By Suoyo Ekubo
The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has pledged to initiate projects and programmes to develop the capacity of women and youths in the Niger Delta region.
Speaking during an interactive meeting with Women Leaders of Ethnic Nationalities and key stakeholders in the Niger Delta region at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, the Managing Director, Dr Samuel Ogbuku, stated that the Commission was focused on building strategic partnerships with the women and youths of Nigeria’s oil-rich region.
He said: “The women form the core of our development programmes. We have met and spoken with the youths. We are planning to meet with the women.”
He informed the women leaders that the NDDC would reach out to them as critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta region as part of the Commission’s programme to engage with all stakeholders in the formulation of the Commission’s overall strategies for the development of the region.
According to him: “Not until we give all our leaders, political, traditional, youths, women and other leaders in the Niger Delta that platform and opportunity to discuss what our future should be, we may not understand the direction that our people want to go.”
Ogbuku observed that after the recent Partners for Sustainable Development Forum NDDC 2024 Budget of Reconstruction Conference in Uyo, the women leaders felt neglected and left out in the Commission’s activities. He remarked that the non-participation of women groups in the summit was not deliberate, stating that henceforth, such oversight will be avoided.
He said further: “We will soon hold a Niger Delta Stakeholders Summit and the women must be a part of it. We need to provide the platform for all our stakeholders to contribute ideas for the development of the Niger Delta region. The Stakeholders Summit will leverage on the 2023 Budget. Once it is signed, we should be able to agree on the areas of priorities based on our current realities.
“We have met with the youths and this yielded good ideas such as the Holistic Opportunity Projects of Engagement, HOPE. We will meet with the women as well. We will sit with the women groups to articulate their needs and the things that will bring all-round development.
“We have entered an agreement with KPMG to clean up our internal processes and encourage our partners. Just last week, we met with the development agencies of France and Germany to facilitate training and create jobs for our youths and women, especially in the area of farming.”
The NDDC boss noted that funding had been a challenge for the Commission and this made it imperative to think out of the box to provide solutions. “This informed our focus on Public, Private Partnership, PPP. Hence, we are open to build a dependable partnership with women groups,” he said.
Ogbuku urged Niger Deltans to desist from casting aspersions on NDDC, as such action belittle the Commission and the Niger Delta region in the eyes of the international community, thus reducing the chances of building fruitful collaborations with them.
Speaking earlier, prominent Niger Delta women leader and activist, Lady Ankio-Briggs commended the leadership of the NDDC for seeking alternative sources of funding for the Commission’s projects through its PPP programme, noting that the NDDC’s initiative will help to correct the inconsistencies in the Niger Delta region caused by underdevelopment.
She said: “We welcome the recent engagement with KPMG, a multinational business management consultancy firm, to provide advisory services to the Commission on global best practices in Corporate governance culture and internal processes.”
Briggs lamented that NDDC was owed huge sums, running into trillions of naira, which was slowing down the pace of development, adding that the Commission cannot function effectively in the face of debts.
She stated: “The women of the Niger Delta region call on Mr. President to remember that for a major part of the last eight years, the management of the NDDC was without a substantive Board and this was not in the interest of the Niger Delta people for whom the agency was created. We, therefore, urge Mr. President to constitute the Board of the NDDC with the current management team as led by Dr Samuel Ogbuku.”
In his remarks, the NDDC Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Major-General Charles Airhiavbere, (Rtd), said that the journey of development in the Niger Delta would be much easier on the back of women, stating that NDDC recognized the fact that “women are the backbone of any society.”