Electoral Reform And Justice Dispensation
To ensure that the political system is sanitised for the conduct of credible elections in Nigeria with transparent and impartial electoral body, President Umar Musa Yar’Adua recently submitted to the National Assembly seven bills seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution and the 2006 Electoral Act.
The Electoral Amendment Bills include: a bill for an act to amend the Independent National Electoral Commission (NEC) Act Cap 15 LFN 2004 and other matters a bill for an act to establish the electoral offences commission and other matters connected thereto; a bill for an act to alter the provision of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other matters connected thereto, and a bill for an act to establish a centre for democratic studies and other related matters.
Others are: a bill for an act to further amend the 1967 Police Act CAP P19 2004 LFN and other matters connected thereto; a bill for an act to establish the political parties registration and regulatory commission and other matters connected thereto, as well as a bill for an act to amend the Independent National Electoral Commission Act Cap 15 LFN 2004 and other matters connected thereto.
The import of these bills is to underscore the commitment of the present administration towards addressing the lapses and inadequacies in the electoral process.
The flaws in the electoral Act 2006 have no doubt contributed to the hiccups and long delay in the dispensation of justice especially with respect to the election petition matters. This deprives the legitimate winners the right to assume office as at when due, while State resources are freely deployed by presumed winner to prosecute the litigation.
Meanwhile, the delay in the disposition of election petition matters has always created problem of stability, accountability of resources and stable implementation of state policies for smooth administration.
For instance, it took the election tribunal more than three years to resolve the Anambra gubernatorial election petition matter between Governor Peter Obi and his successor.
Also, in Edo and Ondo States, it took nearly two years for the actual winners of the April 2007 gubernatorial election to be declared the legitimate winners.
Meanwhile, in some States such as Ogun, Osun and Delta States, there are still some unresolved election petition matters before the election Appeal Court, arising from the conduct of the gubernatorial election.
Given the delay in the disposition of election petition matters in the country, the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umar Abdullah has suggested that next election should be held eight months to the expiration of the tenure of the present office holders, presumably September 2010 instead of April 2011.
According to him, such a schedule would allow all the litigations arising from the elections to be resolved before the winners will assume office.
But, Sections 76 (2) and 116 (2) of the 1999 constitution stipulate that election shall not be held into the offices of the National and State Assembly members earlier than 60 sixty days before the expiration of the tenure of office of the incumbent.
Similarly, in the case of the President and Governor, sections 132 (2) and 178 (2) stipulate that “An election to the said office of President/Governor shall be held on a date not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office”.
In view of the delay in the dispensation of election matters, the Electoral Reform Panel constituted in August 2007 under the chairmanship of Retired justice Mohammed Uwais had recommended the holding of election on a fixed date, with a durational period of six months within which all electoral petition matters shall be disposed off before swearing in.
But during the National Council of State in March, this year the nation’s apex advisory body rejected this recommendation and allowed election petition matters to be open-ended period.
According to Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State who addressed the Press in Abuja after the council’s meeting, the council approved almost 80 percent of the Justice Uwais Electoral panel recommendation on the Election Reform, but, rejected the recommendation of a durational period of six months within which all electoral matters will be disposed off, “because it will impinge on the fundamental human rights of the citizens to pursue their cases to logical conclusion”.
But Barrister, Jas Awanen, a Port Harcourt based legal practitioner dismissed this argument and supported the conduct of the next general election in September, 2010 rather than April, 2011.
According to him, “our democracy will be more healthy if all electoral matters arising thereof from the conduct of elections are peacefully adjudicated upon and the actual winners pronounced by the Election Petition Tribunal or Appeal Court, before the swearing-in, adding that “this open ended period for electoral cases is not in tandem with modern practice of democracy and effective dispensation of Justice.”
In his own view, another legal practitioner and former legal adviser to the Peoples Democratic Party, South-South, Ken Babia said that there is an urgent need for the amendment of the 1999 constitution and the 2006 Electoral Act to allow election to hold much earlier than the present date of April, especially when the handover date is May 29.
Many learned counsels have also argued that unless elections are conducted earlier enough, it would be difficult for election petition tribunals to dispose of all election petitions before the new administration comes in. They advised that in line with democratic ethos and values, people who have been genuinely elected should be the people to start the tenure at the right time.
In other words, there is a consensus that the Electoral Act 2006 and the 1999 constitution be amended to give room for dispensation of justice and to ensure that the actual winners of elections are sworn into office on the actual date of handover.
Speaking The Truth In Love
The 57th World Day of Social Communication 2023 focuses on the theme of “Speaking With The Heart – The Truth in Love,” which is based on a biblical verse from Ephesians 4:15. The theme resonates with an African proverb which states “Truth should be in love and love in truth.” In his message, Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of seeking and communicating the truth with charity, which means doing so with love, kindness, and empathy towards others. He explains how words and actions have a significant impact on relationships, especially in today’s world where communication and media are more accessible and widespread. He encourages everyone to cultivate a culture of honest and compassionate communication.
Currently, there are numerous books that focus on teaching skills for effective communication, public speaking, and speech theories. However, there is a shortage of literature that stresses the importance of speaking the truth with kindness. Although speaking is considered an art, it is wise to communicate truthfully with a compassionate approach. Wise people say knowledge is the awareness of what to say, while wisdom involves understanding when and how to express it. Plato, the ancient philosopher, believed that it takes seven years of silent inquiry to learn the truth and an additional fourteen years to master the ability to convey it to others. In the Hausa language, there is a well-known proverb that says, “knowing how to talk (speech) is an asset” (Magana jari ce). Parents, preachers, teachers, leaders, media practitioners, and everyone need not only to learn the art of speaking but how to speak with compassion.
Frequently, we tend to discourage other people through our manner of speaking, teaching, and preaching. Our criticisms often lack positivity and encouragement, and instead are filled with condemnation without any commendation. For example, as parents, preachers, teachers, and leaders, we have a tendency to be harsh on children, congregations, students, and subordinates, as we dwell solely on condemning them without finding creative ways of parenting, preaching, teaching, and leading. Often, preachers forget the aphorism which says, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.” Preaching requires speaking with compassion and love, bringing back sinners into the sheepfold, and making the gospel message attractive even to those who appear to be irredeemable. The Apostle Paul urges his readers to speak in a way that is uplifting and appropriate for the situation, imparting grace to those who hear us (Ephesians 4:29).
Furthermore, the media has a responsibility to communicate truth with compassion. Pope Francis advocates for kindness in the media to avoid fueling bitterness, anger, and conflict. Instead, media should help people reflect on reality with a critical but respectful attitude. Films and cinema often aim to address important issues such as hate crimes, politics, intolerance, and prejudice. However, some movies may unintentionally perpetuate stereotypes and misrepresent people based on their ethnicity, race, religion, gender, profession, or disabilities in an attempt to convey a certain message. In these cases, the truth portrayed in the film becomes biased, distorted, and lacking in compassion.
More still, Journalists have a social responsibility to balance truth with compassion. Investigative journalists play a crucial role in uncovering the truth about public servants and the quality of service which they render to the public. It is important for journalists to remain unbiased and not shower undue praise on politicians or forget their responsibility to hold them accountable. Journalists must act as watchdogs and point out areas where politicians could improve their service to the public. In as much as there are seasoned investigative journalists who have worked assiduously in unfolding the truth through the media, there are also many gossip media outlets that thrive on rumours, gossip, and fake news. Socrates’ triple-filter test avers the importance of speaking truth with love. In this test, Socrates would only listen to a story only if it was true, good, kind, useful, and necessary. Journalists should also strive to follow this test and only report on stories that meet these criteria.
The danger of Gossip Media is their inclination to spread false information and damage the reputation of people without verifying their sources. While the media have a duty to expose wrongdoing and hold public officials accountable, news stories should be guided by the truth and compassion. Journalists can imbibe the principles of constructive journalism that encourage them to seek and share the truth in a positive and engaging manner. Constructive journalism becomes even more urgent in today’s world where love can be blind to the truth, and where truth can be spoken without love. The 2023 message of the Pope reminds media practitioners and people of goodwill about the importance of balancing love and truth.
The theologian Eberhard Arnold once said that “Truth without love kills, but love without truth lies.” Therefore, it is important for everyone, not just media organizations or users, to speak truthfully in love. The habit of speaking the truth in love requires wisdom, taking into account timing, circumstances, communication channels, approach, tone, and word choice. The biblical story of Prophet Nathan and David provides a good example of how to approach truth in love. Prophet Nathan was tasked with confronting King David about his adultery and murder. Nathan approached David privately and began his speech with a parable. He rebuked David with love and fearlessly declared God’s verdict, leading David to admit his faults. Everyone needs a Nathan in their life – the government, friends, and authorities – someone who can combine love, courage, communication skills, and wisdom in speaking the truth.
The truth can be difficult to handle, but there’s an obligation to challenge evil, debunk falsehoods, and refute errors. When administering an injection in a hospital, the nurse or doctor usually uses a gentle approach that encourages the patient to willingly submit. Similarly, fraternal correction involves communicating the truth with love, particularly when addressing someone who has done wrong and is vulnerable. Our choice of words, tone, and demeanour are crucial in conveying our message effectively. It is more important to communicate with kindness and sincerity than to merely state the truth. We all desire friends who speak the truth in love rather than sycophants who inundate us with flattery. The Bible verse from Proverbs 27:6 suggests that criticism from a friend can be trusted, while praise from an enemy may be dangerous. We often feel the need to express our opinions forcefully and without regard for others. However, the World Communication Day message challenges us to communicate difficult truths with empathy and compassion.
Many truths are spoken in a negative way, with bitterness, resentment, or rudeness. This can be hurtful and counterproductive, causing the person to become defensive or shut down. I completely agree with the idea that speaking the truth in love requires prudence. It’s important to consider the feelings and circumstances of the person or people we are speaking to when sharing the truth with them. We should aim to speak with kindness, empathy, and sensitivity. An African proverb, “Do not tell the man carrying you he stinks,” is a great example of this. It underscores the importance of showing gratitude and respect for those who are helping us, even if we may have some criticism or feedback for them. We should strive to speak the truth with grace, choosing our words carefully and speaking with a kind and compassionate tone.
I appreciate St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. He admonishes us to let our speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt. This means that our words should be both gracious and wise, adding flavour and meaning to the conversation. By doing so, we can help others receive the truth in a way that is constructive and helpful. There is much to learn from Jesus who is rightly called the perfect communicator in the way that he approached sinners with love and compassion. He was able to speak to their hearts and show them the way to salvation through his affectionate and empathetic language, as well as his manner of approach. What sets Jesus apart from other religious leaders of his time, such as the Pharisees, was his approach to communicating with people. Unlike the Pharisees who were quick to judge and condemn, Jesus spoke with love and understanding. He was able to reach out to public sinners and those who were lost in sin, and his message of love and forgiveness attracted them to him. Even when he spoke to the Pharisees, who were resistant to his message, Jesus was brutally frank and direct, speaking the truth about their hypocrisy and self-righteousness. He could balance speaking the truth with love and compassion while being firm when necessary. By imitating the example of Jesus, we can learn to communicate with love and compassion and help others see the truth in a way that is constructive and life-giving.
In conclusion, examining our motivation for speaking the truth is important. Are we driven by negative emotions such as ego, pride, malice, hatred, vengeance, or envy? Or are we motivated by love? If our motivation is not love, even if we speak an eloquently and impressive language, it will be like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1).
By: Gerald M. Musa
Rev. Fr. Musa is the Director, Centre for the Study of African Culture and Communication (CESACC), Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA).
Drug Abuse: Matters Arising
According to the Black’s Law Dictionary (Ninth Edition), in its page 572, Drug Abuse is said to mean. “The detrimental state produced by the repeated consumption of a narcotic or other potentially dangerous drug, other than as prescribed by a doctor to treat an illness or other medical condition”. Google also described drug abuse as “The use of illegal drugs or the use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used, or in excessive amounts”.
Drug abuse as it was learnt, may lead to social, physical, emotional, job-related problem. Today, the menace of drug abuse is so obvious in the society such that, it has caused a lot of havoc in both leave families and the entire society.This bring to mind the rate at which crime is committed nowadays among young people. They do many things with ease including crime commission and execution. Then it was unheard of that one was beheaded after being killed.
But now, young people especially the cultists and crime predators among them, blame and scold any of their pals who succeeded in ‘falling’ a perceived enemy without beheading same. To show his worth and to get the class approval he needed, he must kill and dismember the enemy just to spike him even at death.
Drug has been written about in many languages and by many people over the centuries. Many of these works are very useful in treatment for addiction, but few have the same impact as the Holy Bible. According to the scriptures in Ist Peter chaper five verse eight it generally condemned intoxication, which can read to also mean drug abuse. It read thus: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil propels like a roaring lion looking for some to devour”. It was also gathered that substance abuse or alcohol addiction dulls the mind. It makes it a fertile soil for destructive behaviour which leads to various level of crime participation and commission.
Some addicts may start from petty stealing just to afford money for drug. That is why the Holy Bible pointed out in Ephesians chapter five in the 18th verse stated: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the spirit”. Also the Quran in its chapter two in verses 219 said thus: “They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and yet, some benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit”. And they ask you what they should spend. Say, “The excess beyond needs”.
No meaningful human environment has ever welcomed the idea of drug abuse. In some climes, abusers are often treated as lepers wherein even their family members and friends distance them. They treated some in that way so that they can retrace their steps and do the needful. I was shocked to the marrow when I was told the items or substance that could be abused and lead to serious intoxication. Many have failed in this aspect and have permanently injured their brain. Some abuse even the human feases in the name of getting high.
Today, in our society there are many promising youths who have ran mad or suffering other sorts of brain disease due to drug abuse. Some started as a result of one night stand with friends. From there, they became addicts.These are the ones that are very gruesome in action. They maim, kill and leave their victims in horrible state. They are no more humans in that their sense of responsibility has left them given that the brain has been lost to drug abuse.
In no distance time, families and the society at large, may not boast of producing quality people and good brain thinkers. In a chat with a primary school teacher in one of our rural areas in the state, I was moved to tears when he told me that five male siblings of same parents are now psychiatric patience due to drug abuse.
Now, if that be the case, in the next decade more families in that community may suffer same fate. Another family known to me, share same fate wherein two hefty male adults are now visitor to the psychiatric hospital due to substance abuse. If the government do not act fast in this direction, the fate of the future generation will be in serious jeopardy.
The most shocking aspect of the development is that females are not spared in the ugly trend. While growing up, ladies were hardly sipping beer in the open. They were tutored to see such life style as masculine. They maintained a high level of decorum and were given protection and respect by their male counterparts who saw them as the ‘weaker vessels’, as the scriptures made us to belief. But presently, there is great contest between the male and female folks as to who should be adjudged to be the highest abusers of drug or substances. Many young ladies now roam the streets as a result of drug abuse. Night clubs operators are, to my mind, the major sponsors of this venture, because some of them as reliably gathered, provide the ladies with free drugs and other substances.
Reason for the free drug provision by the club owners for the ladies is to enable them be on fire. When on fire, it was gathered that it will take the ‘help’ , of a male partner who is also on ‘fire’, to quench hers. This, according to sources, bring about business boom in the club. Some of the ladies in the night clubs have testified to the fact that one can live such lives without abusing drugs or other substances. Now if such revelation is anything to go by, why won’t drug abusers abound in the society? People must come together and fight against drug abuse. The government and other relevant agencies are concerned more about what will be of immediate benefit to them before they will then consider its pros and cons.
This ugly situation which is gradually becoming the talk-of-the-day is a respecter of no man. Some time last month, it was rumoured that a son of a prominent Nigerian was spotted at the road side dipping slices of bread in a stagnant water and eating same. When probed into, it was discovered that he was not only a substance abuse, but an addict of the highest order. The Drug Law operatives have made it clear that they are always ready to partner any group or individual willing to undergo rehabilitation free of charge. At a security submit at Rumuibekwe in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, some time ago, a representative of the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency, told the guests how a woman’s head was pounded with a pestle to pieces by a drug addict who was undergoing rehabilitation in their facility in Port Harcourt.
According to him, the addict who was said to be from a rich family was withdrawn by her mother the same night she was killed on the ground that the facility was not befitting for her son. The Drug Law representative revealed that the addict was fast responding to treatment before the forceful withdrawal by his mother.
Now the nucleus of this write up is for the Police authority to consider partnership with the NDLEA and fight drug abuse rather than beaming their search light on the OSPAC. The OSPAC, like every other human outfit, has its bad eggs. The bad eggs are not free from drug abuse, they could be fished out and made to undergo rehabilitation. The Police rather than give the OSPAC an un-undeserving attention, should partner with the Drug Agency and flush the system. This will seriously check radicalism and the unwanton behaviour among OSPAC operatives.
From the above narrative and some definitions provided so far, it can then be accepted generally that crime commission is the result of drug abuse and other substances. If the listed agencies come together and fight against drug abuse, the excesses of the OSPAC will not only be nibbed in the bud, but the entire society will know peace, reason being that the fountain of crime has been attacked and addressed.History may not be kind to the callers of OSPAC’s neck going by the good they have done. Let us not throw away the baby with the bathwater.
By: King Onunwor
Understanding The Imperatives Of NDDC, PPP Summit
As an interventionist agency, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), with the mandate to drive the process of developing Nigeria’s oil-rich region was established by the NDDC Act of 2000. Of course, the mandate of the agency was unambiguous; it is to facilitate the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.
It is no longer news that the Niger Delta produces nearly 75per cent of the nation’s export earnings, but the news is that 43per cent of the region’s population still lives below poverty line. This paradox is due primarily to ecologically unfriendly exploitation of oil and gas resources that expropriate the region’s indigenous people and their right to these resources. Hence, the Niger Delta Development Commission is determined to change this narrative and bring back prosperity to its land and people.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the story of the oil rich region has changed for the better since the coming on board of Dr. Samuel Ogbuku as Managing-Director of the commission.
Since he took over the helm of affairs at the commission, he has been able to articulate the demands of the people of the area, embarked on practical initiatives to complete the gargantuan projects which he met and conceived and carrying out the execution of several other projects for the benefit of the people, and by so doing, calmed the restiveness which abinitio signposted the region.
At the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Summit which was held at the Eko Hotel, Lagos State on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, Ogbuku made it clear that since its inception, the NDDC has tried to faithfully deliver on its mandate to fast-track the development of the Niger Delta region as envisioned in its enabling Act.
Speaking on the theme of the Summit: “Rewind to Rebirth” and re-igniting the importance of stakeholders in the agency’s engagements, Ogbuku disclosed that as part of the efforts to renew and reposition the NDDC, the Governing Board has stepped up collaboration with various stakeholders.
“We have started engagement with the key stakeholders, such as the oil companies, who contribute three per cent of their operational budget to the Commission; the state governments, traditional rulers, Civil Society Groups, youth organisations and contractors.”
He disclosed that the NDDC has met with members of the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS), of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who are no doubt critical stakeholders of the Commission.
“This group, which embodies the International Oil Companies (IOCs), stand out for us because we need their cooperation to get full and prompt remittances of their contributions as prescribed by law,” the MD stated.
He maintained that it is was important to engage stakeholders in projects conceptualisation and execution, adding that the oil producers work in the communities and sometimes have first-hand information of the needs of the local people.
“We want them to engage with us in project selection. Also, we need the oil producers to sometimes avail us with their technical expertise in project management and monitoring. In other words, we are embarking on this journey of developing the Niger Delta with the full participation of all stakeholders.”
He was categorical when he said that the NDDC cannot shoulder the enormous responsibilities of developing the Niger Delta region alone, adding that all hands must be on the deck, especially to provide the necessary funds for the tasks.
Speaking further, he disclosed the agency’s collaboration plans with the stakeholders saying, “In working with stakeholders, we have resolved to make our 2024 budget an all-inclusive one that accommodates the interests of all key players in the Niger Delta region. To achieve this, we have charged our Budget Committee to give stakeholders the opportunity to tell the NDDC the kind of projects they want in their areas, so that they can be included in our budget.”Of course, it was against this background that the current Board and Management of the agency, in its bid to do things differently, so as to effectively drive sustainable development in the region, decided to adopt the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to provide alternative source of funding for key development projects and programmes.
Ogbuku said “In January, 2023, we constituted a Management Committee on Public Private Partnership to drive our vision of fast-tracking the development of the Niger Delta region. The committee is expected to review all the commission’s existing partnerships as well as explore new partnerships that will result in enduring regional projects.
“Our approach to partnership is to engage specific sectors in their areas of strength. For instance, the private sector is better equipped with expertise, resources, and technology to drive economic growth and development. By partnering with this sector, we can successfully leverage these resources to implement our programmes and projects.
“Another stakeholder we cannot do without is the government at all levels. The government is critical in promoting sustainable development. By partnering with government agencies and departments, participating in government-led initiatives, and advocating for policies that promote sustainable development, we can access government resources, policies, and programmes that support our development objectives. We are keen on more collaboration with state and local governments to implement programmes and projects that address their communities’ specific needs,” he added.
Ogbuku also said that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and Community-Based Organisations (CBOs), are essential partners to be courted.
“These organisations understand the needs and aspirations of people in the Niger Delta region. By collaborating on specific programmes and projects, drawing from their knowledge and resources, and involving them in planning and implementation, we can ensure that our programmes and projects align with the needs and aspirations of people in the region.”
Ogbuku, a man with the Midas touch, fully appreciates the significance of institutional collaboration as a way for promoting sustainable development in the region.
“We need the assistance of foreign institutions such as multilateral agencies, foreign government agencies, donor agencies and multinational corporations, to promote sustainable development in the Niger Delta region. Multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) can provide technical support, funding, and policy advice to the NDDC. These agencies have wide experiences promoting sustainable development in developing countries and can give us valuable insights and direction.”
Other foreign government agencies he was looking at include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK, and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), which he disclosed, could equally partner with NDDC to promote sustainable development in the region.
“These agencies can provide funding, technical assistance, and policy guides, as well as collaborate with us on specific programmes and projects. Multinational corporations such as Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Total, have a significant presence in the Niger Delta region. We expect them to collaborate more with us in executing legacy projects. They have what it takes to provide funding, technical assistance, and expertise in environmental management, community development and corporate social responsibility.
“Our ‘Rewind to Rebirth’ initiative, which is the theme of this summit, is a strategic vision designed to recalibrate our engagement with the Niger Delta and the Commission’s overall intervention implementation plan. Embedded in this initiative include exploring more avenues for funding, for better technical expertise, for higher yielding varieties of crops, as well as opportunities for collaboration and investment in the Niger Delta region. This initiative aligns with the NDDC mandate, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals 17, which focuses on partnerships. This is the stirring story of our partnership with the SPDC Joint Venture on the celebrated Ogbia-Nembe Road, in Bayelsa State.
“As we share ideas on how to ‘Rewind to Rebirth’ for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region, we are looking forward to partnering with both local and foreign investors, captains of industries, and the corporate world in building a better future for the region. With a region as blessed with immense natural and mineral riches, with boundless youthful energy and optimism, and the remarkable possibilities of our shared dreams here, the future of the Niger Delta looks bright, indeed.”
As a realist, he did not forget to mention some of the challenges confronting the NDDC development roadmap which he said included inadequate funding for the commission, emanating from inconsistent statutory contributions from the Federal Government and failure of some oil and gas companies operating within the region to remit their contributions in line with the NDDC Act; Failure of ownership of the Masterplan by the sub-nationals and other key stakeholders; Frequent changes in the leadership of the commission and consistent delays in the passage of the commission’s budget by the National Assembly, among others.
He assured: “Today, we have introduced a lot of innovations that have helped in boosting the morale of our staff. We have also restructured the administrative system of NDDC by going back to the 13 Directorates recognised in the NDDC Act. It was necessary to reorganise the administration to enhance better service delivery. We are showing in our operations, through our example and conduct, how diligence, due process and transparency are key ingredients to building confidence and trust among all partners and stakeholders. We are committed to not just being transparent, but we want to be seen to be transparent.”
According to the Managing Director, since the rejuvenation of the agency, there has been lots of achievements by the orgainsation leading to the commissioning of several completed projects. Recently, we commissioned three roads in Bayelsa State to mark the beginning of many other project inaugurations across the nine Niger Delta states. In the coming weeks, some of our major projects will be commissioned. Among such is the the 132/33KVA sub-station constructed by the commission in Okitipupa, which will provide electricity for over 2,000 communities spread across five local government areas in Ondo State.
“Another key project that and ready for inauguration is the Ogbia-Nembe Road, which was jointly funded by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), and the NDDC. That partnership delivered the 25.735-kilometre road, running through the most challenging terrains imaginable in the region. The project has seven bridges, 53 culverts and traverses 9.15 kilometres of swampy terrain. Apart from showcasing our mega projects, we have also developed a new concept of working with the Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce in the training of youths and young entrepreneurs in the Niger Delta region.
“For optimization of the youth programme, the NDDC Youth Volunteer programme was changed to a Youth Internship Programme where youths will be attached to organisations for one year to learn different skills.
“To facilitate this new scheme, we are developing a database that will capture unemployed youths and entrepreneurs in the region. Indeed, we have young entrepreneurs in the region that we want to showcase to the world.
Stakeholders and political leaders used opportunity offered by the summit to shower encomiums on the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana and the Managing-Director of the commission, Ogbuku, for engendering public confidence in the agency through their commitment to good governance.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Sen. Matthew Urhoghide; Senator-elect and former chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole; former Managing Director of the NDDC, Mr Timi Alaibe and former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Dakuku Peterside, were among those, who acknowledged the transformation of the commission under Umana and Ogbuku leadership.
The participants and stakeholders commended President Muhammadu Buhari for returning sanity and order in the running of the NDDC and noted the salutary impact of the president’s action on peace and stability in the Niger Delta.
The former Governor of Edo State, Oshiomhole wondered why anyone would run a government agency for three years with a handpicked Sole Administrator where there was no provision for such aberration in the enabling law that set up the agency, noting that such anomaly could never inspire public confidence in the NDDC. All the key speakers at the summit commended the Minister and the Management of the NDDC for the positive trend at the commission.
Earlier, while declaring the summit open on behalf of the Vice-President, Umana said his decision to reset and reposition the NDDC has made the commission attractive to development partners in the private sector “because it is now run on the template of international best practices in public governance.”
He emphasised that high on the template of good governance which he brought to the NNDC was ensuring there was a clear distinction between supervision and interference.
“I have made sure there is no ministerial interference in the management of the NDDC,” Umana said.
He said that the proof of the rising positive perception of the NDDC is evident in the enthusiastic response of private sector players to the invitation to dialogue on the way forward for the development of the Niger Delta.
“The event we are witnessing today ties back to my Action Plan to reset and reposition the NDDC, following my appointment as Minister,” Umana said, adding “I have faithfully implemented the Action Plan for which the Commission was inaugurated.
“We also set in motion an era of accountability and transparency by publishing in national newspapers, a list of 2,506 completed projects executed by the Commission under the Buhari administration from 2015 to 2022. The feedback to this level of commitment to openness in public governance has been tremendous.
“And today, we are witnessing an enthusiastic response by stakeholders and development partners to the invitation to dialogue on the development of the Niger Delta because there is trust in public institutions that are run according to law and due process. Public-Private Partnership would not be realistic in a government institution that is burdened with trust deficit”.
In his goodwill message at the summit, former NDDC Managing Director, Chief Timi Alaibe, expressed delight at the PPP initiative of the new leadership of the Commission.
He said: “This is the first time in 15 years that I am attending an NDDC function. This is because the new board is charting a new course that is impressive. Far back, after the implementation of the Master Plan, we decided on an implementation plan which involved all key stakeholders. We decided that the Master Plan cannot be funded by the government alone. We needed the private sector; that is why I support holding the summit in Lagos, Nigeria’s financial capital. The concept of rewinding and rebirth is sweet to the ears.”
In another goodwill message, the former Managing Director of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, applauded the NDDC Board and Management for striving to leave legacies in the region.
According to him, “the founding fathers of the NDDC intended that the NDDC should be a catalyst for development. The PPP arrangement is a new way of engendering positive outcomes. There must be a fusion between the private sector and the public sector. It is important to bring in the resources and expertise of the private sector.”
Meanwhile, more accolades have come the way of the commission with the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the United States Consulate and a United States-based firm, Atlanta Global Resources Inc., AGRI, to build a railway network that will connect the nine states of the Niger Delta region.
The ceremony, which was part of the one-day Public Private Partnership Summit organized by the Commission in Lagos on Tuesday, will provide locomotives, construct railway lines and operate same in the oil producing states of Rivers, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Imo and Abia.
The highpoint of the summit was the signing of an MOU by the Managing Director/CEO of the NDDC, Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, on behalf of the Commission; Mr. Chamberlain Eke, on behalf of the United States Consulate, and Mr. Tony Akpele, on behalf of AGRI, for the construction of a railline across the NDDC mandate states.
Work on the feasibility stages of the project, perhaps the biggest in the history of the commission, is expected to start immediately.
During the signing of the MoU, Ogbuku disclosed that the NDDC was determined to re-navigate the process of its intervention in the Niger Delta so that it can achieve its mandate “of facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.”
He stated that the MOU represented a big harvest for the NDDC from the PPP Summit.
Other dignitaries that graced the occasion included the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Wabote, who also delivered a paper titled “Innovative Funding and Sustainable Development for the Niger Delta”. Wabote, prior to his appointment, was an Executive Director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Nigeria Limited, and the General Manager, Business and Government Relations of Shell Group in Nigeria.
Others who delivered keynote addresses included Kayode Kyalidson. He was the man who advised the federal and state governments on a donor-funded transport initiative between 2009 and 2016. Prior to that, he was Team Lead for Transport sector reform at the BPE, where he was responsible for developing and implementing PPP concession strategy; Nimi Wilson-Jack. Mr Wilson-Jack is a sound legal practitioner of more than 39 years experience and a former Secretary-General of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). He is also a former Director of the Rivers State Bureau for Public Procurement. He formerly served as Special Assistant to the former Minister of Aviation.
Janita Ferentinos is a certified PPP Consultant and trainer with over 20 years’ experience. She is passionate about teamwork and the creation of effective partnerships and the stakeholder engagement, especially for the benefit of the underserved in the health, education and agricultural sectors; and Oliver Everett, a former CEO of Common Wealth Enterprise and Investment Council and Chair of Commonwealth Business Forum, Kigali 2020 Taskforce.
He has vast international experience working with multi-state organisations, including government, private and wider public sector operations; and Abubakar Suleiman, popularly called Abu.
He a Nigerian Banking and Economics professional and the current Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank, a leading Commercial Bank in Nigeria were among other crème de la crème in the society and industry gurus.
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