The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Umana Okon Umana, has credited his policy reform for the change in the negative narrative about the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to a positive one, just as stakeholders and political leaders praise him and the Managing Director of the commission, Dr Samnuel Ogbuku, for engendering public confidence in the agency through commitment to good public governance.
The stakeholders applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for restoring sanity and order in the running of the NDDC and noted the salutary impact of the President’s action on peace and stability in the Niger Delta region.
Speaking at a public-private partnership summit organised in Lagos on Tuesday by the NDDC, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, senator-elect and former chairman of the APC; Sen. Matthew Urhoghide, chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations; Mr Simbi Wabote, Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board; Mr Timi Alaibe, former managing director of the NDDC; and Mr Dakuku Peterside, former director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency were among those who acknowledged that things have changed for the better at the commission.
In a reference a widely-criticised past of departure from due process in the management of the NDDC, Oshiomhole wondered why anyone would run a government agency for three years with a handpicked sole administrator where there was no provision for such aberration in the enabling law that set up the agency, noting that such anomaly could never inspire public confidence in the NDDC. All the key speakers at the summit commended the Minister and the management of the NDDC for the positive trend at the commission.
Declaring the summit open on behalf of the Vice President, Umana said his decision to reset and reposition the NDDC has made the commission attractive to development partners in the private sector “because it is now run on the template of international best practices in public governance.” He said high on the template of good governance that he has brought to the NNDC was making sure that there was a clear difference between supervision and interference. “I have made sure there is no ministerial interference in the management of the NDDC,” Umana said, adding that the proof of the rising positive perception of the NDDC is evident in the enthusiastic response of private sector players to the invitation to dialogue on the way forward for the development of the Niger Delta.
“The event we are witnessing today ties back to my Action Plan to reset and reposition the NDDC, following my appointment as Minister,” Umana said at the public-private investment summit. “I have faithfully implemented the Action Plan. As part of the Plan the Board of the Commission was inaugurated.
“We also set in motion an era of accountability and transparency by publishing in national newspapers a list of 2,506 completed projects executed by the Commission under the Buhari administration from 2015 to 2022. The feedback to this level of commitment to openness in public governance has been tremendous.
“And so today we are witnessing an enthusiastic response by stakeholders and development partners to an invitation to dialogue on the development of the Niger Delta because there is trust in public institutions that are run according to law and due process. Public-Private Partnership would not be realistic in a government institution that is burdened with trust deficit.
“In keeping with the Action Plan to do things right, Government approved for implementation some of the key recommendations of the Forensic Audit into the activities of the NDDC, while the White Paper on the Forensic Audit Report is being awaited. As recommended in the Report, contracts for 4000 projects were cancelled for non-performance and the cancellation was published in the newspapers. The process for recovering money paid for the cancelled contracts has begun.”
The Minister commended the management of the NDDC for organising the investment summit. One of the highlights of the summit was the signing of an MOU between the NDDC and Atlantic Global Resources Inc. to build a $15 billion railroad that will link all states of the Niger Delta region in a modern transport hub.
The summit was well attended by private sector partners to the NDDC, stakeholders in the Niger Delta, other public sector agencies, leadership of the National Assembly and representatives of state governments from the Niger Delta.