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Niger Delta: NNDC, Buhari and the burden of intention (2)

This is the second instalment of this piece which was first published yesterday. In that edition, the author said he was impressed by some of the landmark achievements of some of the former Boards of the NDDC.

FOR every year since 2005, the
NDDC has budgeted and awarded more contracts than its revenue. This bad cycle of unsustainable procurement practice has caged the agency in a locked pot. Currently, the NDDC has project commitment to the tune of about N1.4 trillion, and an invoice bill of almost N500 billion. Its annual revenue has dwindled over 40 per cent in the past four years. Yet, up until December, 2015, when the last Board was dissolved, major contracts were still being awarded.

According to a NEITI report released in 2013, the NDDC has had a project success rate of less than 25 per cent since establishment in 2000. The NEITI audit of the commission from 2007-2013 puts the project completion at 24 per cent for the period reviewed.

The report stated that the Commission’s earnings grew from N64.721 billion in the fiscal year 2007 to NGN167.778 billion in the fiscal year 2011. The cumulative total (2007-2013) revenue from all sources was recorded at NGN593.961 billion; the Federal Government contributed NGN216.902 billion that is, 36.5 percent while the receipts from oil companies accounted for NGN375.751 billion which also represents 63.3 percent.

This ratio of 40:60 funding typically represents the annual funding structure of the Commission. The project performances over the years (2007 – 2013) reviewed by NEITI have been below an average of 19 percent in terms of the number completed. The number of projects awarded during the period under review was 1,475 of which 280 were completed while 1,195 projects were yet to be completed. This performance has not improved.

Why the NDDC does not work

The NDDC is the only agency of government under of the direct or indirect influence nine state governors, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, two oversight committees in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. At the community level, the commission deals with a complex interplay of social forces and principalities.

Funding has been inadequate. The Act establishing the NDDC spells out its sources of funding: mainly the 15% deduction from the (nine) member states and contributions from the oil and gas companies producing in the Region. These two sources ought to be steadfast stakeholders, and they were under the platform of the Partners for Sustainable Development (PSD). A mechanism designed as a peer review platform for sustainable development in the Niger Delta. For reasons largely of stewardship and commitment to cause, the PSD has become less effective like it used to be. Since 2001, the FG has not remitted about N840 billion of funds accruing the Commission, and the contributions from PSD partners have also dropped.

Commonsense economics demands that when resources are scarce, rationing or prioritization become a crucial consideration. The NDDC has remained a contract mill even with its dwindling resources. The attitude has been more of relegating projects not awarded by previous boards. This continuous stacking of projects has become perhaps the most severe encumbrance on the Commission.

The Niger Delta Regional Master Plan identified about 24 sectors, ranging from health, education, vocational training, agriculture and aquaculture, telecommunications, transportation and infrastructure, environment, waste management and sanitation, housing, etc.

Developmen impact

As a young data analyst working with the Master Plan team of the best brains aggregated from all sectors, interpolating the multi-sector data sets and analysing them spatially to help the decision support process helped me gain a rather strange understanding of the complexities of the Niger Delta.

What I took away from that intense project – thanks to the lead grey haired consultants – was that the problems of the region are very diverse; and to make headway, we must prioritize.

For some reason, the NDDC wants to do everything – from road projects, water supply, electricity, canals, shore protection, erosion control, environmental remediation, health centres, schools, hostels, youth and women empowerment, vocational training, agriculture, scholarships etc. Even the PTF under General Muhammadu Buhari with all the money they had, did not operate like that. This uncoordinated dispersion of scarce resources progressively reduces the development impact on the Region.

Joe Biden, the US Vice President once said, “Don’t tell me your priorities, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what your priorities are.” Unfortunately, Nigerian institutions continue to demonstrate a poor commitment of planning and programming, and in the words of Segun Adeniyi of Thisday in his piece, ‘Nigeria’s Zero Budget’, “We just share money.”

The NDDC budgeting system ought to systematically take its bearing from the Regional Master Plan but this has hardly been the case. Politicians have now converted the NDDC to an institution for the extension of constituency projects.

The way forward must be some tough choices. Stakeholders are more concerned about benefits and who becomes what, than the performance of the commission on the ground. The Commission needs structural reforms. First, to ensure a progressively stable management by streamlining the administrative structure and it’s interface with the many federal(political) oversight strongholds.

A development policy must be developed and adopted by all stakeholders. Such a policy will act as a complementary guide to the Niger Delta Regional Master Plan, and help configure a sound planning, operational and quality management track for the Commission. The development policy should itemize and prioritize the goals of the commission within a specific timeframe. For instance, the NDDC policy can define conditions for intervention in an infrastructural development or expansion project. It can set 5 –year targets in agriculture/aquaculture using community based cooperatives as vehicle; foster partnerships with international agencies and local partners for potential development initiatives in health, education and the environment.

The stakeholders all share the responsibility for the development of the Region. Therefore, the PSD as a peer review mechanism should be reactivated to greater relevance, and also expanded to include a representative of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

The progressive drop in revenue from the contributions of OPTS should concern the FG. There is an important need for the NDDC to have an interface with National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS). That’s the only way the Commission can compute, derive and pursue what rightly should accrue to its coffers from the producing companies. As yet, the companies only remit what they decide to, after their autonomous computation of what the 3% means to them.

Economically, the NDDC plays a very important role in the economy of the Niger Delta. It sustains over 50,000 permanent and temporary jobs across the Region. That effectively makes the commission the 10th  state of the Region. With such significance, you can understand why the politics around the Commission is big. The appointment of Mrs. Ibim Semenitari as Acting Managing Director (Sole Administrator) of the NDDC raised some dust, but it also offers a window for the implementation of crucial reforms which must be founded on a realistic development policy. As challenging as it may be working the politics with an array of PDP governors and members of the National Assembly committees chaired by members of the PDP, Mrs. Semenitari, a former commissioner of information and communication in Rivers state, must learn to thread the tightrope.

This small management team is an opportunity to design a transformational framework for the NDDC. It is an opportunity to engage the very competent skill set within the Commission, and key stakeholders, to commence the design of a development policy for the organization, that will drive subsequent intervention efforts.

Ross Alabo-George is a policy analyst and writes in from Lagos.


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