A summit for stakeholders from the Niger Delta is underway, courtesy of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. It will be the first of its kind and will provide an opportunity for critical stakeholders in the nine states to brainstorm on the development challenges of the region.
Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Dr. Samuel Ogbuku gave the hint on Wednesday when he received a coalition of 27 leaders representing various ethnic nationalities and professional bodies in the region.
In the recent past, there have been complaints that the region has not received the kind of attention it deserves because after the expiration of the NDDC masterplan, there have been no coordinated development agenda.
Some critics have argued that it would have been better for the NDDC to consult with the local communities to know what areas they wanted the commission to intervene before embarking on projects.
Even, governors have also complained that the NDDC was citing projects in their states without proper consultations.
The idea of the summit, TNN learnt, is to give opportunity to all stakeholders, including governors, lawmakers, youth leaders, civil society organisations, religious leaders, professionals et cetera, to talk about how the region can be developed, to avoid mistakes of the past.
At the courtesy visit, Ogbuku said having got the National Assembly to approve a budget for the commission, he and his team were ready to hit the ground running.
He said: “Our people have grown beyond the level of armed struggle and moved on to intellectual struggle. The Niger Delta has gone through different phases and some of our critical stakeholders were instrumental to the birth of NDDC. Leaders will come and go but the NDDC remains as a vehicle for development of the Niger Delta region.
“When we resumed, NDDC had no approved budget. Now the budget has been passed by the National Assembly and we are ready to hit the ground running.
The 2024 budget will be scrutinised during our proposed Niger Delta Stakeholders Summit where development items will be prioritised. Our programmes and activities will be presented at the summit. This will give all of us a sense of belonging in the developmental strides in the Region.”
Earlier in his address, the President, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Senator Emmanuel Ibok- Essien, said that as committed patriots of the Niger Delta region, PANDEF, “the apex socio-cultural group in the region, has the blessings of our leader, Chief Edwin Clark, to visit you and give our solidarity to you and the management of the NDDC.
The coalition of leaders representing the various ethnic nationalities and professional groups in the Niger Delta region declared their unalloyed support for the leadership of Dr Samuel Ogbuku at the NDDC.
Senator Ibok-Essien who led the coalition commended President Bola Tinubu for retaining the Management Committee of the NDDC after the dissolution of the Governing Board of the Commission noting it was a step in the right direction pending the reconstitution and inauguration of a substantive Governing Board for the Commission.
“As committed patriots of the Niger Delta region, we have come here in one accord to solidarise with you. We are particularly gladdened by your retention by Mr. President to oversee the affairs of the Commission pending the constitution of a new Board. We wholeheartedly appreciate and endorse this wise decision of the President”
Speaking further, Ibok-Essien, who led the coalition of leaders, urged the NDDC Managing Director not to disappoint the people of the Niger Delta region who have high expectations about his appointment urging that the failures of the past should not be repeated.
“The NDDC is very dear to the people of the region because the destiny of the Commission is tied to the progress of the people. The retention of the management team was done for the good of the people and in line with extant laws.
“The tempo you have set is commendable and we urge you not to deviate from the path of progress.
We urge you and your team to create positive leadership that will be of benefit to the region.
‘It is well known fact that NDDC did not come on a platter of gold. It was midwifed by the series of cries and pleas of the Niger Delta people. So, the success of NDDC is intrinsically tied to the success of the Niger Delta people.”
The leaders of Niger Delta included the President of the Movement of the Survival of Izon Ethnic Nationality, Ambassador Kennedy Tonjo-West, Barrister C Omusuku, Hon Otos Akuphel, among others.