An NGO, the African Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, (ANEEJ), in conjunction with other Civil Society Organizations, has called for the review of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC,amendment Act to strengthen the Commission to make it capable of fulfilling its core mandate of developing the Niger Delta region.
The CSOs include; the Community Empowerment and Development Initiative,(CEDI), Warri, Delta State; Foundation for Environmental Rights ,Advocacy and Development,(FENRAD); Community Heritage Watch for Development Initiative, (KAI),Akure, Ondo State; Gender and Development Action,(GADA); Joint Association of Persons with Disability,(JONAPWD), Edo state chapter; among others.
Executive Director, ANEEJ, Rev. David Ugolor, who spoke during a stakeholders’ meeting under the ANEEJ-SCALE project on ‘‘Enhancing anti corruption and social inclusive reforms Initiatives in Nigeria’’, in Port Harcourt, explained that ANEEJ with the support of USAID, commissioned a review work on the NDDC Act and would consider inputs from key stakeholders in the Niger Delta region such as NDDC, media, host communities and others.
Ugolor ,who was represented by the Senior Manager,ANEEJ, Innocent Edemharia, further explained that the outcome of the stakeholders’ meetings will be used to engage the relevant committees of the National Assembly before and during the public hearing to ensure that the final document reflects stakeholders’ input.
He said; “The process is designed to address reform issues within the development commissions set up to develop the Niger Delta region such as the NDDC and the oil and gas areas development commissions in Abia, Delta , Edo, Imo and Ondo. The NDDC Act amendment bill has passed second reading in the National Assembly since November 2021 and the need for stakeholders’ input to reflect peoples’ demands before it is passed is paramount. We desire a transparent, accountable and improved NDDC working collaboratively with key stakeholders to develop the Niger Delta region. We consider this project as an important one that seeks to promote and engage in anti corruption policy reforms at both national and subnational levels with an ultimate goal of strengthening governance to deliver development goals to citizens , particularly in addressing poverty and inequality amongst our people. The intention is to ensure that the ongoing review process is comprehensive and reflects stakeholders’ feedback that could strengthen the operations of the NDDC.”
Presenting a paper titled; “Analysis of the NDDC Act, Identification of Gaps and Recommendations for Amendment”, Barr. Nosa Tokumbo, outlined some areas of the main NDDC Act which are not people-oriented to include, the appointment of Executive Directors and Deputy Directors of the commission, the statute of limitation which bars aggrieved parties from taking legal action against erring staff of NDDC, among others.
On his part, Executive Director, FENRAD, Comrade Nnanna Nwafor , lamented that the Niger Delta region is characterized by abject poverty, environmental degradation and neglect, instability and militarization due to youths restiveness which have made the region highly volatile, stressing that the NDDC should be strengthened to do more to address the ugly situations.
Commending ANEEJ for taking the lead in the campaign to review the NDDC Act amendment bill which he said will reform the commission to be more inclusive and accountable, Nwafor also expressed gratitude to the federal government for cancelling the contracts awarded by the NDDC, from 2000 to December 31, 2019.
Other stakeholders who spoke at the meeting recommended the introduction of needs assessment before projects are sited in host communities; award of contracts only to reputable companies and contractors; deeper inclusion of monarchs and town unions Presidents to encourage community participation, transparency and accountability; stringent measures to check corruption and non compliance with procurement laws, among others.