In less than two weeks, President Muhammadu Buhari will leave behind an unmatchable record of projects and reforms that will engender rapid development in the Niger Delta region when he hands over to a new administration on May 29,2023. The timely setting in motion of an agenda for massive development of the region clearly showed Mr. President’s political will to address the ills in the region. He rolled out reforms in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which brought together a robust set of solutions initiatives aimed at ensuring that the people of the Niger Delta benefit maximally from the region’s oil wealth.
Notably also is the fact that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari brought significant infrastructural development to the region these past 8 years, as pointed out by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Umana Okon Umana, during a presentation of scorecard a couple of weeks ago.
According to the report of 12th edition of the Buhari administration scorecard series held in Abuja recently, the president prioritized the development of the Niger Delta region of the country as the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Umana listed the construction of 1,874km of roads, the completion of 44 electrification projects, and the provision of 162 portable water facilities as part of the gains of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in the region.
According to him, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs completed more than 393km of the roads while the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) accounted for more than 1,481km. According to him, the roads, water and electricity projects were delivered across the nine states of the Niger Delta region.
The Minister said during the period, the Ministry and the NDDC also delivered 288 transformers, 11,411 solar- powered street lamp posts, 44 school projects, 17 agro- processing plants, 21 social centres, and 15 market stalls to the region.
Other achievements listed, included the completion of the head office building of the NDDC in Port Harcourt and the construction of a multi – skills acquisition centre with a 500-student boarding capacity in each of the nine states of the Niger Delta region.
The skills acquisition centre in Bayelsa State was completed and handed over to the Federal University of Otuoke, adding that two other centres completed in Ondo and Imo were also handed over to their respective states.
In the area of infrastructural development, the total tally of hard infrastructure projects in various sectors delivered by the Federal government to the Niger Delta region during the reporting period stands at 2, 786, made up of 580 delivered by the Ministry and 2, 206 by the NDDC.
The Buhari- led administration, has also performed credibly in terms of social programmes. According to Mr Umana 6, 293 women and youths were trained and empowered with cash and equipment worth N5.5 billion. Each of the trainees received cash support ranging from N300,000 to N500,000 and starter packs. Materials delivered to the trainees included tractors, tricycles, sewing, grinding and hair- dressing machines.
Moreso, among the trainees were 3,864 non- militant youths and women who were trained in agriculture and its value chain, while 224 motorized tillers were delivered to the farmers. Training was also mounted for 75 youths in maritime dredging and photography, The Minister said about 5000 youths and community stakeholders were engaged in peace and security programmes during the period.
The administration undertook reforms as a key policy focus in order to tackle corruption, put an end to wanton looting of public funds, fast track and sustain development programmes in the region. In effect, the reforms put in place by the outgoing President Buhari will doubtlessly make it easier for the incoming administration to build on an already prepared development framework.
Umana further explained that the key policy focus of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs during the period included the maintenance of peace and security, coordination of development initiatives based on the harmonization of the various development plans into one holistic roadmap, and the repositioning of the NDDC for effective service delivery.
He also stated that the forensic audit ordered by the government into the activities of the Commission and the subsequent publication in the media of both completed and cancelled projects under the Commission was part of the repositioning process for transparency and accountability. Stressing that the government had directed, based on the recommendations of the forensic auditors, that contracts for 4000 projects should be terminated for non- performance. Of this number, the Minister said, details of 1,250 have been published in the media, adding that more would be published soon.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs was deepening transparency and accountability with the publication of annual reports and a statistical digest on its operations, and promised to further strengthen good governance with the publication of compendiums of completed projects by both the Ministry and NDDC in 2023.
In addition, President Buhari is showing a special interest in the development of the Niger Delta region as demonstrated in the inauguration of members of the 7th governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission ( NDDC), and his gracious approval for the hosting of Niger Delta Development Commission Board and Management retreat in Uyo, from January 19- 22, 2023. and also for approving the release of NDDC money recovered from oil companies for use in the development of core infrastructure projects in the region.
Moreso, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Umana Okon Umana have done their very best in the developmental gains of the Niger Delta region, In addition to the formal inauguration of the 7th Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC) Governing board on January 4, 2023.
Having put to rest months of agitation from various Niger Delta groups and stakeholders for the inauguration of the substantive board for the agency, the Governing board now should reciprocate by swinging into action immediately, using the templates given to them by the supervising ministry. The have started with partnership with governments of member states and other critical stakeholders in other to make the difference.
The recently concluded Niger Delta Development Commission Public- Private Partnership Summit, held in Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos marked a watershed in the eventful history of the interventionist agency. It heralded a significant shift in approach by the Commission towards sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.These are some of the reforms and gains of Buhari’s administration in the Niger Delta region.