By Kufre John, NDN
Few weeks after swearing new ministers in, President Buhari, for the first time, seems to have gotten it right this time by appointing the right people into right places for the development of this country. The Niger Delta Ministry is already coasting on the right track owing to the ministry’s commitment to implement President Buhari’s new marching orders.
For instance, there have been many reforms within few weeks of Umana Umana’s assumption as new Minister in the ministry because of President Buhari’s sincere intention to alter the norms which have kept the place in a state of failure. Aside this, there are also reforms in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which is under the direct supervision of the Ministry.
To get workers acquainted with his new vision, the president approved a-two day retreat for management staff of Niger Delta Ministry and that of Niger Delta Development Commission.
The retreat afforded opportunity for the Minister to unveil President Buhari’s roadmap in repositioning both the Ministry and NDDC. At the meeting, the President through the Minister declared his intention to set up NDDC board which has been a major set in the implementation of NDDC goals.
This singular boldness to dare the odd and change narrative in NDDC, has earned President Buhari plaudits from stakeholders within the region, other spirited groups and individuals. Recently, some stakeholders under the aegis of Niger Delta Patriotic Alliance (NDPA), North America Chapter, Washington DC, USA, in a letter, agreed that the expected rebranding of the commission by Buhari’s administration would enable it to serve as a vehicle to drive the socio-economic development of the region.
In the letter signed by its Secretary General, Mr. Kenneth Friday, the group harped on quick implementation of his reforms.
The recent approval and ordered for the immediate reintroduction of overseas scholarship scheme for youths of Niger Delta which was suspended is highly appreciated. It can be recalled that several youths who were on NDDC scholarship scheme protested in various countries for neglect which was a big embarrassment for the country, and perhaps a major reason for the suspension of scholarship scheme.
The move by Ministry of Niger Delta to query non-connection of the NDDC head office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State to public power supply, as well as the “disproportionate recruitment of staff during the COVID-19 lockdown,” is another commendable adventure on the part of the current administration. It is a known facts that one cankerworm that eats up government’s budget is overhead cost or cost of governance. For NDDC to have operated on diesel engine over the years without recourse to public power supply calls for questions.
Worthy of note is that in July 13, 2020, the former acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Joy Nunieh, during an Arise Tv programme anchored by Reuben Abati, raised alarm that the headquarters of the agency was unconnected to public power supply.
Nunieh lamented that though millions of Naira was paid to get light to NDDC, it was not connected to the main building. With modalities set to connect the office to the national grid or directly from the power source, NDCC will save a lot of money for further development of the area.
However, the intention of Niger Delta Ministry to critically look into petitions over irregular promotions and deployment of staff in the NDDC, has also attracted commendations from both critics and lovers of this administration. NDDC over the years has been turned into private estate by many political gladiators in the region. It has become a parastatal where mediocrity is esteemed more than excellence, and people employed as political settlement. There is need for holistic review of this employment list and promotion in order to forestall sabotage by employees who may feel cheated.
To show how serious he is in the quest to reshape NDDC, the President through the Minister, has directed that a list of all completed projects in the NDDC awaiting paymentd be published for public scrutiny, while a stakeholders’ forum should be held to review the existing templates for project delivery. This is a good omen because NDDC was established for the people of Niger Delta and NDDC needs these very people to save them better. Research shows that where a people are alienated from projects executed within their domains, there is bound to outright rejection, sabotage, hence reason for the stakeholders’ meeting.
To contractors who were not paid by succeeding administrations of the commission, the new minister has declared that the ministry would prioritise project execution and payments that will deliver much impact for the country. Already members of the public have been assured that henceforth, the NDDC new focus in project execution would shift to “security, health, education, water and road infrastructure.” This is very important because these critical infrastructure are basic need for human survival.
President Buhari’s commitment to reforming Ministry of Niger Delta and NDDC is timely, and is clearly void of vindictiveness or self-aggrandizement.
President Buhari’s interest to reposition Niger Delta Ministry underscores his commitment to carry the people of Niger Delta along in his development plans.
Beyond his commitment and good agenda, Buhari needs to stand firm in actualizing this mission in order to successfully correct the years of administrative anomalies in NDDC caused by opportunistic leaders who sapped out lean budget of the commission in pursuit of their political interest.
The president must ensure that all his planned reforms for both Niger Delta Ministry and the NDDC is carried out within limited timeframes, not beyond his tenure as millions of people across the region expect to see him right all wrongs this time around.
Kufre John, a Journalist, writes from Uyo