WITH a warning not to award contracts above its threshold, the Lauretta Onochie-led Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board was inaugurated yesterday.
The Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Umana Okon Umana, who inaugurated members of the new Board, mandated them to strictly adhere to the procurement thresholds as enshrined in the Public Procurement Act.
Those inaugurated with Onochie as Board members are: Mr. Dimgba Erugba (Abia); Dr. Emem Wilcox Wills (Akwa Ibom); Elder Denyanbofa Dimaro (Bayelsa); Orok Duke (Cross River); Dr. Pius Odubu (Edo); Gbenga Edema (Ondo); Anthony Ekene (Imo), Mr. Elekwachi Dimkpa (Rivers) and Mohammed Kabir Abubakar (representing Northcentral).
Others are: Prof. Tahir Mamman, SAN, (representing Northeast); Sadiq Sami Sule-Ikoh (representing Northwest); Dr. Samuel Ogbuku (Managing Director); Maj.-Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (Executive Director, Finance and Administration) and Charles Ogunmola (Executive Director, Project).
Umana said: “The new management must abide by the operating financial regulations to ensure prudence in the management of the limited resources. Every contract above the threshold of management is to be referred to the Ministerial Tenders Board and the Federal Executive Council (FEC). Any breach of contract approval limits will attract severe sanctions.
“I also urge you to shun the impulse for the award of spurious and indiscriminate new contracts, and suggest that you instead focus on the completion of ongoing projects to better serve the people of the region and deliver on the mandate of the NDCC, thereby helping to repair the negative public perception for the Commission.
“At this juncture, I will like to reiterate the point I have made at many fora since I assumed office. At the Senior Management Retreat of the ministry and the NDDC on July 29, 2022 as well as the annual meeting of the Council on Niger Delta in Uyo on September 15, 2022, I said that under my leadership, the ministry would make a difference through the Federal Government’s intervention in the Niger Delta, and that we would reposition the NDDC and put it on the path to effective execution of its mandate for the wholesome and sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.
“In this regard, the Ministry has the kind approval of the President to implement a new template for the development of the region. The new development design will centre on core infrastructure projects that include but are not limited to the construction of inter-state roads with the ultimate goal of transforming the Niger Delta into a regional economic hub. The inauguration of the Board of the NDDC today is a major step in this new policy direction.
“I urge the New Board to key into the change programme from day one. We started to implement the change we desire in the various policy options that we have taken right from the very beginning of my assumption of office. We had said we would install the governance ethos that emphasizes transparency and accountability.
“We have kept to that promise by publishing the lists of both cancelled contracts (for non-performance) and completed projects awarded by the Commission for public information. We have been getting valuable feedback since the publication of those lists in key national newspapers.
“We plan to do more to let stakeholders and the public at large keep track of service delivery in both the Ministry and the Commission. In the first quarter of this year we will present to the public compendiums of all completed projects executed by the Ministry and the Commission for the Niger Delta region.
“With regard to the overall policy direction under its current leadership, the ministry has prioritized: implementation of the harmonisation of all development plans of all agencies and development partners operating in the Niger Delta region into a Single Integrated Regional Development Plan as a roadmap to accelerated development of the region.
“We believe such harmony in development design will deliver the synergy and momentum sorely needed for the rapid transformation of the Niger Delta region.
“Collaboration and partnership with critical stakeholders, beginning with state governments in the region is necessary. We believe both the ministry and the NDDC must collaborate rather than compete with the state governments in the region to best deliver value to the majority of the people.
“The collaborative strategy is also the cornerstone of the relationships with community leaders and the oil companies that operate in the region. Through collaboration and partnership with all stakeholders, we will be in a better position to leverage opportunities in the region to expand intervention in health, education, security and build more capacity to diversify the range of economic activities that support livelihoods and guarantee a better standard of living for most people in the region.
“My desire and plan is to work with the new board and management, as well as all key stakeholders, to achieve the change programme we have put in place for the good of the Niger Delta region.
“It is now my honour and privilege to formally inaugurate the Seventh Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission.”
Board Chairman Lauretta Onochie thanked President Muhamadu Buhari and the minister for reposing confidence on the members.
Assuring that it will no longer be business as usual in the Commission, Onochie called for the support of people from the region and entire Nigerians to rescue the “troubled” interventionist agency.
She said: “We ask that you give us a breathing space to generate great idea that will bring about the desired change in the region.
“We are determined to do a great job. We are committed to the improvement of the economic and ecological wellbeing of our region. We are devoted to the prosperous future of the region.
“We will not fail. It’s a promise, but we ask that you give us the breathing space to do our job. We ask for your support, all and sundry, so that we can deliver for the long suffering people of the Niger Delta.”