The impact of Niger Delta Development Commission on the development profile in the Niger Delta region

It will be pivotal to acknowledge that development or lack of it is more of a practical thing than theoretical; appraising the impact of NDDC must start with what the people say, how they perceive the commission to be, its policy direction and implementation templates. Again, the appraisal of government development Agency involves policy, programme or ideas, which in other hands are used to propel development.

On a broader plain and within the context of a nation, there seems to be a consensus that there is an obvious disconnect between development agencies and the people especially when the implementation of programmes and projects are connected. We refuse to accept the damning verdict that Nigeria is a failed state even though there is no much controversy that Nigeria failed in 2005. It is against this background that we assess the impact of any development Agency.

The Niger Delta widespread poverty with about 70% of the population lives below the poverty line. This might have increased in recent years when so many graduates have been turned out without jobs. The pervasive poverty is due largely to the low level of industrialization. This has been made more difficult by the activities of Transnational Corporations TNCs, which have adversely affected the traditional economy of subsistence fishing and farming. In the NDR infant mortality and maternal morbidity are estimated to be 20% which is among the highest in the world. Modern transport infrastructure is inadequate and after hampered by a poor road network and harsh condition especially in the coastal areas. Whereas, there is hardly electricity supply in many riverine areas, telecommunication facilities are in acute short supply. Healthcare is less than desirable while the schools are ill-equipped hence they serve more as youth restive factors than institutions of learning. Waste management culture is poor and this is exacerbated by the activities of oil companies. These harsh conditions provide a fertile ground for social unrest conflict and instability.82

A Gallop poll conducted on April 28, 2008 by Magali and Tortora, the poll showed that 61% of Nigerians think the inhabitants of the Niger Delta are suffering and 63% of the respondents believe the people of the region have a right to protest, however, a vast majority of Nigerians reject pipeline vandalization, hostage taking and kidnapping of women and children as means of protest. Damnable as it may seem, some sympathizers of the insurgents describe the crisis as part of global More by an oppressed class to fight for freedom and economic justice.83

Following the Willink Commission report of 1958, the Niger Delta Development Board, NDDB, was created in 1960. The Board did not create any impact until the 30 month fratricidal civil war. This was followed by the establishment of the Niger Delta Basin Development Authority, NDBDA. Like its predecessor agency, the NDBDA was under-funded in such a manner as not to create any meaningful impact. Besides, the Federal Government created ten (10) other Basin Authorities and funded the others to the detriment of the original one. The NDBDA was also emasculated by the Nigerian experience.

The renewed agitations during the Second Republic led to the establishment in 1980, of the 1.5% Presidential Task Force. The Task Force could not create the desired impact because of poor funding. The Babangida regime in 1992 created the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Commission (OMPADEC) which was killed by the conspiracy of official highhandedness, under funding and lack of accountability. Now, the subsisting Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC is under-funded and there are genuine complaints about lack of internal accountability within the Commission. For the past 12 years of its existence, the Niger Delta development commission (NDDC has achieved very little.

The functions of NDDC as provided by the Act establishing it is nebulous and at the same time elusive hence until the Management and Board exercises substantial direction, the commission may be tempted to do everything and achieve nothing.

The implication of carrying out these functions is that the Commission has to partner with other agencies, hire the services of contractors and consultants and or interact with other stakeholders. For example, the NDDC hired about 32 Sector consultants in preparing the Master Plan, yet till date, the Plan has not been fully owned up by the agencies and people of the region. Attempts at establishing a Clearing House called PARTNERSHIP FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT failed abysmally. But even at this monumental failure, NDDC continued with this ritual and rendezvous. The proposed PSD PROTOCOL was rejected by the Governors of the nine states and even the 185 LGAs are yet to fully buy into it in spite of several attempts at constructive engagement and consultation workshops.84

It may be right to observe that the NDDC produced the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan, but the claim has been that the modest inputs of stake holders in the process were not factored into finished product. While it is difficult for one to disown the Master Plan, one can say without any qualm of conscience that the Master Plan process from conception, crafting to finishing did not include the people hence it is neither acceptable to the people nor can it be implemented. Whereas one consultant said the Plan stands on one leg, another said it was totally removed from the socio-cultural milieu of the people. The commission is believed to have spent billions of naira in the crafting process.85

There is the fear that if the NDDC limits its role to that of infrastructural development, it might as well be merged with the ministry of Niger Delta. But it does appear that the amnesty programme has brought about peace in the Niger Delta and this account for the increase in the production of crude oil.

Appraisal of the performance of NDDC

Here, what the study intends to do is to examine a few of the programmes of NDDC to ascertain whether or not the commission has done well in the eyes of the ordinary Niger delta. Under consideration here are projects that were designed to alleviate poverty, curb youth restiveness and enable the people to create wealth.

  1. NDDC Quick Impact Projects

In most stakeholders meetings, NDDC had explained that while the Master Plan was being crafted. It implemented an interim Action in which it embarked on interventionist programmes that would have direct and immediate impact on the people. In the interim plan, the Commission identified what it called Quick Impact (QIPs) which according to NDDC would accelerate the temps of development in some key sectors of the regional economy. Seven of such QIP areas are identified. These include:

  • Educational or Regional Model Secondary Schools
  • HIV/AIDS and Malaria Control
  • Institute of Good Governance and sustainable development.
  • Agriculture
  • Micro and Small Business development
  • Sport Development and
  • Power Supply and Energy

The commission could not deliver in any of these Quick Impact Projects. These are areas that could have had direct bearing on the lives of the ordinary Niger delta people. NDDC’s score card in the education QIP is perhaps the worst. In May 2005, the Technical committee on education was mandated to do valuation work and financial estimates were worked out. The model schools were billed to take off in September 2005, but the date was put forward to 2006. Sadly, till date NDDC has not built even one model secondary schools in spite of engaging professional consultants in that regards. The efforts and money spent on the QIP is a monumental waste.

  1. The NDDC Mass Transit Scheme:

NDDC procures buses and the intention was to give out these vehicles, give them on hire purchase to the public. Sadly, while the commission procured the wrong type of buses considering the nature of Nigerian roads, the project was hijacked by those who administered it. What became the practice was for NDDC principal officers to own as many of the buses as possible and then give them out to drivers who had to pay a balance of N 7, 000 per day. The result was that in less than two years of its operation more than one quarter of the buses were either destroyed or abandoned. The mass transit scheme was conceived to alleviate poverty but it led to the aggravation of the scourge for the ordinary Niger Delta People.

iii.   The NDDC / Glo Empowerment Scheme:

This was another grand deception designed to create a false impression of empowering the ordinary people. NDDC entered into a multi-billion Naira partnership with Glo Nigeria Limited. Initially, expectations were very high but what did the commission delivered? A handful of youths, mostly relatives of NDDC staff were listed and each was given a starter pack of Acatel GSM worth about N 6, 000.00, an umbrella, two plastic chairs and a table. The empowerment programme was so ridiculous that some youths sold the entire starter pack for less than N 9, 000.00 and spents the money on alcoholic beverages at the commission’s gate.

  1. UNDP NTAC contracts:

The Niger Delta Technical Aid Corp, NTAC projects, which are capacity building programmes for graduates have been grossly mismanage. The integral part of NTAC projects is computer Training programmess. Till date the commission is indebted to NTAC because the monies for defraying the fees are lodged in private accounts to yield interest for the account holders. At the inauguration of the present Board, Mr. President said unequivocally that “government needs a technocrat as the Managing Director in NDDC to inject seriousness, focus and professionalism in handling the affairs of the Commission, to effectively position it as an intermediary organ to follow up the president vision”86 The presidential vision appears to have been negated.

In the 2010 fiscal year 28 jobs were given to Bayelsa State to tender for and these are jobs under N 250 million. Unfortunately, 19 out of the 28 jobs were given out from the commission without the knowledge of the state Commissioner while only 9 jobs were given to the state concerned. Other state Commissioner made similar complaints. Actions of this type erode the powers and undermine the integrity of the Board.

  1. NDDC / SPDC MOU on the Yenegwe-Kolo-Nembe-Brass Road Project.

The Yenegwe-Kolo-Nembe-Brass Road has been on the drawing for about 50 years. Federal Government of Nigeria has had Yenegwe-Kolo-Nembe-Brass Road on its drawing board since 1960. In 1972 but has failed to give us this Road ever since. The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Niger (SPDC) made various public commitments to build the Otuegila-Nembe Road. It even called for tenders for the construction of the road, (Vide its advert in the Guardian Newspaper of Monday August 2001). In which it indicated the commencement date as January 2002 and completion date as December 2005. SPDC has again not met that publicized commitment by failing to commence work up till now.87

From the few projects and programmes mounted by the commission, the verdict has been that, within the limits of financial constraints, NDDC failed systematically to execute those programmes that would have yielded positive result in the life of the ordinary Niger Delta People. The commission focuses on big projects that will satisfy contractors, who happen to be their cronies rather than the ordinary Niger Delta People.

Challenges facing the NDDC

(a)  Leadership Challenges:

Self aggrandizement of top shots of NDDC, as all of them are jostling to benefit from the contracts. When the leaders of an organization place the interest first before the overall interest, the people’s interest will be satisfied on the Golgotha of self-interest. Because of the poor impression created by NDDC as a mere contract awarding agency. The aim of every contractor is to maximize profit and this is why most people find it difficult to understand terminologies as QIP’s Master Plan, partnership for sustainable development etc. This is the major challenge the commission is facing now in trying to sell the Master Plan to stakeholders. NDDC is trying to do everything ranging from mass transit; dust bins; glo-starter packs; fishing equipment; school furniture to cassava farms. Lack of clear focus and attempting to “do all” can only help spread available resources thinly without critical mass and lack of specialization.

(b) Violation of the Act Establishing NDDC:

The MD has consistently flouted and brazenly violated parts of the Act establishing the commission. Incidents of such violations are legion and deliberate. They range from the award of contracts without due process; non-implementations, undue interference with the statutory functions of state representatives to creating a Due Process Unit, which is used as an excuse to perpetrate heinous financial crimes in the commission.

(c)  Creeping Usurpation of the Functions of the Board:

The NDDC Board has statutory functions as stated in part II (8). These functions are as follows:

The Board shall have Power to :- (a) manage and supervise affairs of the Commission; (b) make rules and regulations for carrying out the functions of the Commission, (c) enter and inspect premises, projects and such places as may be necessary for the purpose of carrying out its functions under this Act; etc.

The Board is made up of credible people with impeccable integrity yet we discovered to our utter dismay that asserted that the board cannot give him directives and therefore made it impossible for the board to function. In the recent past, there was undue interference in the affairs of NDDC by the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government. As one state Commissioner describes it “the office kills every viable programmes and policy initiatives by the Board and stifles their implementations. It ridicules the decision of the Board by permitting NDDC contract award letters to be flaunted outside the commission and sold cheaply to contractors.”88 These report point to the fact that there have been flagrant abuses of contracts procedures and due process in the Commission.

State offices were created out of the necessity for the proper coordination of State Projects and to create employment opportunities for the people. Now, state offices are not being run effectively because of politics which automatically gives birth to conflict between managements and state commissions and this negatively influence policy implementation in the States. There are allegations that while management is most inclined to use Federal Government circular and memos to administer the Commission; the Board insists that managements should make reference to the NDDC Act in matters concerning administration. There is disconnect between the Board and management and this has culminated in mutual antagonism, distrust and high wire politics – all these stifle initiative and productivity of the staff.89

(d) Official corruption: Over involving and the use of cronies

The public procurement law of 2007 also applies to the NDDC. Recently, it is public knowledge that the Due process Unit has been empowered to draft contract agreements, whereas the commission has a legal Department. This negates building and open tendering process. The impression being created is that most Niger Delta People believe that NDDC contract are given to only those who are politically connected; hence they do not make serious efforts to secure jobs. The conditions for tendering and building are so harsh that not many Niger Delta people can meet them. It therefore, implies that therefore, NDDC contracts are indirectly meant for people outside the Region. One of the conditions is that contractors will not obtain mobilization and expected to deliver on the first milestone. My investigations show that these harsh conditions were unilaterally introduced by the present Management without the approval of the Board.

(e)  Procedure of awarding contracts

Whereas the Board has risen alarm that the award did not follow due process and in breach of the Public Procurement Act, the beneficiaries / consultants were found to be close allies of some principle officers. The question is: Where is Due process Bureau when all the fraudulent activities are perpetrated?

(f)  Contradictions in the NDDC Act of 2000

The Act establishment the NDDC has inherent contradictions. Some of these contradictions are highlighted below:

Part III, (II) 2 states that the advisory committee shall be charged with the responsibility of advising the Board and monitoring the activities of the commission with a view to achieving the objectives of the Commission. The Advisory Committee has never been seen to play significant role in NDDC. This could be referred to as another layer of inefficiency which must not be funded. This weakens the control mechanism of the MD and other executive Directors of the Commission. The Federal Government has not been very fateful in the release of funds due to the Commission. While the MNC’s can be said to be doing a little, the same can not be said to the Federal Government. Part V (14). b3 percent of the total annual budget of any oil producer’s company operating on-shore and off-shore, in the Niger Delta shall be credited to NDDC.90

Basically, the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Ministry of Niger Delta, have the same approach to development. The aim has been the need for structural transformation of the region’s economy and societies. In the NDR, about 80% of people of the region are unemployed, but the NDDC does not have a clear policy on job creation. The implication is that majority of the people in the Region will continue to remain poor, unemployed and underemployed. The 2011 budget of the ministry of Niger Delta, the Ministry also has no plan for investment. In effect, it has no plan to diversify the economy of the region. Its capital expenditure is mainly of infrastructure. Furthermore, both the commission and ministry approach, at the best will reinforce subsistence forms of livelihood in the informal economy.91

The news that President Goodluck Jonathan, while campaigning in the Delta State capital Asaba, pledged that if elected he would “reforms the (Niger Delta Development Commission), NDDC to generate people oriented projects rather than crises”, has raised public scrutiny on the entire idea of Niger Delta Development leaning on the NDDC strategy. From 2003 to 2007 the NDDC was turned in to political competitor for the constituent states, so from the outset it could not get the states to cooperate by paying their dues. It is also amazing that the commission could expend such huge sum of money, men and materials to produce a Master Plan without anyone raising an eyebrow. Nworisara, one of the foremost critics of the document in an essay titled “A departure from the Niger Delta Master Plan” published wondered why the people of the Niger Delta have not queried the Master Plan crafting process.92The non-implementation of the Master Plan is a huge disadvantage to the Region. This is a huge distraction that the commission now faces. The agency must now be refocused as the President had earlier pledged.


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62  Ibid.

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  12. UNDP, Human Development Report: Human Rights and Development, (1986).
  13. ANEEJ, OP.Cit. 2004
  14. Ibid
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