NDDC: A Budget By The People And For The People

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The appointment of Dr Sam Ogbuku as the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC has heralded a new dawn in the commission’s budgeting process and project implementation. OGENYI OGENYI was at its Partners for Sustainable Development Forum on the 2024 budget held in Uyo.

Though it has in the past been heavily criticized for unimpressive performance and lack of a clear vision in project implementation, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has in recent times began to come to terms that it’s service delivery needed to undergo a surgical if it were to erase negative public assessment that it has failed to deliver on it’s mandate.

And so when Dr Sam Ogbuku was appointed the Managing Director and shortly after he was retained as the head of a three man management committee after the dissolution of the commission’s board, he has gone about reinventing workable strategies and implementable policies that would reposition the commission and make it meet the numerous physical, economic and social demands of the people of the Niger Delta Region.

Key to this is the evolution of a people oriented, workable and realistic budget that would within it’s duration perform effectively in project delivery especially for legacy projects and others that would have a major impact on the socio economic life of the people.

And so it was with a renewed sense of optimism and duty that the Partnership for Sustainable Developement Forum was convened in Uyo on the 21st and 22nd of August with major stakeholders including traditional rulers, IOCs, the youths and women in attendance. The two day Converge accoding to the Executive Director of Finance and Administration, Maj Gen Charles Airhiavbere (Rtd) while wellcoming participants was to give an account of the process the Niger Delta Development Commission has undertaken in the preparation of the NDDC 2024 Proposed Budget christened Budget of Reconstruction

According to Airhiavbere, the budget Cycle of NDDC started in April 2023 with the inauguration of the Management Budget Committee and eventual issuance of the NDDC 2024 Budget Guidelines by the Managing Director/CEO.

“The Philosophy behind this is that it is the first time since 2018 that the full Budgeting Cycle of the Commission is strictly followed by the system and also full commitment of the Executive Management to do what is right. This represents a fresh start for the Commission and attempt to return it to its original mandate.” He restated.

The ED said that the commission has adopted a multi pronged strategy to achieve the “Budget of Reconstruction” and would include Stakeholders participatory budgeting, Restructuring of the entire NDDC Budgeting Process and Adoption of Strategic Goals & Objectives which are centered on the drive to implementation of Legacy Projects and Programmes through the instrumentality of Private-Public-Partnership (PPP) as well as setting outside 20% of each state revenue for payment for legacy debts and 10% for counterpart funding.

“This NDDC Budget is a product of participatory Budgeting process, which was done by the State Project Committees in conjunction with their respective stakeholders. The Stakeholders will also be key in the quarterly Performance Implementation process of the Commission.We have gathered here today as critical stakeholders to review, harmonize and adopt the Budget for onward transmission. It is our expectation that by the end of this exercise, duplications of projects will be completely eradicated while having Regional projects ownership.

“This exercise we are holding today is in fulfilment of this present Executive Management promise to the Niger Delta people that NDDC Budget will be participatory and transparent. The documents that the various States Stakeholders will be working with are products of NDDC State Project Committees with some stakeholders in the various States.” He said.

In a speech laden with passion, a clear and workable roadmap to the development of the region, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, Dr Sam Ogbuku reminded the audience of the need to develop a budget that would be guided by the Niger Delta Development Plan, developed with the active collaboration of all Niger Delta Stakeholders in 2008 facilitated by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Sadly, that Developement Plan, and no matter how laudable and broad based it was and for the first time supported by all the governors of the region according to Ogbuku did not work and did not last long enough before it expired in in 2020.

“But today, in this iconic Niger Delta City of Uyo celebrated for it’s capacity to warmly recieve every visitor, no matter his place or persuasion, with open arms, we are gathered here, sixteen after that presidential directive, to renew our comittment as a region Nan’s as a people, to work together for our common good and shared prosperity. Today, under a new leader, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whose famed work in rebuilding Lagos State as a Governor emboldens all of us to believe, once again, that there is hope for all Nigeria and the Niger Delta region, in particular we are laying a fresh foundation for the kind of partnership needed to facilitate regional sustainable development.

“Our vision as management is founded on this kind of partnership. In the past few months since our appointment, we have continued to erect a veritable platform upon which this oartnerimust thrive. As I have earlier noted, it is public knowledge that inadequate funding ranks very high among the numerous challenges of the commission. Consequently, we are promoting the PPP model inorder to provide an alternative source for key developement projects and programmes. This initiative aligns with the NDDC mandate, as well as the SDG 17, which focuses on partnerships.

“Only recently we have hosted two NDDC-PPP summits, and engaged with potential foreign partners in Houston, USA, as a Strategic Stakeholder initiative to launch the NDDC PPP model. This model is designed to communicate a new phase for the commission that will create a gateway of opportunities for foreign and local investors, captains of induatry and multilateral agencies. Working together, we will build a new Niger Delta that fulfils the mandate of NDDC, of a region that is indeed socially stable, economically prosperous, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.

“That is why this conference is very vital. For one, it will help to revive the platform of the PSD Forum, which was created as part of the original Master Plan Implementation Guideline, to bring all service providers and project implementers to the same table, to fashion a common pathway, based on a shared vision, for the developement of the Niger Delta region. For another, it affords all of us, the incentive and opportunity to pool our resources together, initiate projects and programmes within the obligatory goal of building a better region and empowering our people.” The MD maintained.

Ogbuku urged Stakeholders to use the opportunity of the meeting to galvanise energies for a common purpose,eliminate duplications and institutional suspicions in the developement process, reduce the incidence of working at cross purposes, as well as reduce wastage of scarce resources allocated for regional developement initiatives by all Stakeholders as this could reposition all concerned to achieve the different aspects and levels of a collective mandate to facilitate the sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region of shared aspirations and dreams.

“To succeed, we must remain committed to doing things differently from the past. We must move from the era where we express a determination to making a difference in the Niger Delta, to actually making that difference. There is no better time than now. We are improving and strengthening oir internal processes and institutional protocols. We are taking definite steps towards following due process in all our operations. We must become transparent in ways that build confidence among our partners and Stakeholders. We must be more mindful in the allocation of funds to projects and programmes , and remove all areas of waste.

“And we stand a better chance to succeed by building that synergy that propels our work and our region into that future we have always envisioned. That work continues here, with all of us, by reviving this forum and the strength in our unity with all it’s important benefits. It is our belief that this new initiative will help build needed consensus among partners and across the Niger Delta to ensure that we can, together, truly implement visible projects and programmes with far reaching impact in our communities, in our shared and unwavering commitment to rebuilding the Niger Delta.

“Ultimately, therefore, we would have found a common ground with President Tinubu’s far reaching vision of hope, our common heritage as a people and our known tradition of hospitality, equity, industry and common purpose, woven together in a fabric that proclaims:”partnership for progress”. He concluded.

In a keynote address, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Niger Delta Developement Dr Shuaib Belgore said the forum would present a veritable atmosphere towards achieving effective budgeting system for the NDDC, in line with the ‘’Renewed Hope’’ project of the Federal Government and commended the current management of the Commission for the initiative which he noted is happening for the first time since the ministry started supervising the Commission.

Shuaib who was represented by the Director of planning and statistics, Mr Alfred Abbah, admitted that NDDC budgets over the years have been faced with challenges, which included belated submission, delayed approvals amongst others and which have led to low/poor implementation of which the conference intended to address.

“I will encourage the Commission to continue to evolve and adopt a budgetary process that is in tandem with the stipulated provisions of the relevant Establishment Act. The Sections 18 and 19 of the NDDC Act, require the Commission’s Board to submit a Budget proposal of a succeeding year, no later than 30th September of the current year, thus the 2024 Budget of the Commission ought to be submitted by 30th September, 2023.

“The Commission is procedurally to submit the Budget proposal to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs who submits to the President, C-in-C after scrutiny and review. Upon submission, the President then transmits it to the National Assembly.

“The way forward is to embrace robust and innovative pathways anchored on transparency and Stakeholder participation towards right-budgeting, thus maximizing the available resources to address the most critical needs of the people.

“On our part as the supervising Ministry, charged with the responsibility of coordinating the overall developmental efforts and activities in the Niger Delta Region, we promise to always provide and avail the Commission all the necessary assistance needed to ensure passage of your annual budgets and consistent flow of statutory contributions from the Federal Government.” The Permanent Secretary concluded.

Meanwhile a communique issued at the end of the forum called on the management of the Commission to reduce the number of new projects inorder to enable it complete ongoing ones and stressed the need for the Commission to strike a balance between meeting political demands and serving the people of the region by executing people centric projects

The communique noted the strategic importance of the PSD forum in the budgetary process, aimed at eliminating duplications and institutional suspicions, reducing the incidence of working at cross purposes as well as reduce wastage of scarce resources allocated for regional development.

It commended the management committee of the NDDC for resuscitating the PSD Forum, which was last held in 2016 but advised the commission to operate a lean budget that would enable her to commence and complete projects within a certain and realistic budget cycle.

“The budget of the Commission should also have a spread to cover the several ethnic nationalities and communities in Region.For the 2025 Budget, less of new projects should be captured in order to ensure the quick completion of all ongoing projects under the 2024 budget.

“The timeline for payment of contractors should not exceed 45 days, allowing for 15 days buffer after which penalties will accrue for non-payment of contractors and that a town hall meeting and engagement of the several ethnic nationalities of the region be convoked prior to budget sessions. This is to ensure that the budget receives inputs from the people directly.” It said.

It called for the removal of completed projects from the budget to allow for more new projects and made a case for provisions for flood control measures in the 2024 Budget under regional provision, as well as provision of IDP camps in the LGAs of the region for flood impact reduction.

“To ensure equity amongst all the LGAs regarding the 2024 budget, the Commission should identify deserving ongoing projects with significant completion status and where the funds committed to such projects are insufficient, funds may be drawn from the legacy debt to argument.”

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