By John Mayaki
The Niger Delta Development Commission [NDDC] was created in the year 2000 with a number of defined objectives, including formulation of policies and implementation of projects and programs, but a sole and clear ultimate goal: developing the Niger Delta region which was ravaged by debilitating poverty compounded by the environmental effects of oil exploration activities.
It was an evident reality that while the region provided the country’s most important resource in abundant quantity, its people were left with damaged lands and polluted rivers, a situation that rendered the local economy impotent, and put the large population of the Niger Delta people, hitherto thriving farmers and fishermen, out of work and means to adequately fend for themselves.
However, nearly 20 years after the creation and funding of the NDDC, in taking stock of its activities and interventions worth billions of naira sourced from private companies and the Federal Government, it cannot be decisively said that things have changed for good.
As a matter of fact, statistics show that the Niger Delta remains consistently worse than the rest of the country. For instance, while average life expectancy in the country is pegged at 55 years, in Niger Delta, it is 45 years likely due to the poor health and sanitation in the region and inadequate security of lives and properties.
In the same vein, while over 60% of Nigerians are reportedly in the clutch of poverty, a staggering and overwhelming figure of 88% has been quoted for the Niger Delta.
All of these complete a sad and grim picture that highlights the years of NDDC’s incompetence and corruption, with the poor people of the region made to bear the brunt.
It is in light of this that Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, the Acting Executive Director of Project, NDDC, has called for a new spirit of service and responsibility in the commission.
Recognizing the important mandate of the NDDC and how ills of the past in the commission have denied the region stable growth and development, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh posited that in righting the wrongs, there must be a clear deviation from the past.
“We must do what is right and it must be a departure from the past,” he said.
“Whatever has been done wrong in NDDC by past Boards, must be corrected so that the people of the Niger Delta Region can have the reward for which the NDDC was created”.
Indeed, the NDDC and the people of Niger Delta are in sore need of a change; a positive change. The past of abandoned projects must be exchanged for an immediate future of completed ones; and a past of lagging behind in crucial development and economic indices must be exchanged for an immediate future of infrastructure provision, steady growth, and dignified life.
We must take the well-intended charge of Dr. Cairo Ojougboh and perhaps draw hope from his courage and devotion already reflected in his commitment to duty and improving the lives of the common man.
Mayaki, an Oxford and Cambridge University-trained entrepreneurship, leadership and sustainability expert, resides in England.