NDDC 2024 budget and funding of legacy projects

By Willie Etim

It took the composure, confidence and sincerity of the managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, to win the approval of the Senate for the N1.911 trillion 2024 budget of the commission within 24 hours.

Appearing before members of the National Assembly for budget defence could test the wits of many and push their adrenalin into overdrive. Luckily for the current leadership of the NDDC, its performance scorecard is loaded with positive outcomes that inspire hope.

The Senate President, Chief Godswill Akpabio, attested to this recently during the inauguration of the 600-metre Ibeno Bridge and the 6.87-kilometre Iko-Atabrikang-Opolom-IwuoAchang Road, in Akwa Ibom State.

Akpabio, who represented President Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the ceremony, showered praises on the NDDC board and management for delivering impactful projects in the Niger Delta region. He said that despite the enormous challenges of developing the region, the NDDC had risen to the task by executing projects that have improved the lives of the people.

Against this background, one can understand why the NDDC budget was treated with dispatch and approved with minimal queries. The Senators were convinced that the proposals presented by the NDDC, represented a clear roadmap for the rapid development of the Niger Delta region.

In retrospect, the NDDC has been fortunate to enjoy a somewhat cordial relationship with both chambers of the National Assembly. Last year, after initial misgivings over the accumulated budgets of 2021, 2022 and 2023, the National Assembly was convinced to pass the budgets for the three years.

Indeed, the rapport between the NDDC and the lawmakers shone light a bright light in 2017 when the legislators facilitated the expeditious passage of the amendment to the NDDC Act as it relates to the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG.

The amended law included a clause that the NLNG and other gas-producing companies must pay not less than three per cent of their annual total budget into the coffers of the NNDC as their contributions to the fund of the Commission. It also included that the percentage should be fixed by the Minister of Petroleum Resources.

Evidently, the NDDC has very good reasons to be thankful to the lawmakers, who are among its numerous supervisors. For the records, the Act establishing the NDDC makes it one of the most monitored Federal Government agencies in the country.

The relevant committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives, the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government, the Advisory Committee made up of all the governors of the region, among others, take turns to beam searchlights on the activities of this very important interventionist agency. In a way, this has helped the commission to always be on its toes.

The intention of the Act setting up the NDDC was for the key development actors in the region, especially the state governments, to play a strategic role and indeed take leadership in the harmonisation of the development strides in the region.

The Act provided and constituted the nine governors of the region into the NDDC Advisory Committee, thereby creating a window for the joint inputs of the governors and most importantly a platform for regional integration of plans, projects and programmes.

It is expected that the NDDC Advisory Committee will use the window of the impending review of the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan to reflect the vision of the various states into the development compass and take ownership of the plan.

The NDDC Managing Director, Dr Ogbuku, underlines the fact that regional development requires robust funding to effectively address specific and urgent development needs in the Niger Delta region. He notes that timely and flexible financial decision-making is crucial to respond effectively to dynamic regional challenges, stating: ‚ÄúThere is no doubt that funding is critical to the development of the Niger Delta region and the implementation of the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Tinubu‚Äôs administration.‚ÄĚ

Ogbuku, said that the 2024 appropriation was anchored on the theme: ‚ÄúBudget of Renewed Hope‚ÄĚ in line with the Federal Government‚Äôs budget, noting that ‚Äúthe proposed budget seeks to move the Commission from transaction to transformation and it is a product of participatory budgeting process that involves all the major stakeholders in the Niger Delta Region.‚ÄĚ

He said further: “In preparing the 2024 budget, our primary objective has been to sustain our robust foundation for sustainable economic development. A critical focus of this budget is this present management’s commitment to a greener future.

Seeing that investing in critical infrastructure is a key component of its fiscal strategy, the NDDC launched a ‚ÄėRewind to Rebirth‚Äô initiative as ‚Äúa strategic vision designed to recalibrate engagement with the Niger Delta and the Commission‚Äôs overall intervention implementation plan.‚ÄĚ That initiative provided the bulwark for the Commission‚Äôs drive to do things differently, as it also embraced the Public Private Partnership, PPP, model to provide alternative sources of funding for key development projects and programmes.

It is important to leverage private capital to augment public funding, hence the NDDC’s deliberate decision to pursue the PPP option. By partnering with the private sector, the Commission can unlock a wealth of resources, expertise, and innovation that will enable it tackle complex development challenges more effectively.

Perhaps, this informed the new strategy of seeking bank credits to bridge the funding gap and accelerate the completion of signature projects. This approach, while requiring careful planning and risk management, offers a unique opportunity to achieve more results within a short period of time.

The plan in the 2024 budget to raise N1 trillion, to be sourced from the development and commercial banks, for the completion of 1,006 legacy projects spread across the region, is pragmatic and should be encouraged to succeed because it is targeted at specific projects, which includes roads, bridges, electricity projects, school buildings, hospitals, shore protection and reclamation, among others.

It is noteworthy that the current NDDC’s leadership approach to development and collaboration is beginning to yield bountiful results, as can be seen from the recent commissioning of five flagship projects within 10 days.

Between May 18 and May 28, 2024, the NDDC commissioned the 9km Obehie-Oke-Ikpe road in Ukwa West LGA, Abia State; the 27.5 kilometre Ogbia -Nembe Road, constructed in partnership with Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC; the 1√ó15MVA 33/11KV electricity injection substation in Amufi, Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area in Benin City, Edo State; the 45km double-circuit 33KV feeder line from Omotosho Power Station to Okitipupa, Ondo State and the NDDC 6km Iko-Atabrikang-Akata-Opulom-Ikot Inwang-Okoroutip-Iwochang Road and 600m Ibeno Bridge in Ibeno LGA, Akwa Ibom State.

These landmark projects, which are among the 92 infrastructure projects completed at a cost of N84 billion across the nine mandates states of the NDDC, speak of the impact the Commission is making in the quest to quicken the pace of development in Nigeria’s oil-rich region.

Even with the huge portfolio of projects, stakeholders must not lose sight of the fact that the NDDC is not just about infrastructure development. The interventionist agency is envisioned to look at development from a holistic standpoint that includes investing in education, healthcare, skill training, as well as youth and women development.

An all-encompassing development goes beyond building roads and bridges, it entails human capital development as well. This, too, must be funded adequately and at the right time.

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