NDDC: Ogbuku A Breath Of Fresh Air

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By

Etim Williams

Shortly after coming in as the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, Chief Samuel Ogbuku ( PhD), made it clear that he has come to leave a footprint of genuine development in the Niger Delta region capitalizing on the core mandate of the interventionist agency.

He immediately declared that the NDDC would no longer be a cash cow for politicians across the country but rather concentrate on the actual development of the region thereby promising a clear change of narrative for the commission.

Determined to achieve his goal, Dr. Ogbuku said his development approach would be by Public Private Partnership PPP and proceeded to lead the NDDC into strategic partnerships and collaborations with local and international development organisations, donor agencies and even management and financial institutions.

He also embarked on wide ranging engagements with strategic stakeholders of the Niger Delta region including governments, community leaders, women and youth groups without leaving out people living with disabilities, (PWDs).

And to underscore the essence of regular engagement of stakeholders, especially beneficiaries of its planned programmes to the sustainability of those projects and programmes, at the second edition of the Executive Management Roundtable Conference with Selected Niger Delta Leaders and Youth Group last week Dr. Ogbuku promised to make the roundtable conference a quarterly event.

His reasons; “to enhance the formulation and sustenance of the Commission’s overall strategies for the development of the region”.

He emphasised the importance of building the capacity of youths through strategic programmes as the Commission transits from transaction to transformation.

He explained that it was important to constantly be on the same page with the people on the planning and implementation of all development programmes so as to agree with them on priorities, quality, scope and range of projects and programmes for a genuine and sustainable impact.

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 remarked that the NDDC has a duty to harness resources from different groups, noting: “We have gathered at this forum to hear from the youths; to interact with them and rub minds because we realise that we cannot be planning programmes for youths without involving them at the foundational level.

He said: “We have given more opportunities and hope to Niger Delta youths through our Holistic Opportunity Projects of Engagement, HOPE, meant to identify interests of the youths for skills training.

The NDDC boss said that the HOPE project had helped the Commission to develop a comprehensive digital repository, comprising important information about the youths of the Niger Delta region; including their qualifications, skills, interests, needs, and current employment status.

“So far, 470,000 youths have registered in the database and we will partner with youth organisations to ensure that all our youths are registered. This database will serve as a plank for data-driven planning, enabling the formulation of impactful policies and programmes targeted at the youths”, he stated.

He added that the NDDC was working with the Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce in the training of youths and young entrepreneurs in the Niger Delta region and explained that the Commission would collaborate with the Chamber of Commerce to support Small and Medium Enterprises in the region and ensure the sustainability of youth development programmes.

Ogbuku said; “We will also partner with the Bank of Industry to fund projects and support businesses and facilitate the success of our empowerment programmes. We will provide all the necessary support for youth entrepreneurship schemes,” he said.

“We will soon hold a Niger Delta Stakeholders Summit and the youths must be a part of it. We need to continually provide the platform for all our stakeholders to contribute ideas for the development of the Niger Delta region.

He urged the people not to allow politicians to destabilise the NDDC, as such action was bound to hinder the development and sow the seeds of discord among Niger Deltans.

Also at another of such engagement at Asaba, the Delta State capital the Managing Director took time to reel out some of his achievements in the about just one year of his stay as the Managing Director of the NDDC.

The event was the opening ceremony of the 6th Meeting of the National Council on Niger Delta, a two-day meeting organised by the Ministry of Niger Delta Development in collaboration with the Delta State Government and the NDDC, focused on: “Stimulating Strategies for Economic Growth and Development in the Niger Delta Region.”

At the meeting Dr. Ogbuku tried to correct the erroneous impression in certain quarters that the Commission was not living up to its mandate of developing communities in the Niger Delta region.

The NDDC Chief Executive Officer stated that following the directives of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to the Commission to complete and commission signature projects that would impact the lives of Niger Deltans the Commission would soon inaugurate the completed 132/33kv electricity sub-station it built at Ode-Erinje in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State, to light up five local government areas in the state.

According to him: “Another flag-ship project ready for inauguration is the 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road in Bayelsa State, which we executed in partnership with Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC.”

He remarked that the NDDC did not tell its success story well enough in the past, citing the case of the completed 1×15MVA 33/11kv injection substation in Amufi-Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area of Edo State.

The NDDC boss assured that the era of not having data or evidence of projects and programmes was gone, adding that the current Board and Management of the Commission had adopted strategies to showcase its activities.

Speaking on collaborations with other organisations, Ogbuku noted that the NDDC had made significant gains since it embraced Public-Private Partnership, PPP, as a major policy thrust.

One of such positive fall-outs, he said, was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, between the NDDC and the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Limited, NLNG, to collaborate on diverse fronts in the delivery of sustainable development projects.

In the area of health, Ogbuku said that the World Health Organisation, WHO, had agreed to partner with NDDC to implement a Health Insurance Project for the Niger Delta region adding that the Commission had resumed its Free Healthcare Programme which caters to the needs of rural communities, as part of the Commission’s commitment to enhance healthcare delivery to the people of the Niger Delta region.

According to Ogbuku, the free healthcare programme had attended to no fewer than 573, 688 patients from different communities in the region.

In the education sector, he highlighted the Foreign Post-Graduate Scholarship Programme of the Commission, noting that 2,323 students in the region had so far benefited from it saying; “We have just published the notice for the 2024/2025 scholarship programme.”

Ogbuku’s approach to issues of the development of Niger Delta within this his short spell at the commission is indeed novel and a clear departure from the norm.

It has therefore, won him plaudits among stakeholders, mostly the youths who have rallied around the Managing Director and his team, pledging their cooperation and support.

Speaking at the roundtable with leaders of youth groups in Port Harcourt, the President of the Survival of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta, MOSIEND, Comrade Kennedy West, commended the leadership of the NDDC for providing a platform for interaction for youth groups in the region, noting that it was important to continually engage in discussions to lay a foundation for sustainable development.

West applauded the NDDC for initiating the Project HOPE, which was expected to engage youths of the region by creating employment opportunities for them, especially in agriculture.

The coordinator for Project HOPE, Ambassador Blessing Fubara, said that the programme would help to engage youths of the region by creating employment opportunities for them.

He said that the second phase of the youth empowerment programme would focus on commercial agriculture, information and communication technology, as well as assisting youths in the creative industry.

Shortly after, the youths under the aegis of Niger Delta Opinion Leaders, Youths and Weighted Stakeholders, held a press conference in Port Harcourt where they passed a vote of confidence on President Bola Tinubu and Managing Director, Dr. Ogbuku,

the youths leaders commended President Tinubu for appointing Ogbuku and members of his management team to oversee the activities of the commission at this critical period of the life of the Niger Delta region.

They threw their weight behind Ogbuku, noting that he has the will and capacity to execute the much-needed development in the region.

At the press conference which was addressed by Freedom Atigbi Deputy President, Ijaw Youths Council, Worldwide, on behalf of the President, Sir Jonathan Senior Lokpobiri, the Ijaw youth leaders declared that Ogbuku remained the best bet to judiciously manage the funds of the commission in tackling the alarming poverty and developmental challenges in the region.

They said; “The NDDC as a developmental agency which stands as a buffer between the oil producing region of the Niger Delta and the Federal Government is often faced with how to judiciously allocate the patrimony of the oil wealth. To overcome this challenge, we need someone in the person of Dr. Samuel Ogbuku at the helm of affairs who knows how to tip the scales to achieve a balance.

“With all the reasoning put forth, we conclude that Dr. Samuel Ogbuku is the balancer and unifying power of our region. And because poverty and misery are not God given curses that man must passively accept but they are largely man made and can be remedied by man, it is only ideal that leadership should be the prerogative of the man who knows how to feel the pulse of his people, and Dr. Samuel Ogbuku fits perfectly for the NDDC, in this instance”.

“He has our support and vote of confidence”, he declared adding that the leaders were grateful to President Tinubu for appointing Ogbuku the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of NDDC, insisting that the leadership of the current NDDC boss signifies a rebirth of the commission.

Atigbi added; “This is leadership at its best where dialogue and accountability is on display. This convinces us that what we are experiencing in the Dr. Samuel Ogbuku led Management is beyond any describable form of leadership. We see it as a movement. It is a movement for the rebirth of a functional NDDC that transits from transaction to transformation.

“It is an idea which has come to give a new dimension to leadership in the NDDC and our region, and for making such an appointment, we thank President Bola Tinubu for his visionary insight.”

They urged naysayers of the NDDC MD to sheath their swords and align with Ogbuku in his efforts to bring genuine development to the region.

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