By Willie Etim
The concept of “Rewind to Rebirth is sweet to the ears. This is the first time in 15 years that I am attending an NDDC function and this is because the current leadership of the Commission is charting a new course that is impressive.”
Those were the words of a former Chief Executive Officer of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Chief Timi Alaibe, as he reviewed the prospects and the initial strides of the new team. Alaibe, who had worn the shoes of the interventionist agency, surely knows where it pinches.
He spoke at the NDDC Public Private Partnership, PPP, Summit, held at the prestigious Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos on April 25, 2023. The man, affectionately known as the principal by the NDDC family, stated: “the PPP initiative is the right way to go because we need the private sector to help with funding and expertise.”
Bringing the likes of Alaibe and other stakeholders of the Niger Delta region, including captains of industry in the private sector under one roof to explore ways of driving sustainable development in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region, points the way to a new dispensation.
Leading the charge in this new era, the NDDC Managing Director, Dr Samuel Ogbuku, explained that the commission decided to adopt the PPP model to provide alternative sources of funding for its key development projects and programmes.
The declared: “Our ‘Rewind to Rebirth’ initiative 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.”
Ogbuku, a development strategist and administrator, gives more background to what could be described as a paradigm shift in the efforts to develop the Niger Delta region. He said: “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 PPP model to provide alternative sources of funding for key development projects and programmes. “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. “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.” Listing the commission’s achievements, he said: “In the coming weeks, some of our major projects will be inaugurated.
Among this is 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.” According to Ogbuku, “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.”
The collaboration with Shell on the 29-kilometre road, remains a model that needs to be replicated and the NDDC appears to be heading in that direction. In this wise, the NDDC boss said that as part of efforts to renew and reposition the Commission, the Governing Board stepped up collaboration with various stakeholders. Ogbuku explained: “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.”
Part of these engagements was the meeting between the NDDC and members of the Oil Producers Trade Section, OPTS, of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to Ogbuku, the “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.” Other stakeholders that he mentioned, include, local, state and federal governments.
He rationalized that “by partnering with government agencies and departments, participating in government-led initiatives, and advocating for policies that promote sustainable development”, the NDDC can access government resources, policies, and programmes that support its development objectives.
Premising on their expertise in promoting sustainable development in developing countries as well as offering technical assistance, Ogbuku said that 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 for the NDDC.
Again, Ogbuku said that the NDDC would be banking on multinational corporations such as Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Total to collaborate with the NDDC in executing legacy projects. He said that the oil giants “have what it takes to provide funding, technical assistance, and expertise in environmental management, community development and corporate social responsibility.”Along this line, the NDDC took what was explained as preliminary steps by signing a memorandum of understanding with a United States-based firm, Atlanta Global Resources Inc. AGRI, to build a railway network that will connect the nine states of the Niger Delta region.
The ceremony, which was one of the highlights of the PPP Summit, gave a positive indication that better days were ahead. In fact, the NDDC stated that work on the preliminary stages of the project, perhaps the biggest in the history of the Commission, is expected to start immediately.
Obviously, elated by this development, the NDDC boss described the event as representing a big harvest for the Commission from the PPP Summit.. The Chief Executive Officer of Atlanta Global Resources Inc, Mr. Tony Ekpele, said the company was partnering with NDDC to as much as possible provide funds for the Commission to construct, operate and also manage the rail line.
In his keynote presentation, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, Engr. Simbi Wabote, stressed that for partnerships to be successful, they must be based on proper analysis and studies. While commending the initiative of the NDDC to attract additional funding through PPP, he warned that capital attraction was a big challenge when there were real or perceived infractions, corruption, lack of accountability, and other vices within the organisation seeking funding.
Speaking further, he lauded the management of the NDDC for embarking on the Summit, describing it as “the start of a new dawn in making the Commission to retrace its steps back to the original objectives of its formation as an intervention agency for the development of the Niger Delta region.”Wabote admitted that it was imperative for NDDC to explore innovative funding via PPPs as a credible option to meet the expanding developmental demands of the Niger Delta region, noting that the PPP arrangement brings corporate governance, technical expertise, and commercial acumen to enhance project delivery and successful operations.
Wabote added, “From what I can see with the current management, a new dawn is in the horizon and I look forward to very exciting times at the Commission.” Several big wigs at the summit were open and candid in their goodwill messages. The former Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, commended the NDDC for admitting that it had suffered from goal displacement. He said: “The NDDC Management and the Board have shown courage by putting the Summit together. The NDDC has our prayers and support.
What is missing is not the ideas, but the courage.” Oshiomhole advocated that the budget cycle of NDDC should be in line with the national budget.
He advised the NDDC management to promote inclusive and sustainable development in the region. In another goodwill message, the former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, acknowledged that things have changed for the better at the Commission and applauded the NDDC Board and Management for striving to leave legacies in the region. According to him, “the founding fathers of the NDDC intended that the NDDC should be a catalyst for development.
The PPP arrangement is a new way of getting good results. There must be a fusion between the private sector and the public sector. It is important to bring in the resources and expertise of the private sector.” One of the participants from the international community, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Miundo Misingi Hub, based in Nairobi, Kenya, Johnson Mwawasi Kilangi, applauded the NDDC management for putting together a summit to discuss how to deploy infrastructure assets and services with the private sector. According to Johnson, the summit came at a time when many countries are struggling to meet the ever-expanding infrastructure financing requirements, exacerbated by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Johnson said that time was ripe for the region to leverage on private sector resources and innovation to develop qualify, affordable and sustainable infrastructure for the citizens.
Willie Etim is the Special Assistant on Media to the NNDC MD.