The enthronement of transparency, prudent management of financial resources, and deployment of a new master plan are some of the strategies that would attract the private sector to support the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and return the agency to the path of sustainable development of the Niger Delta region, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote has canvassed.
He made the submission in the keynote address he delivered at the NDDC Public-Private Partnership Summit 2023 held in Lagos on Tuesday, hinting that once the finances of the Commission are transparently and prudently managed, it will entice genuine local and international partnerships. He also recommended that the NDDC should project itself positively through its choice of signature projects and interventions and open its accounts and project sites for public scrutiny.
According to him, “capital is very shy and avoids controversies like a plague. In a situation where there are real or perceived infractions, corruption, lack of accountability, and other vices, capital attraction becomes a big challenge.”
He pointed out that NDDC has diverse sources of funding, some of which include the Federation Account, Oil Producing Companies, State Governments, and local or international grants, thus the Commission would be expected to demonstrate financial ingenuity before it could leverage for more capital.
The Executive Secretary based his recommendations against the backdrop of experiences at the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), which is currently rated as the best agency in the country by several independent arms of the Federal Government and the private sector.
While blaming the failure of the Niger Delta Regional Master Plan launched in 2007 on insufficient funding, frequent changes in leadership, delays in budget approvals, and other issues, he canvassed for a modified or an entirely new Niger Delta Master Plan, to be developed with the support of key stakeholders of the region.
He further advised the Commission to stick to its core mandate and avoid being pressured by interest groups to derail or dabble into projects outside its responsibility, emphasizing that the assessment of proposals should be strictly based on their sustainability, “otherwise, it would be money down the drain.”
The NCDMB boss further suggested that development and infrastructure projects should no longer be considered as gifts but as commercial ventures that need to be managed for profitability.
Speaking further, he lauded the management of the NDDC for embarking on the Summit themed “Rewind to Rebirth, describing it as “the start of a new dawn in making the Commission to retrace its steps back to the original objectives of its formation as an intervention agency for the development of the Niger Delta.
Wabote admitted that it was imperative for NDDC to explore innovative funding via PPPs as a credible option to meet the expanding developmental demands of the Niger Delta region, hinting that “PPP’s also bring with it corporate governance, technical expertise, and commercial acumen to enhance project delivery and successful operations.”
The highpoint of the summit was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) worth over $15 billion between the NDDC and Atlanta Global Resources Inc, an international infrastructure project financing firm, for the construction of a mega rail line that would connect the nine states that make up NDDC and ease the infrastructure deficit in the region. NDDC Managing Director, Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, described the deal as the first harvest of the PPP approach. He noted that NDDC could no longer shoulder the enormous responsibility of developing the Niger Delta region alone, hence the recourse to PPP model to provide alternative funding sources for critical developmental projects and programmes to effectively drive sustainable development in the region.
Other dignitaries who spoke at the event observed that most of the funds that had accrued to the NDDC in previous years had not been properly applied, thereby contributing to the continued underdevelopment of the region.
They charged the Ogbuku-led management of NDDC to chart a new course and partner with the various state government and other stakeholders to deliver impactful projects for the region.