By Chioma Onuegbu
MINISTER of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has blamed past failures of the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC to deliver on its mandate on corruption and weak political and institutional governance in the region.
Akpabio spoke on Friday while presenting his keynote address at the NDDC strategic capacity building workshop/ retreat with the theme, “NDDC: Collaborating, Planning and Re-strategizing for a better Niger Delta region” held at Ibom Icon Hotel & Golf Resort.
He identified corruption, weak governance and institutional weaknesses, lack of proper synergy as some of the drawbacks of the federal government interventionist agency.
He said transparency and inclusiveness in the commission’s budgeting systems, evaluation and strict monitoring of projects and programmes are necessary for the NDDC to impact meaningfully in the region.
His words, ”Twenty years after the establishment of NDDC, I believe our discussions ought to have been on the successes achieved, and how we can strengthen it to achieve more for the Niger Delta and our people. Sadly, we are still here, at a post-mortem, interrogating the Commission’s setbacks and lost opportunities.
“Sadly, we are still here, sixty-five years later, still looking for a better strategy to ushering the kind of development that sustains our people’s livelihoods and fulfils our shared dream of a better Niger Delta region.
“‘Corruption is one of the greatest problems of the Nigerian society and it also finds its ugly and devastating effects in all sectors of the polity including the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)
”It has been reported that the level of corruption engulfed all the sectors including government, parastatals, ministries, government officials and community leaders even the youth leaders and NDDC was not left out in the act.
” It is clear that fiscal transparency in budgeting has been compromised, not only by executive overrides but by weak internal mechanisms, which give little or no resistance to overbearing external influences.
Akpabio who is the supervising minister of NDDC said for the Commission to effectively and efficiently deliver on its mandate, as captured in Section 7 of the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act (as amended), it was decided to look at ways at achieving an all-inclusive budget.
He stressed, it is often stated that “weak political and institutional governance in the Niger Delta has led to the misuse of public resources, poor service delivery, and the poor enforcement, of the law, noting that the consequence har been the lingering restiveness, the breakdown of trust, abuse and misuse of power between officials and the communities.
”Yet, every concerned party is guilty. Private investors in the oil and gas sector, factions of different community restive groups, traditional rulers, the regulatory and supervisory agencies and government officials have been fingered as contributory to the challenges in establishing good governance.
”If strengthening NDDC, as an institution through its budgeting systems, as well as through its procurement, monitoring, evaluation and compliance processes, is not achieved, then the bells of doom would, inevitably, begin to toll harder”
In his welcome remarks, the Interim Administrator of the NDDC, Mr. Efiong Akwa said the retreat is aimed at furthering ongoing consultations between the commission and all relevant stakeholders for effective development of the region.
“Contrary to its unsavoury past ways, the core of our new personal is continual consultations and collaboration with stakeholders to co-create commonalities for effective development in the Niger Delta”, Akwa Said