NDDC BOARD: The need for technocrats

 
Fri Sep 20th, 2019 - Akwa Ibom
 

By Ime Ibanga

WHEN the Olusegun Obasanjo administration established the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in 2000, it had the intention of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta region which had been under-developed for years before the advent of the Fourth Republic.

As the commission kicked off with its mandate, it was able to train and educate the youths of the oil rich Niger Delta regions. Besides, it curbed hostilities and militancy, while developing key infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity.

However, 19 years down the line, it would be apt to state that the NDDC has not been able to find its feet considering the allegations of financial misappropriation that has trailed those at the helm of affairs at the Commission.

Only recently, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a 16-man new board of the Commission, with Dr. Pius Odubu from Edo State as the chairman. The announcement was, however, greeted with mixed reactions by various stakeholders from the Niger Delta.

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While some argued that the NDDC leadership should have been made up of members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who worked for the President’s victory during the presidential elections, others opined that the Commission should be made of technocrats, who would reinvent the commission.

A statement signed by the Permanent Secretary (General Services Office), office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olusegun Adekunle, on behalf of the SGF, however, said that the appointment was subject to the confirmation of the Senate.

The statement said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has, subject to Senate confirmation, approved the composition of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission. The interim management headed by Prof. Nelson Brambaifa has been directed to hand over to the most senior director in the Commission.

“The chairman and members of the newly composed Governing Board are, by this release, invited to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on Monday, September 2, 2019 for proper documentation and briefing. They are to come along with their updated CVs and valid identification.”

Among the board members are Bernard Okumagba from Delta State, who will serve as Managing Director; Otobong Ndem from Akwa Ibom, who was appointed as the Executive Director, Projects and Maxwell Okoh from Bayelsa State.

Need for technocrats

The coming on board of technocrats that will be at the helm of affairs of the commission is a welcome development. Appointing technocrats to head government agencies and parastatals, especially like the NDDC will help manage the NDDC funds and take charge of the general administration of the commission.

Indeed, expectations are high, as the new board gets ready to assume duties.

Little wonder the excitement when Maxwell Oko was announced as the new Executive Director, Finance and Administration, EDFA, in the NDDC.

The enthusiasm is understandable, considering the reported rot in the commission over the years-mismanagement of funds, indebtedness, payment for projects not executed and all.

But all eyes seem to be on Oko, the man whose responsibility it will be to manage the NDDC funds and take charge of the general administration of the commission. There are also expectations that the era of financial inducements by contractors for staff of the commission to overlook the shoddy or unexecuted jobs are over. Those who know Oko very well seem to put a stamp of endorsement on his character and ability to sanitise NDDC. The general perception is that Oko understands the language of sincerity and service delivery.

But with a system that is believed to have been so entrenched in corruption and sharp practices, how far can Oko go in changing the narrative in the NDDC?

The pioneer president of the Ijaw Youths Council, IYC, Dr Felix Tuodolo, who was involved in the struggle for the Niger Delta development with Oko, said he was confident that Oko had the capacity and courage to turn things around in the commission.

Tuodolo said: “The announcement for the appointment of our brother, Maxwell Oko came to us with a high level of excitement. We, in the struggle in the human rights circle and those struggling for the emancipation of the Niger Delta, were very happy to hear the news of the appointment of Maxwell Oko into the NDDC. Some of the things we have been talking about over the years, which are the essence of our struggle, are to develop the Niger Delta, the Niger Delta people controlling their resources and managing same. These are the issues we are talking about, but most times, we realise that while we are talking and struggling on this basis, the little available to the Niger Delta is mismanaged by persons who are holding several offices. But we are happy when a person who has participated in the struggle gets into office. With Maxwell Oko there, who is part and parcel of the struggle, we know that he is going to leave his marks, excellent marks that we will appreciate that people will talk about. He knows the pain and suffering of our people.”

Oko appears to have prepared long before now, for this job.

It is on record that as commissioner in Bayelsa State, he had designed, developed and implemented the blueprint for youth development, and employment generation for Bayelsa State; promoted healthy and cooperative community relations by creating awareness and improving community involvement in governance as a means of dousing conflicts and communal tensions; and set up the Youth Empowerment/Capacity Building Training Scheme that resulted in the training and employment of seven youths as commercial helicopter pilots at the Bristow Academy in Florida, USA; and over 50 youths as seamen in Norway.

Also lending his voice, a former minister of petroleum, King Edmund Daukoru, under whom Oko served as personal assistant, said Oko is a round peg in a round hole.

Daukoru said: “Maxwell is very committed to his work and duties. He served under me as my SA. He took over from Sylva. It was just revealing to see how much Maxwell parked into his brain. He is very committed, principled, disciplined person and it is just the kind of appointment that we anticipate.”

His position was corroborated by founder of the Bayelsa Youth Federation and a critical stakeholder in the Niger Delta project, Alabo Nengi James.

James said: “From his antecedents, I know that he will do well. Maxwell is a very innovative and creative. Because of his profession as an architect, he is very creative and he always thinks outside the box. Recently, l heard that there were some problems in NDDC and I knew that some things were going to change. As a man who has been in the Ijaw and Niger Delta struggle, he should go back to the drawing board and look at the Act that establishes the NDDC board and do accordingly.

Oko appears to have prepared long before now, for this job.

It is on record that as commissioner in Bayelsa State, he had designed, developed and implemented the blueprint for youth development, and employment generation for Bayelsa State; promoted healthy and cooperative community relations by creating awareness and improving community involvement in governance as a means of dousing conflicts and communal tensions; and set up the Youth Empowerment/Capacity Building Training Scheme that resulted in the training and employment of seven youths as commercial helicopter pilots at the Bristow Academy in Florida, USA; and over 50 youths as seamen in Norway.

He also created a data base of unemployed youths in the state and encouraged them to be integrated into government’s youth empowerment policy, using effective advocacy and responsiveness to their needs, resolution of conflicts between oil companies and the host communities as well as the youth groups that led SPDC Gbarain/Ubie Gas gathering Project to be awarded as SPDC’s Africa fastest moving project in 2017, formulation of the Triple-E Policy of Engagement, Education/Employment and Enforcement, which led to the Bayelsa Peace Accord with all Militant Groups disarming and signing onto the Federal Government Amnesty programme, as well as training of more than 100 youths in effective use of ICT and Information systems.

* Ibanga, a social commentator writes from Cross River State.

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source: Vanguard