Abuja – The Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC) says it will collaborate with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the Niger Delta Task Force to build peace and resolve conflicts in the Niger Delta region.
The Chairman of NDDC Governing Board, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) said this in a statement issued by Mr Ibitoye Abosede, the Director Corporate Affairs of the Commission in Abuja on Thursday.
Ndoma-Egba said this when members of NBA and the Niger Delta Task Force paid him a courtesy visit at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt.
He said the challenges of development in the region were that of peace.
“The challenges of peace in the Niger Delta is a challenge of development because for us to have development in this region, which is urgently needed and very highly needed, we need to have peace.
“In achieving that peace, we are ready to engage with everybody to ensure that peace returns to this region.”
The chairman said that the Federal Government had in the last few months demonstrated its desire to address the concerns in the region.
He commended the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who he said had shown zeal by making several visits and promises.
According to him, the promises are a demonstration of good faith by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to the people of the region.
The NDDC chairman noted that it would be difficult to develop the Niger Delta without an integrated plan.
“No region or country develops without a plan, so for the current board, the challenge is either to revalidate, or upgrade, or come up with a new master plan, because the indices used in the previous plan are no longer valid today.”
He stated that the Niger Delta Regional Development Master plan, which was inaugurated in 2007 with a life span of 15 years, was almost coming to an end.
The carefully crafted master plan, he regretted was abandoned almost as soon as it was inaugurated.
“We are determined to do the needful, and fortunately we have received a lot of interests from partners, the European Union, the United States Government and the Government of Germany to support us in revalidating, updating, upgrading or coming up with a new plan.
“But that plan is imperative if we must develop in a consistent and sustainable manner.”
He re-stated the resolve of the NDDC Governing Board to return the Commission to its original mandate of “being a regional devolvement agency to create an integrated economy for the region.”
He noted that the public perception of the Commission was not one of a regional development agency but one of a contract awarding factory.
According to him, the focus of NDDC should be the integration of the Niger Delta region.
“We want to pull back from the old attitude of competition to a new one of cooperation with member states, because we need the cooperation of stakeholders if we must integrate the region.
“That is why one of the very first steps we took as a board was to request Mr President to reconstitute key organs of the Commission, including the Niger Delta Advisory Committee and the Niger Delta Project Monitoring Committee.
“To achieve our new focus, we need to strengthen a number of things, we need to strengthen our processes and we need to strengthen our systems.
“We need to earn the trust of not only funding partners but also development partners both local and international.
“And to do so, we must earn their respect. And to earn the respect we must be transparent in our operations.”
The statement also quoted Mr Albert Akpomudje (SAN), the Chairman NBA as saying “the association could not fold it arms and watch while the Niger Delta region was being torn apart by crises’’.
Akpomudje said that the NBA deemed it necessary to set up the Niger Delta Task Force to assist all stakeholders, in collaboration with the various tiers of government in bringing to an end the crisis that had plagued the region.
He lamented that the only thing that strikes the mind of people when you hear Niger Delta was the crisis in the region due to the presence of crude oil.
“What is uppermost in the mind of Nigerians is how this crisis can be fully addressed and the responsibility of this to every average Nigerian is that NDDC has a lot of that responsibility.”
The NBA chairman said that one of the 11-point terms of reference of the association was to “determine if the NDDC’s Act should be amended to reflect and deal with current constraints.
This he noted was in the area of funding, including all companies involved in all aspects of oil and gas enterprise within the funding arrangement with appropriate sanctions for defaulting companies.
He assured that the NBA would propose the amendment of the NDDC Act in the area of funding to enable the Commission to carry out its mandate of developing the region.
Akpomudje, who also heads the Task Force, said it would act as a bridge between the NDDC as representatives of government and those at the grassroots that are affected by crisis.
“When the chips are down, the grassroots people, including those called the militants, will trust the NBA more in a mediation effort whenever there is crisis in this region.
“We shall hold town hall meetings with communities in the Niger Delta to advocate peaceful resolution of the crisis.
“We shall also impress on the indigenes of the region that are carrying arms, blowing up pipelines, kidnapping and other vices that it is not the best way in resolving the crisis.”