By Pius Ughakpoteni
Still a long way to go
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is a federal agency established in 2000 to foster sustainable development in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The region has abundant rich natural resources, but its people struggle with poverty, environmental decay, and social turmoil. Despite the hardships of the Niger Delta, the NDDC, like a gardener who cares for a forgotten garden and transforms it into a lively and beautiful oasis, is dedicated to making the region a better place for its people and empowering them to enjoy its wealth.
The NDDC has made some impact and achieved some successes in providing infrastructure, education, health, and empowerment programs to the region. However, it still has a long way to go and many challenges to surmount to realize its full potential and vision.
The NDDC seeks to address these challenges and enhance the people’s living standards in the region. However, the NDDC has encountered several hurdles in fulfilling its goals. Some of the significant challenges that hamper the NDDC projects are:
- Corruption, misappropriation, and mismanagement of funds by some officials and contractors
- Incompetence and lack of professionalism among some contractors
- Environmental issues such as pollution, flooding, and erosion damage infrastructure and livelihoods
- Youth militancy and violence that disrupt peace and security
- Inadequate monitoring and evaluation of project implementation and impact
- Poor coordination and collaboration with other stakeholders, such as the federal, state, and local governments, civil society organizations, and community leaders
These challenges have eroded the performance and reputation of the NDDC and its projects in the region and have cast doubts on its effectiveness and legitimacy. Corporate governance is the system that shapes and controls how a firm is run and managed. It involves balancing the interests of various stakeholders, such as shareholders, senior management executives, customers, suppliers, financiers, the government, and the community. Corporate governance also defines how an organization distributes power, accountability, and decision-making among its members. The challenges that plague the NDDC projects pertain to corporate governance issues. For example:
– Corruption, misappropriation, and mismanagement of funds breach the principle of accountability that demands transparency and honesty in financial reporting and auditing;
– Incompetence and lack of professionalism among some contractors undermine the quality and efficiency of the projects and tarnish the reputation and credibility of the NDDC;
– Environmental issues such as pollution, flooding, and erosion endanger the sustainability and viability of the projects and the region;
– Youth militancy and violence impede the smooth implementation and operation of the projects and create insecurity and instability;
– Inadequate monitoring and evaluation restrict the performance measurement and feedback mechanisms that are crucial for good corporate governance; and
– Poor coordination and collaboration with other stakeholders hamper the alignment of interests and goals and the effective use of resources.
Good corporate governance is like a strong foundation for a building. The building cannot stand without a solid foundation, and any efforts to build on it will be fruitless. Good corporate governance provides the same solid foundation for a business, allowing it to stand firm and thrive in the long run.
Examples of good corporate governance practices
– Ensuring transparency and accountability in its operations. This could involve implementing measures such as regular financial reporting and audits and establishing clear lines of responsibility and accountability within the organization.
– Promoting ethical behavior within the organization by establishing a code of conduct for employees and implementing measures to prevent conflicts of interest and corruption.
– Ensuring its decision-making processes are inclusive and participatory by engaging with stakeholders such as local communities, civil society organizations, and international agencies to ensure their voices are audible.
Good corporate governance is also a critical component of development. It involves the efficient and effective use of resources, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law. Good corporate governance is essential for building trust and confidence among stakeholders, including international agencies and multinationals. The NDDC must prioritize good corporate governance to attract support from these stakeholders.
To adhere to the tenets of good corporate governance and position itself for support from international agencies and multinationals in developing the region, the NDDC could take several steps. These steps include:
– Implementing the good corporate governance practices mentioned above
– Strengthening its internal control systems to ensure compliance with laws, regulations, policies, standards
– Enhancing its communication strategy to inform stakeholders about its activities, achievements, challenges
– Seeking feedback from stakeholders on its performance, impact, satisfaction
– Establishing partnerships with other development actors to leverage resources, expertise
The role of the NDDC Governing Board is crucial for implementing these steps and ensuring good corporate governance in the Commission. The Governing Board is responsible for overseeing the financial situation, designing the business strategy, and ensuring coherence with the defined values and ethical principles of NDDC. The Governing Board also provides oversight and guidance to the Commission’s management team and ensures that the Commission is operating in the best interests of its stakeholders. After being without a board for nearly four years, the federal government inaugurated the Governing Board on January 4th, 2023.
The Governing Board must work closely with the Advisory Council, another vital statutory body for ensuring good corporate governance in the NDDC. According to the NDDC Act, the Advisory Council consists of the governors of the nine-member states of the NDDC and two other members appointed by the President. The Advisory Council is responsible for advising the Board on matters relating to the development of the Niger Delta region and monitoring the activities of the Commission. The Advisory Council also has the power to make regulations to discharge its functions effectively. The current chairman of the Advisory Council is Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
The NDDC Advisory Council and Governing Board are vital in ensuring good corporate governance in the Commission and transforming the Niger Delta region. They must collaborate to overcome the challenges that have hindered the Commission and its past projects and fulfill their mandate of fostering sustainable development in the region. They must also engage with other stakeholders, such as the federal government, international agencies, multinationals, civil society organizations, and local communities, to ensure their efforts are harmonized and coordinated. They must show transparency, accountability, professionalism, and ethical behavior in their operations and decision-making. They must communicate clearly with their stakeholders and seek feedback on their performance and impact. They need to manage risks and foster innovation and learning within the Commission.
By adhering to these steps and the principles of good corporate governance, the NDDC Advisory Council and Governing Board could earn the trust and confidence of their stakeholders and secure support from international agencies and multinationals for sustainable development in the region. By doing these things, they can make good corporate governance a reality in the NDDC and make a positive difference in the Niger Delta region.
Pius Ughakpoteni is the Director, New Media at the Niger Delta Development Commission, Port Harcourt.