As contemporary realities in Nigeria’s political space dictate, it will be the height of indiscretion for the administration to discount the prospects of the Niger Delta in defining its success or failure rating. Beyond serving as the cash cow to the country, is the factor of the lingering failure of government to wean itself from the retrogressive politics in managing the affairs of the agency, including the hamstrung interventionist development agencies of which the NDDC remains top on the line. Established in the year 2000 with a clear cut mandate to promote all round development in the Niger Delta region the agency has substantially derailed and posts a performance record which is anything but impressive. That is beyond the highly visible presence it maintains in the media, with its sponsored image laundering programmes which often create more suspicion than accolades for it.
As at the last count the agency is steeped in a cauldron of debts with N2.3 trillion owed it and a bigger stock of over N2.5 trillion owed its contractors as well as other creditors. Clearly the agency presents a case of incontrovertible insolvency, which was spawned by a regime of crass mismanagement of its mandate by elements in successive administrations whose only interest seems not to have proceeded beyond the plunder of the unending stream of statutory releases to the agency.
Hence, the call last week by the newly appointed Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio for a review of the operational circumstances of the agency in line with how far it has fared with its founding vision, establishing act and operational plans as well as programmes, remains a well-placed wake-up call for a behemoth organization which seems to record more in-house crises, than traction in service delivery. Akpabio made the call during a meeting between himself, the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs Festus Keyamo and the management of the NDDC in Abuja last week. Expectedly the two ministers gave the NDDC enough food for thought, as they collectively disapproved of the performance record of the agency as far as executing its mandate in the region is concerned.
Incidentally the official denunciation of the NDDC by the ministers is coming at one of several periods of general outcry over significant dip in the performance rating of the agency, the causes of which both Akpabio and Keyamo identified as manipulation by political powers that be, personal interests and vicious in-house power play, among the leading lights of the agency. In the floundering state of the NDDC over the years, the region has remained in arrested development as the host communities that are designate d beneficiaries of the enterprise of the agency generally have tales of woe, with respect to it.
As has been articulated by scores of observers, the primary weakness of the NDDC derives from the stunted vision of the successive leaderships and failure to think outside the box towards facilitating enduring development initiatives and projects, which would have predisposed the region to the economic hub of the country, beyond just the exploitation of oil and gas. This is the case with other better managed delta regions of the world. If that were so the NDDC would have had in the region a development oriented bank, However from the history of the operational circumstances of the NDDC, it is not likely that the agency investment portfolio provided for long term dividend yeilding options. As a major delta region of the world the Niger Delta region offers for exploitation humongous scope of resources
Yet this is an interventionist agency that was established with an elaborate process assessment of the needs of the region, as well as modalities and strategies for addressing such needs holistically and sustainably.