With 18 years under its belt and a new management in place, the Niger Delta Development Commission has a renewed spring in its step as it continues its mantra of ‘making a difference’ to the lives of ordinary people in the region
For the people of the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil producing region, no intervention by the federal government has changed their development narrative like the setting up of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), 18 years ago. Despite enormous challenges, the intervention agency, under successive managements, has continued to work towards the achievement of its core mandate for which it was established by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000.
The current interim board of the Commission, led by Nelson Brambaifa as Acting Managing Director, which was instituted on January 25 alongside the Acting Executive Director Finance and Administration, Chris Amadi, and the Acting Executive Director Projects, Samuel Adjogbe, was another quick response in a series of efforts to address the myriad problems still facing Niger Deltans.
Brambaifa has started to chart a new course for the agency by accelerating the pace of infrastructural and manpower development without recourse to political, ethnic or other divisive sentiments. His appointment has brought renewed hope to local communities, who for too long have felt left out of the rewards of what has been the country’s biggest success story – oil and gas.
From political leaders to the proverbial common man in the street, fulsome expressions of gratitude for the work done are putting a fresh bounce into the NDDC’s 18-year old mission to ensure that the Niger Delta “is socially stable, politically peaceful, economically prosperous and ecologically regenerative”.
Okezie Ikpeazu, the governor of Abia State, recently told a Commission delegation in Umuahia, the state capital: “There seems to be a reinvigoration and a new verve. People now see NDDC in a better light. The previous experience where NDDC projects were looked at with suspicion appears to be over.”
Cross River State governor, Benedict Ayade, echoes the view, pointing to recent emergency restoration work on an important local highway. He said: “The Calabar-Itu Road repairs have helped us to raise our revenue profile and re-invigorate our economy. In fact, the Commission has directly put money into our pockets and helped our budget. We must celebrate the NDDC for coming to our rescue. They deserve all our praises.”
In Mbiakong, Uruan local government of Akwa Ibom State, community leader Aniefiok Udoh was equally effusive: “We are grateful to God and to the NDDC for coming to our aid. Our problem is now half solved as farm produce can now be transported with ease to the market. Soon we hope that the cost of foodstuffs will begin to come down, too.”
The Brambaifa-led interim management team has expressed its determination to enhance the delivery of projects by improving the transparency of its operations, leveraging on technology to increase accountability and efficiency. There has already been widespread consultation with a variety of stakeholders to gain the support required to fast-track development in the region.
At the core of new thinking is the urgent need to facilitate sustainable ways of making money by strengthening the traditional livelihoods of the people, all part of a shared vision of tackling poverty, creating employment, preserving the environment and boosting agriculture and aquaculture.
The preceding NDDC board had initiated what it called the 4-R Initiative, targeted at “restructuring the balance sheet”, which had about N1.2 trillion worth of on-going projects; reforming the governance systems to prevent past mistakes recurring; restoring the core mandate of the Commission as laid out in its 2007 Master Plan; and “re-affirming commitment to doing what’s right and proper at all times”.
The reform programme now ensures that budgets are prepared in such a way that the Commission is able to deliver “high impact” social welfare programmes that improve the living conditions of the myriad communities living in the region.
Partners for life
One of the NDDC’s major undertakings over the past 18 years has been to ensure that information technology plays a central role in priority development areas, particularly education, with N1.4 trillion already spent on 3,424 completed projects, including extending internet connectivity. Since 2016, the NDDC has stepped up its efforts in this direction, planning on how best to use it to build human capacity and fast-track social and economic development in the region.
As always, the strategy involves engagement with the key stakeholders and partners. The NDDC has since written to President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him to re-activate the hitherto comatose Commission’s Advisory Committee and the Project Monitoring Committee. Another body that is critical to a coordinated response to the development challenges of the Niger Delta is the Partners for Sustainable Development Forum.
Such partnerships have led to greater collaboration among state and local governments, oil and gas companies, donor agencies, civil society and community-based organisations as well as other traditional institutions.
The NDDC has also linked up with the International Fund for Agricultural Development on a $60m (about N21bn) job-creation programme aimed at reducing youth unemployment.
Meanwhile, memoranda of understanding have been signed with international donor funded organisations such as the World Bank (Nigeria), Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND), Facility for Oil Sector Transparency (FOSTER), and Market Development for the Niger Delta Programme (MADE).
Specifically, PIND is looking to provide support for technical resources, while FOSTER is focused on helping to bring education, healthcare and other services closer to the people of the region. For its part, MADE will promote the development of agriculture value chains in the Niger Delta as part of the NDDC’s programme to get thousands of young people into jobs.
The work of another organisation, BudgIT, will help to simplify the budget of the federal and state governments and other sub-national institutions to ensure that the NDDC’s financial performance is in the public domain.
The NDDC is also working with USAID to support a wide range of programmes, among them women’s empowerment, gender equality and crisis and conflict management. Its partnership with the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) will enable the NDDC to track revenue due to it from the federal government and oil and gas firms operating in the region.
The Commission’s collaboration with the World Bank will allow it to tap into policy expertise and long term development funds that can be used to target specific sectors, while its work with the regional cooperation outfit, the BRACED Commission, will help it better co-ordinate with South-South state governors in the implementation of its core objectives.
Making a difference
In fulfilment of its mandate, the Niger Delta Development Commission has awarded 8,557 projects since inception, of which 3,424 have been completed and handed over to communities and states. There are 2,257 on-going projects, while 2,506 are waiting to be started. The Commission has located poor-performing projects worth more than N200bn, with a view to freeing up or recovering funds tied to them.
The infrastructural project portfolio is distributed across civil works such as buildings, canalisation and reclamation, jetties and shore protection, electrification, roads and bridges, water supply, buildings, flood control and erosion, as well as in equipping and furnishing of schools and health centres across the region.
A key project in Delta State is the construction of 132kv Transmission Line and 1 No. 30MVA 132/33kv Substation at Ughelli and Ozoro. The power infrastructure project was completed in 2017. The Afiesere substation is a double circuit transmission substation that is powered through the 132KV transmission line from Ughelli. However, the double circuit arrangement provides for the extension of the transmission line from Ughelli to another 30MVA substation at Ozoro. The delivery of this project will help sustain as small scale businesses and cottage industries.
There are also programmes covering training and capacity building for oil spill response, telecommunications, building technology, entrepreneurship development and waste-to-wealth, among others.
Healthcare initiatives have been extensive with more than three million people receiving treatment in 366 medical missions across the region between 2007 and 2016. Emergency relief materials were recently delivered to a number of communities, Okerenkoko, Oporoza and Opobo among them, and seven healthcare facilities equipped. The supply of insecticide-treated mosquito nets for school pupils in all the 185 local government areas, essential drugs to primary health centres, and the immunisation of school children were all undertaken, as well as strengthening of dialysis services and delivery of medical equipment in selected hospital, plus the installation of special refrigeration units and medical incinerators.
The commission has also undertaken to provide skills training for youths and women with the aim of reducing chronic unemployment. Welding and fabrication, furniture making and woodwork, catering and confectionery, food processing, home management, modern printing technology, fashion design and tailoring, computer technology and programming, solar power maintenance, maritime technology and entrepreneurship development are among the long list of fields available. Other programmes include Telecommunication (Fibre Optics) Training and the Waste-To-Wealth Recycling Hubs. The NDDC is collaborating, too, with Smedan (the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria) and the Behavioural Health Integration Programme (BHIP) to establish an enterprise, innovation and growth hub based in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, as well with NGO the Thespian Crew Academy to train youths in the film industry.
Meanwhile, in 2011 the Commission went into partnership with Esi to develop a skills training scheme in ‘home finishing’ trades such as plumbing, carpentry, floor tilling, electrical wiring and painting and decorating. Last year, 100 youngsters graduated from the scheme.
Healthy minds and bodies
Between 2017 and 2018, the Directorate of Education, Health and Social Services distributed desks and benches to 364 primary and secondary schools in the nine NDDC-mandate states to create a conducive environment for learning.
So far, 1,411 students have benefitted from the Post Graduate Foreign Scholarship scheme, which was set up in 2010 to fill the local content gap in the oil and gas sector. Just over a thousand were supported at MSc level and 345 at PhD. Five of the MSc students graduated with distinction from Coventry University in England and one from Aberdeen University in Scotland. Ubong Peters, a PhD student, won the three-minute thesis competition in Australia, while Augustine Osarogiagbon of Memorial University in the US completed his PhD in record time and has been offered a dual doctorate programme with two graduate assistants to work with him. A post-doctoral fellowship is also in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, Charles Igwe, studying for a PhD in construction engineering at Concordia University in Canada, saved the Montreal Area Municipality more than $1bn by re-designing a major road interchange construction project in the city.
In the area of health, the Commission distributed hepatitis B and typhoid vaccines to primary health centres in the all the senatorial districts in the Niger Delta. Additionally, the NDDC supplied protective kits against Lassa fever – 30,000 – and monkey pox virus to hospitals and clinics. Hospital equipment was also donated to six health facilities in the three senatorial districts of Akwa Ibom State. In line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, special medical referrals and check-ups were under-taken in an effort to monitor and contain ill-health.
The NDDC distributed relief materials to victims of disasters and those from displaced communities, including health packs and food items. Assistance to the less privileged was extended to the disabled, selected orphanages and aged people’s homes. Widows have not been left out either, with an empowerment programme set up to provide start-up capital for them to engage in small-scale businesses. The NDDC has also been equipping prisons with items like computers and printers and generators.
Women and youngsters first
The NDDC has embarked on the installation of its Rural Telephony Network aimed at improving access to educational and healthcare resources for women and youths. It will also help farmers to sell their produce to people in urban areas, thereby reducing the rural-urban migration. The project has so far covered three communities in Ukwa West Local Government Area (LGA) of Abia State, Oloibiri community in Ogbia LGA, Opokuma and Agbere communities in Bayelsa State, as well as Unenurhie and Bolu Apelebiri communities in Delta State.
Meanwhile, the NDDC has organised Anti-Vandalism, Sensitisation and Awareness Campaign seminars for youths in the nine Niger Delta states in a bid to protect crude oil pipelines. One-day Women Entrepreneurship and Drug Abuse Prevention workshops were similarly organised across the region.
Growing better all the time
In agriculture, following determined efforts by the new board, the Commission is reviving its rice processing plants with a combined capacity of 210 metric tonnes per day at Elele Alimini in Rivers State and Mbiabet-Ikpe in Akwa Ibom State.
At a recent ceremony to finalise the partnership with private company Elephant Group to rebuild and run the plants, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, commended the NDDC for its “strategic engagement” with his ministry.
He said: “I am happy that the NDDC rice mills will be put to good use. This will employ many people and this is one of the ways to reduce youth restiveness and contribute to food sufficiency”.
The Commission also provided 900 tractors and accessories donated to farmers to improve mechanisation of agriculture.
The Directorate of Commercial and Industrial Development sponsored an Oil Spill Response Management Training Programme in conjunction with the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency. Its aim was to reduce environmental pollution resulting from spills caused mainly by the ageing pipelines but sometimes by sabotage at the hands of Niger Delta militants. The training aimed to create a pool of qualified workers as well as address one of the principle causes of unrest in the region – the damage done to farms and fisheries by oil industry pollution.
In the all-important petroleum sector, the NDDC is working on a public private partnership deal to establish modular refineries, starting with the Amakpe International Refinery in Akwa Ibom State. Towards this end, the Commission is currently collaborating with a number of key stakeholders, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria.
Road to success
In Bayelsa State, Nembe stands as a metaphor of Niger Delta neglect. That’s why the 27km Ogbia-Nembe Road, with its seven bridges and more than 50 culverts, has been so welcomed. The N24.5bn road project, which begins at Oloibiri and cuts through dense rainforest, is a partnership between the NDDC and Shell Petroleum Development Company, and is already connecting 14 communities that were previously inaccessible by road. They include Emakalakala, Opume, Akipelai, Etiama, Ogbolomabiri, Bassambiri. Considered one of the NDDC’s star projects, it illustrates the kind of challenges confronting the Niger Delta in terms of its difficult topography as mangrove swamps had to be negotiated by the bridges and culverts. The road is now completed and will be ready for commissioning by the end of the year.
Previously parts of the area were not open to vehicular travel. Septuagenarian Madam Roseline Tony said: “I was here when the first car [belonging to Deputy Governor Gboribiogha Jonah] passed through. We danced and danced at the sight of it. I was so happy because I never knew I would see a vehicle drive into my village in my life time. Besides that, I have started making money from the little shop I opened by the roadside for travellers.”
Former chair of the Senate Committee of the Niger Delta, Peter Nwaoboshi, added: “This is what an interventionist agency is supposed to be doing – to link up these towns. We want to encourage you for this beautiful job you have done.”
Bayelsa also saw the construction Of Otuoke Internal Roads (Phase 2), Ogbia Lga is a 1.8km rigid pavement road project that was completed and commissioned in 2017.
The NDDC has meanwhile signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ondo State Government to partner in the construction of the 50km Akodo-Araromi/Ibeju-Lekki Road, connecting Ondo and Lagos states. Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, said at the signing, which was witnessed by then NDDC chair Victor Ndoma-Egba, Nsima Ekere, then MD, and the Executive Director, Projects, Sam Adjogbe: “I concur with the new direction at NDDC to focus on few projects that impact the lives of the people of the Niger Delta. The development focus of the current NDDC Board has my full support.”
The Edo State government has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the NDDC for the construction of the Benin-Abraka Road. Governor Godwin Obaseki noted that this was a high priority project for the state in that it linked Benin to the oil producing hub of Edo State.
A similar pact with Delta State will see the construction of the Omadino-Okerenkoko-Escravos Road, significant because it will provide access to the once dreaded hot-bed of militancy in the Niger Delta. It will also link to the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Escravos Gas Terminal and a number of communities in a major oil and gas hub of the region.
Between 2016 and 2017, the NDDC has undertaken a total of 415 emergency projects across the nine states to salvage dilapidated roads. These projects cover the important East-West Road at critical points in Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states, the strategic Itu-Calabar Road, the Ikom-Calabar Road, the Aba-Port Harcourt Road.
The intervention was applauded in all quarters and received favourable mention on the floor of the Senate. Senator Magnus Abe, representing Rivers South East Senatorial zone, commended the NDDC for taking steps to repair the failed sections of the East-West Road and urged the Senate to provide more funds for the interventionist agency.
Senator Peter Nwaoboshi said in an interview at the time: “If the NDDC had not intervened in the Itu-Calabar road, the Cross River State government may not have been able to mobilise resources to tackle the challenge. People are commending the efforts of the NDDC in this direction. It shows that the Commission is listening to the people.”
In the past two years, the Commission has also paid attention to meeting debts owed contractors, as well as completing inherited projects. Among those completed is Watch Tower Road, Bakassi Shoe Industrial Market, Osisioma, Abia State: Prior to the contract’s award in February 2015, the road was impassable during the rainy season due to flooding. To overcome this, a rigid pavement design was adopted and the completed scheme has resulted in greater business activity around the market.
Construction Of Crystal Park Road, Aba/Owerri Road, also in Abia State, was awarded in 2014 for a 1.22km single carriage asphalt pavement with reinforced concrete drains. Works commenced in March 2016 and were completed in April 2018.
The NDDC, has also commissioned the 3.2km Ubaha-Umuogba Orindu link Road in Umuahia North LGA of the state.
In Akwa Ibom State construction Of Oku Iboku Internal Road, Oku Iboku, Itu LGA, was awarded in 2014 and completed three years later. It is of a flexible pavement design with reinforced concrete trapezoidal drains and covers a total of 5.8km.
The NDDC has been busy in major streets of the capital, Uyo. They include Nsentip, Udo, Atakpo, Ukana offot and Nkemba, Udo Eduok, H-Line, Ewet Housing Estate, as well as some sections of failed internal roads in Federal Housing. It has completed 41 out of the 67 emergency repair works, while others are ongoing. A jubilant Imaobong Essien, a seamstress living on Nkemba Street in Uyo, said: “NDDC has cleaned up our streets and made things easier for us. We are very grateful.”
This is echoed by Chief Ntekpere Akpanusoh, another resident: “It won’t be wrong if one says that the repairs of Nsetip Street deserve a testimony in the church. The road had been abandoned for years. The first day we saw caterpillars and tractors moving into the street to work, residents filled the street in celebration.”
At Ibeno LGA, those living along the Iwouchang-Okorutip axis, hailed the Commission for constructing the 600m bridge and 6.7km road in the area, saying that the bridge had prevented drownings due to boat accidents. It was the same at Ikot Abasi LGA where residents applauded the NDDC for recent road works.
The construction Of Aba Eto Road, Odiono/Isutbe, Ikot Abasi, a 900m rigid pavement road with reinforced concrete drains, is another key highways scheme that has really made a difference to the Odiono community and environs.
Completed in 2017, the Igoli-Abakapa Junction Road, Ogoja LGA,Cross River State, was conceived to connect Ogoja and Yala LGAs with the purpose of reducing travel time between the two. It was awarded in December 2014 and provided for the construction and rehabilitation of 4.2km asphalt pavement.
The Uti Agba’s Palace Road, in Obudu LGA of Cross River, was awarded in 2011 and links to the palace of the King of Obudu. Works began in 2012 but were later abandoned by the contractor. The project, 1.5km of asphalt pavement, was eventually completed in 2017 as a result of federal government intervention.
The contract for the Betukwelohong Road in Obudu LGA was awarded in 2014 to connect Betukwel and Ohong communities with Obudu Town. Completed in 2017, it runs for 1.7km and has by all accounts been a boon for farmers wishing to trade their produce further afield.
In Delta State, the Tebu-Gbokoda-Udo Road, Udo-Ajamita Road and Tebu-Gbokoda Road Olero Creek community provides access to the many coastal communities within and around Olero Creek Clan in Warri North LGA. Executed in various lots, it covers a total of 8km rigid pavement with reinforced concrete drains. The completion and commissioning of the project in November 2017 brought vehicular traffic to the Olero Creek district for the first time and eliminated the difficulties associated with the transportation of goods and services via the river.
Construction of 3km Osubi New Layout Road, Okuokoko, Okpe LGA of Delta State, was awarded in December 2014. It has an asphalt pavement design with reinforced concrete drains for the discharge of storm water.
Also in Delta, the Jumu Jayen Road Layout, off NTA Expressway, Ekpan, Uvwie LGA, was awarded in 2012 and is approximately 1.3km of asphalt pavement road that has opened up areas that
were previously inaccessible to motor vehicles.