Reinventing the NDDC
Sir: The other day, the new Governing Board Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Victor Ndoma Egba was reported to declare the intentions of the new NDDC board to refocus on its original mandate – development of the Niger Delta. The greater turbulence and underdevelopment in the region, many years after the elaborate launch of the much touted Niger Delta Regional Development Masterplan (NDRDMP), are some of the underpinning worries of Egba. What was more surprising, the new NDDC chairman was reported to have stated: “The story in the public is that a commission of 10 -15 per cent is paid by contractors to get their payments from the commission.” Condemning the practice, where it is true, indicates genuine commitment on the part of Ndoma Egba to change the NDDC for good.
However, to be taken more seriously, the NDDC chairman must go beyond sermon to action. A more sustainable approach to the matter points in the direction of preparing an amendment Bill to the NDDC Act to free the Commission from overbearing excessive political control. A model where the Governing Board is appointed by the President to supervise the Commission’s management without getting involved in the day-to-day running of the Commission would seem more fit for purpose.
Thus, the objective of the proposed amendment should make the NDDC board responsible for enunciating policies, approving short to long term plans for execution, annual budget proposals, supervision and appraisal of the managing and executive directors. In essence, the positions of the Commission’s managing and executive directors now fused into the board and essentially more powerful than the board in practice, should be changed.
In the new dispensation, the NDDC managing and executive directors should be recruited as employees of the Commission with a fixed-term contract to implement the policies and plans approved by the board. The specification and remuneration package should aim at attracting development managers of proven reputation and experience at the highest level. The recruitment process should follow the pattern of transparent international standards. Naturally, the personality and integrity profile of candidates selected through such a credible process should meet expected ethical and professional standards.
Apart from subordinating NDDC management to its board in practice, the status and tenure of the NDDC board also needs to be protected by law to rescue the Commission from the burden of a ‘cash cow’ for those who wield political power. The NDDC Governing Board should be elevated to be at par in status with the National Population Commission or the Independent National Electoral Commission in order to minimise extrinsic political interference. A model similar to what obtains between Governing Councils and Management in Nigerian Universities should be proposed and implemented for the NDDC.
The new operational structure for the NDDC should primarily insulate its management and board from overbearing political control. It is only then that the NDDC can successfully return to its original development focus. Until drivers of the NDDC mandate are sufficiently protected from the high-wire patronage system well entrenched at the Commission from inception, any talk about reinventing the Commission will be mere political talk of no consequence. After all, the Ndoma Egba-led NDDC board, is in place following the success of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in uprooting the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from power.