By Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu
“I am in a hurry. I can’t wait to create more jobs for the people of the Niger Delta. We want to fight unemployment. We want to fight poverty. We want to fight restiveness”. Those words uttered by Mr. Nsima Ekere, Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), is a summary of purpose and vision in the service of the people. Those words have left Ekere pushing the limits to ensure that his time in office makes the most impact on the people and communities of the region.
The story of Niger Delta has been one of deprivation and alienation. The people are alienated from their oil resources. Exploitation of same resources degrades their environment and deprives them from gainful farming and fishing. This leaves youths in the region at the mercy of a society where life is, according to Thomas Hobbes, nasty, brutish and short. The outcome is their involvement in militancy and sundry crime. Efforts to address this led to the creation of the NDDC. However, the narrative on NDDC’s pursuance and execution of its mandate has not been as encouraging as envisaged. This is reason the Muhammadu Buhari administration sieved through the numerous interests in the region to pick out Ekere to drive a new narrative for the commission and the region.
So far, the managing director has challenged the heights in exploring way to drive change in the region using NDDC as core tool. In his quest to cause meaningful change, Ekere had signed agreements with three different organisation aimed at enthroning a regime of accountability and transparency at the commission. Gamut of those agreements was such that the commissions accounting systems would be less opaque; answerable to the people and drive a new narrative in the ease of doing business with the commission.
In further translating President Buhari’s vision for the NDDC states, Ekere was recently a guest of the Director General of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Dr. Dikko Radda, and representatives of Builders Hub Impact Investment Programme (BHIIP) Natasha Akpote, a lawyer, at the agency’s headquarters in Abuja. The meeting was aimed at exploring ways the NDDC will partner with SMEDAN and BHIIP in taking advantage of available opportunities to create jobs and enhance entrepreneurial abilities of youths in the region. Ekere said at the meeting, at which a memorandum of understanding was signed between NDDC, SMEDAN and BHIIP, that “this is one way we can ensure that militancy is eradicated in the Niger Delta”.
Speaking at the memorandum signing ceremony, Ekere said: “I believe that we can create new jobs for our people; we can build the economy of the Niger Delta, but more importantly, we want to ensure that the youths are engaged. If the youths are engaged on a daily basis, there won’t be time for them to be planning mischief”. Here, Ekere states his passion. Leadership is passion; passion to do something different and positively affect the life of a society. For Ekere, youths of the Niger Delta states are actually the future of Niger Delta; and preparing them to take advantage of available opportunities to become job creators and employers of labour, rather than aggressive militants and seekers of non-available jobs, is a positive action that will change the story of the region.
To make the desired impact, Ekere says it is not just about signing a MoU, but hitting the ground running as time is always short in ever human endeavour. He said: “We must get this running in the shortest possible time. We have made provisions in our budget and I think that in the next one or two months we will have sufficient budgetary provision for the take-off”. Explaining his take0off plan, Ekere said the commission will start with some Industrial Development Centers, 23 of which are scattered across the country and owned by SMEDAN. “The idea is that we will start with one of the Industrial Development Centers (IDCs) owned b SMEDAN in the Niger Delta but ultimately, our intension is to see that all the IDCs owned by SEDAN in the Niger Delta region are revamped and revitalised; and we must pay particular attention to our women and youths”.
Clearly, Ekere states his determination to impact on lives in the Niger Delta. He is serious about it. The seriousness he attaches to this is encapsulated in the thought that Niger Delta people are hungry for development and unwilling to entertain rhetoric. People of the region had seen several managing directors of the Commission. They are now seeing a different managing director who is burning with desire to change lives and raise the bar in service delivery. For him, whatever NDDC stands for, it has to be about the people.
But the SMEDAN boss and BHIIP promoter were not left out in the expression of optimism with the new partnership.
Dr. Radda used the opportunity to reiterate SMEDAN’s decision to partner with NDDC in the effort to change the narrative on the region. He said SMEDAN was well positioned to create jobs and alleviate poverty in the country and also, ready to work with the NDDC in the implementation of its work plan for the development of the Niger Delta region. He also commended Ekere for reaching out to SMEDAN noting that it was a demonstration of his appreciation of the agency’s role in the actualization of the NDDC mandate. For Akpote, Nigeria would be better served with more entrepreneurs. As she said “the future lay with entrepreneurs”.
Akpote said further that “we will focus on areas where training expertise can create more jobs”.
It is obvious that the time for NDDC talk shops are over. Ekere is leading the charge for jobs creation and entrepreneurial development. This is exactly what the Niger Delta region needs to enable youths, and people, of the region divert their energies to productive ventures and end the cycle of restiveness in the region, which has had very devastating consequences of the nation’s finances.
*Uchegbu, a journalist writes from Lagos.