges, 53 culverts and traverses 9.15 kilometres of swampy terrain.

Apart from showcasing our mega projects, we have also developed a new concept of working with the Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce in the training of youths and young entrepreneurs in the Niger Delta region.

We are changing the NDDC Youth Volunteer programme to a Youth Internship Programme where youths will be attached to organisations for one year to learn different skills. To facilitate this new scheme, we are developing a database that will capture unemployed youths and entrepreneurs in the region. Indeed, we have young entrepreneurs in the region that we want to showcase to the world.

As part of our efforts to renew and reposition the NDDC, the Governing Board stepped up the collaboration with various stakeholders. We have started engagement with the key stakeholders, such as the oil companies who contribute three per cent of their operational budget to the Commission; the state governments, traditional rulers, Civil Society Groups, youth organisations and contractors.

Last month, we met with members of the Oil Producers Trade Section, OPTS, of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who are no doubt critical stakeholders of the NDDC. This group, which embodies the International Oil Companies, IOCs, stand out for us because we need their cooperation to get full and prompt remittances of their contributions as prescribed by law.

Secondly, it is important to engage them in project conceptualisation and execution. The oil producers work in the communities and sometimes have first-hand information of the needs of the local people. Thus, we want them to engage with us in project selection.
Also, we need the oil producers to sometimes avail us with their technical expertise in project management and monitoring. In other words, we are embarking on this journey of developing the Niger Delta with the full participation of all stakeholders.
Obviously, the NDDC cannot shoulder the enormous responsibility of developing the Niger Delta region alone. All hands must be on deck, especially to provide the necessary funds for the task.

In working with stakeholders, we have resolved to make our 2024 budget an all-inclusive one that accommodates the interests of all key players in the Niger Delta region. To achieve this, we have charged our Budget Committee to give stakeholders the opportunity to tell the NDDC the kind of projects they want in their areas of operations, so that they can be included in our budget.

It was against this background that the current Board and Management, in its bid to do things differently so as to effectively drive sustainable development in the region, decided to adopt the Public Private Partnership, PPP, model to provide alternative sources of funding for key development projects and programmes.

Consequently, in January, 2023, we constituted a Management Committee on Public Private Partnership to drive our vision of fast-tracking the development of the Niger Delta region. The Committee is expected to review all the Commission’s existing partnerships as well as explore new partnerships that will result in enduring regional projects.

Our approach to partnership is to engage specific sectors in their areas of strength. For instance, the private sector is better equipped with expertise, resources, and technology to drive economic growth and development. By partnering with this sector, we can successfully leverage these resources to implement our programmes and projects.

Another stakeholder we cannot do without is the government at all levels. The government is critical in promoting sustainable development. By partnering with government agencies and departments, participating in government-led initiatives, and advocating for policies that promote sustainable development, we can access government resources, policies, and programmes that support our development objectives. We are keen on more collaboration with state and local governments to implement programmes and projects that address their communities’ specific needs.

Furthermore, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, and Community-Based Organisations, CBOs, are essential partners to be courted. These organisations understand the needs and aspirations of people in the Niger Delta region. By collaborating on specific programmes and projects, drawing from their knowledge and resources, and involving them in planning and implementation, we can ensure that our programmes and projects align with the needs and aspirations of people in the region.
Again, we need the assistance of foreign institutions such as multilateral agencies, foreign government agencies, donor agencies and multinational corporations to promote sustainable development in the Niger Delta region. Multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) can provide technical support, funding, and policy advice to the NDDC. These agencies have wide experiences promoting sustainable development in developing countries and can give us valuable insights and direction.

Foreign government agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, the Department for International Development, DFID, in the UK, and the German Agency for International Cooperation, GIZ, can also partner with us to promote sustainable development in our region. These agencies can provide funding, technical assistance, and policy guides, as well as collaborate with us on specific programmes and projects.

Multinational corporations such as Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Total have a significant presence in the Niger Delta region. We expect them to collaborate more with us in executing legacy projects. They have what it takes to provide funding, technical assistance, and expertise in environmental management, community development and corporate social responsibility.

Our “Rewind to Rebirth” initiative, which is the theme of this summit, is a strategic vision designed to recalibrate our engagement with the Niger Delta and the Commission’s overall intervention implementation plan. Embedded in this initiative include exploring more avenues for funding, for better technical expertise, for higher yielding varieties of crops, as well as opportunities for collaboration and investment in the Niger Delta region. This initiative aligns with the NDDC mandate, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals 17, which focuses on partnerships. This is the stirring story of our partnership with the SPDC Joint Venture on the celebrated Ogbia-Nembe Road, in Bayelsa State.
As we share ideas on how to “Rewind to Rebirth,” for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region, we are looking forward to partnering with both local and foreign investors, captains of industries, and the corporate world in building a better future for the region.

With a region as blessed with immense natural and mineral riches, with boundless youthful energy and optimism, and the remarkable possibilities of our shared dreams here, the future of the Niger Delta looks bright, indeed.
The NDDC is poised for positive change. Together, we can transform the fortunes of the region to give the people a new lease of life.


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