Viewpoint

June 25, 2024

National asset protection and NDDC’s 1,006 legacy projects

National asset protection and NDDC’s 1,006 legacy projects

NDDC

By JEROME-MARIO UTOMI

IT was in the news that the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, recently presented a N1.91 trillion 2024 budget to the Senate Committee on NDDC. The draft budget (as it then was) emphasized priorities such as security, job creation, youth and women empowerment, social welfare, education and infrastructure, among others. Without going into detailed analysis, one profound part of the approved budget is the decision of the NDDC leadership to raise N1 trillion, from development and commercial banks, for the completion of 1,006 legacy projects spread across the region. These projects are reportedly in specific areas such as roads, bridges, electricity, schools, hospitals, shore protection and reclamation, among others.

Aside from the overt awareness that when abandoned projects are completed and put into use, it saves the nation from wastage, boost national assets and promotes socio-economic development of the people, region and the nation in general, there are  however, other covert reasons that render this present development as both  newsy and commendable. Students of history who are familiar with the origin of project abandonment and neglect of national assets in Nigeria and the politics that fuels this will agree that the NDDC governing board and management is on the path to ending an ugly ‘culture’ that has over the years held down the region’s development.

And if this policy framework is achieved as envisaged, it is abundantly clear that future historians and, of course, development professionals shall definitely refer to the present board and management as a bunch that restored new order in the region and hope to the people. Beyond what future historians may say, there is equally need to highlight why this piece is fixated with NDDC’s departure from the old order, and at the very moment on a mission to tackle a challenge that has not only become a culture of a sort but has its origin deeply rooted in history that predates the nation’s independence in October 1960.

Beginning with the historical undertone as to why Nigerians and successive leaderships in the country daily demonstrate lackadaisical attitude towards national assets and see nothing wrong with project desertion, history has it that during colonial rule, Nigerians developed anti-colonial belief that public property is no man’s property. This belief, according to reports, was intended to fight colonialism but it continued after independence and brought insensitivity to government property as well as ineptitude, nepotism, neglect of duty, etc.; it gravely offers explanation as to the reckless way in which government property and projects are handled.

Indeed, what the above information tells us is that both project abandonment and public asset neglect in the country are two striking human tragedies, and that the pain they inflict on the nation are deepened by the fact that they were avoidable. There are books to teach how to build a house, how to repair an engine and how to write a book, but there are no codified books on how to build a region, society or nation. Conversely, nation building, in my view, depends on: one, ceaseless creative and far-reaching public policies designed and implemented by well foresighted leaders- a case in point is the NDDC’s resolve to complete abandoned projects that presently litters its mandate states.

The second has to do with the humility of others who could neither design nor formulate to learn and domesticate within their jurisdiction such far- reaching people-oriented knowledge from their compatriots. These are the only possible explanations! In this light, I believe that closing rank with a view to learning from NDDC’s latest template is not only important but eminently desirable as ‘we cannot continue to do one thing repeatedly and be expecting a different result-or tackling our societal challenges with the same mentality used when the problems were created’. Viewed broadly, the decision to revitalise these abandoned projects by the agency without minding the administration that initiated them strategically raises the consciousness that leadership is globally considered as continuum.

It also stands as a testament of promise fulfilled on the part of the entire governing board and management of NDDC. Recall that  Mr. Chiedu Ebie, Chairman, Governing board of NDDC, in his opening remarks at the agency’s 2024 retreat held in February, at Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, told the gathering that the NDDC board and management under his leadership will look back, so as to productively look forward in its resolve to provide coordinated development to the people of Niger Delta region. To take one example of why NDDC’s living up to their promise is considered commendable, this recent development (completing previous projects), has begun to create hope among many of its multiple stakeholders; presently, many have interesting things to say about the agency and its new leadership. And those comments gladly promote the organisation’s corporate image and perception.

Beside these torrent of positive comments, what is most significant about the whole episode is that the positive actions of the current leadership tactically affirms as true the age-long dictum which insists that ‘it takes good people and the society for a government to do well’.

Another takeaway is: with the agency’s present shift from old to new order, coupled with its well-crafted projects and initiatives such as building partnership for renewed hope, lightning up the Niger Delta and carbon emission reduction, among others, there is no doubt that infrastructural provision, economic and social programmes, and prosperity of the people have become the natural order through the ceaseless efforts and attentions from an honest and effective government elected by the people.

Therefore, while it is obvious, going by commentaries that NDDC has finally gotten a board with the understanding that it is its duty to serve and save the region, one important point that we must not allow go with political winds is that it remains our collective responsibility to protect public/national assets and this, role we shall perform at the most fundamental levels.

Accordingly too, it is the responsibility of those in the position of authority to unlearn the habit of abandoning projects –especially projects inherited from their predecessors. And like the NDDC board and management, they should imbibe the culture of project completion without considering whose administration such project was conceived or initiated. This is the way to go.

God Bless Nigeria!

•Utomi, a media professional, wrote from Lagos via: Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com

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