The Niger Delta States of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta and Bayelsa despite getting huge amounts as derivation fund from the federation account for many years – higher than all other states in Nigeria, are plagued by rural poverty so unprecedented, suffers from unimaginable environmental degradation, social services are almost absent, educational structures in the rural areas are appalling, and many ills that space will not permit.
Various Commissions (Oil Minerals Producing and Development Commission (1992), the Niger Delta Development Commission (2000) and, Ministry of Niger Delta (2008), set up to address the issues of lack of potable drinking water, good roads and electricity supply etc. have all failed the people in the Delta.
Most of the persons on the board of public agencies were recommended by ‘higher uppers’ in the society. The protégé in office becomes blind to the future and worships his benefactor ignoring the will of state and by extension the people for whom policy thrust are designed to help.Surprisingly, Nigerians are more tolerant of failed public institutions than they would – with private institutions like the telecommunication companies.
President Buhari needs to reinvent government for development in Nigeria. He needs to get on the bully pulpit to tell the Nigerian people what his visions are, so they can begin to catch the bug, to abandon his non-alignment policy with the national assembly and quickly get them to understand these vision and, strongly afterwards, communicate same to civil servants and managers of public institutions: emphasis is on the NDDC in this piece. If he does not do this in good time, chances are that he will fail in his stewardship.
The NDDC has been served with the buffet menu for too long which has not yielded result. Now is the time for them to be served with an a la carte menu. A menu designed to implement programmes for the people of the Niger Delta, empower people in the real sense to focus on delivery of quality services and getting closer to people.
The Niger-Delta Development Commission Act 2000 among many other duties stipulates (functions and powers of the Commission), 7.(1) The Commision shall – (b) conceive, plan and implement, in accordance with set rules and regulation, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the Niger-Delta in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, education, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications.
It is time the Buhari administration began to make the NDDC run like a private entrepreneurial establishment that must be gauged on performance and not an institution set up to propitiate a region which enriches a few. It was General George S. Patton who said in 1944 that, “never tell people how to do things, tell them what you want them to achieve and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
Unlike in the past when cronies where recommended for recruitment to the Board by administrators. Buhari should do better: buck the trend and recruit professionals to the Board without overwhelming influence from administrators with hidden agenda.
The act of the Commission recommends, ‘the Board,’ to consist of a Chairman, one person from the oil bearing states, three persons to represent non-Oil producing from other geo-political zones, one representative from Oil producing companies in the Niger-Delta nominated by the Oil producing companies, one person to represent the Federal Ministry of Finance, one person to represent Federal Ministry of Environment, the managing Director of the Commission, two executive Directors.
Merit should form the basis for the selection of the new board, people the president must not know and, whose integrity and track record will win them same jobs. Professionals who could always been counted on to be truthful; to give the good oil to their constituents and who must be mandated to send in verifiable accomplishments of deliverables monthly.
The government owing to its change mantra should pay all outstanding monies owed to the to the NDDC by past government after which it should introduce a performance-only-based budget to monitor the performance of that agency. The budget could be lowered and increased on a performance basis. It is true that government has watchdogs that monitor the performance of its agencies, but recommendation is on watchdogs without political interference. The watchdogs should report directly to the president, communities of people and the press.
Certainly, this strategy will have the advantage of forcing the NDDC to have a long term strategic development plan that will outlive the four year tenure of the Managing Directors, most of whom fill their jobs with red tapism instead of serving the public good, considering that today’s leaders understand the implication of spending decisions. Who knows? They may then have to compete with MTN, Airtel, Globacom, Etisalat and many others in the delivery of services with the aim of implementing sustainable solutions to the region’s poverty.
It is hoped- that the new NDDC will promote corporate governance, empower persons in the Oil bearing communities of the Niger Delta that were supposed to be the beneficiaries of the oil revenue allocations instead of a handful of persons.Even though leadership lead should be provided by all people, experience has shown that good people are easily corrupted in a bad system that are peopled by corrupt management. The president must resist the attempt to be pressured into appointing people into the board whose opinions will not worth a zack: a board that can’t provide governance, a board that can’t think up ideas and partner with the private sector to support public housing, boards that do not support poor communities in the areas of agriculture etc.