PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has just inaugurated the North-East Development Commission, NEDC, which has been given a take-off grant of N10 billion and will oversee the rehabilitation of North-Eastern communities that have been destroyed by Boko Haram terrorists.
The NEDC is modelled on the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which is supposed to economically boost the nine oil-producing states and improve the existences of ordinary folks who live in them.
I say “supposed” because there is a massive gap between the NDDC’s stated objectives and legal obligations…and its actual performance.
It is normal in Third World countries – which usually have weak law enforcement systems and are run by officials who answer to greedy godfathers rather than to suffering citizens – for public sector organisations to spectacularly fail to deliver on their main briefs.
And it has to be said that NDDC is one of the most depressing and glaring examples of institutional and ethical malfeasance in Nigeria.
The NDDC is, quite frankly, a tragic joke. Its greatest beneficiaries are VIPs – wealthy politicians mostly – who don’t need help; and many of these beneficiaries aren’t even indigenes of the Niger Delta.
Worse still, they often don’t bother to do the jobs they get properly or at all. And I’m not aware that non-performers are ever punished.
OK, so let me not be too hypocritical or sanctimonious. While I am far from rich – I cannot currently afford a car! – I am pretty comfortable compared to the average Niger Deltan.
However, even though NDDC isn’t supposed to prioritise people like me, if NDDC were to offer me a juicy contract that would enable me to pay for a whole heap of luxuries, I certainly won’t say “no”. In other words, I totally understand why those who have access to patronage enthusiastically pursue the millions and billions they are able to collect from NDDC. And, to be fair, some of these contractors are professionals who perform adequately.
But NDDC is very messed-up overall. It is more about rewarding fat cat cronies of any government in power than about development or poverty alleviation; and because it isn’t sincerely focussing on progress and sustainability, it is heavily in the red and staggering under the weight of debts that date back several years.
Each new management team is more interested in paying off its chums than in ensuring that work done before it took over gets paid for, and I pray that NEDC does not go down the same route and wind up being about big people rather than little people.
It will be so sad and infuriating if traumatised Internally Displaced Persons in refugee camps – and starving inhabitants of North Eastern villages who have been to hell and back – wind up being shortchanged by those who have been entrusted with their welfare.
It will also be extremely unwise of Northern elite types to mismanage this opportunity to prove that they can behave like decent human beings and worthwhile leaders.
For far too long, selfish, short-sighted mandarins in the North have played fast and loose with the Northern masses; and they are now finally beginning to reap what they have sown in the form of the widespread rage, banditry and kidnapping that abound in the North.
Everywhere in Nigeria has been super-tense and crime-ridden for a while; but the upper half of the country is particularly dangerous…like a pressure cooker that will explode at any moment.
The NEDC Chairman is retired army major-general, Paul Tarfa; and its Managing Director is Mohammed Alkali.
Let’s hope that both are men of timbre and calibre…who will run the show conscientiously and not be constantly bullied by overbearing grandees who expect them to betray their constituents by ignoring the indigent and concentrating on further empowering the rich.
By the way, NEDC has board members who represent every geopolitical zone: David Kente representing North East, Asmau Mohammed representing North West, Benjamin Adanyi representing North Central, Olawale Oshun representing South West, Theodore Ekechi, member representing South-East and Obasuke McDonald representing South-South.
I have long complained bitterly about the fact that the NDDC board contains non-Niger Deltans. As far as I’m concerned, they have no business whatsoever involving themselves in my zone’s business!
So let me be consistent and say that I believe that the only one of the above who should be on the NEDC board is Mr. Kente!
I also think that contracts and consultancies should be awarded exclusively to North Eastern entrepreneurs.
Long story short: This baby should not suffer NDDC’s fate and belong to everyone!