NDDC: An Edifice To Kick-Start True Transformation of the Niger Delta
by Constance Meju
A vision remains a dream until it becomes a reality. For the pioneers of the management of the development intervention agency set up by the federal government of Nigeria in 1994 to address development failures and needs in the Niger Delta under the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Commission, OMPADEC many desired dreams failed to materialize because of several factures ranging from planning, funding, timing and the consequent effect of these as management, government policies changed from one administration to the other.
From a unit in the office block of the Radio Rivers AM Office of the Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation, Port Harcourt, the OMPADEC took office cramping together both staff and oil host communities’ representatives as the commission struggled to fashion out a roadmap for what later metamorphosed into the giant multi-billion agency today renamed Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
The itch for free space to operate, needed environment for both community to assess their government enthroned developers caused the Albert K. Horsfall- led OMPADEC to pencil down the establishment of a landmark structure that would endure as the head office of the commission for the smooth operation of its activities. That dream gave birth to the foundation of what was commissioned on Thursday March 11, 2021, as the new Head Office Complex of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Choice of the Eastern-bypass a just developing area away from the high density traffic areas of the Rivers State, Port Harcourt capital was strategic as the Dappa Biriye House on Aba Road which became the head office of the commission when it transformed from OMPADEC came to prove later. Host community members kept up with a heavy vehicular and human traffic that disturbed free flow of traffic on the Aba Road, one of the key roads leading in and out of the city.
Chief AK Horsfall, pioneer chairman of OMPADEC told National Point as preparations were being fine-tuned for the commissioning on Thursday his vision was for a permanent office.
“I had the vision for a permanent office for the OMPADEC. Things went comatose when I left. Now luckily my successors have felt able to work through and complete the structure. Am proud of this and happy it has come to pass in my life time. It is my dream and vision. We started from our office on William Jumbo Street in the Old GRA.
“I had the dream and vision; we started working, thinking up where to locate the permanent office. Then I left the OMPADEC and for many years the project was abandoned”.
A good idea survives bad times. As the NDDC developed its new master plan for the region, not much was done to build the dream of a permanent site with the speed it deserves, not even with state NDDC office complexes emerging. The Marine Base structure became an orphan even as the Aba Road office became congested, spilling over to take over nearby spots for car parks, constructing tubes over roads to link the park, etc. The management found it more expedient to continue to pay the now revealed annual rent of N300million for a building they operate on diesel as there was no connection in all these years with the National Grid.
It was therefore a relief when late year, completion of the project became a burning desire of the supervising minister of the NDDC and the leadership of the commission.
According to the Niger Delta Affairs minister Senator Godswill Akpabio, he had to convince the president to commit to investing in the completion of the building project to check anomalies and save cost as he came on board.
The minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, announced this while briefing reporters in Port Harcourt on Tuesday on a pre-commissioning press conference.
He said that the building which started in 1996 witnessed slow pace of work until 2019 when Mr Buhari committed to its completion.
“The road to completion of the over N16 billion NDDC office edifice started when I visited the building in 2019 and learnt that the project commenced 25 years ago in 1996.
“After the visit, I briefed President Buhari and told him that we can make the building the focal achievement in his effort to reposition NDDC. Immediately, President Buhari graciously approved and work commenced on the building as part of his commitment and passion to the people of Niger Delta.
“The completion and inauguration of the building on Thursday shows that the government can work only if it has the right determination and focus,” Akpabio said.
He lambasted NDDC past administrations and boards which preferred to pay N300 million yearly as rent in the old office, rather than focus on completion of the permanent office building. He further revealed that for over 15 years the NDDC’s old office was not connected to the public supply of electricity. Rather than connect the old NDDC building to the national grid, some people preferred to award contracts for supply of diesel. We discovered that all that was needed to connect the building to the national grid was a mere N16 million. “In the finance department alone, you need 26 signatures to pay a single contractor, and sometimes it took five to six years for contractors to get their money.
“We cannot allow such to continue, and so, we are making sure that money coming into NDDC must be used to develop the Niger Delta as President Buhari directed,” he added.
Some credit must also go to Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, the embattled former managing director who it is on record, initiated the gradual movement of NDDC staff and activities to the new site about June 2020.
Making the move, he stated that physical presence of the commission staff there would inject needed drive for completion of the project.
Combined tenacity of the current Acting managing director, Effiong Akwa backed by a passionate minister with a penchant for finishing projects finally successfully mid-wifed the edifice that now stands proudly as the rallying spot for the new transformation Niger Deltans are yearning for-value added development of the communities of the oil states. A demand plainly spelt out by Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinmma who represented Niger Delta state governors at the commissioning ceremony.
Akpabio has already given some assurance to this effect. The minister said after the inauguration, the ministry, National Assembly and other stakeholders would meet to re-jig the operations of the NDDC. A legacy office must go with legacy projects.