BY EMEKA EJERE
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, of Delta State has called for a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to help in articulating the strategies for the development of the Niger Delta region.
The governor made the call when the NDDC Interim Administrator, Mr. Efiong Akwa, led a team of the Commission’s management to pay him a courtesy and condolence visit at Government House, Asaba.
Okowa said that the Advisory Committee, made up of all the governors of the NDDC member states, and two other members appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, was an important body that would ensure that the states take ownership of NDDC projects and programmes, as well as check the duplication of projects.
He said: “It is our hope that NDDC will live up to the expectations of the people of the Niger Delta region. But for that to happen, there has to be a partnership between the NDDC and the state governments in the region.
“We need to collaborate and not compete. Unfortunately, a lot of politics have affected the work of the NDDC and we have allowed ourselves to be caught in the web of competition.
“I am glad that you have started a stakeholders’ engagement and I urge you to meet all the governors of the nine Niger Delta states.”
The governor stressed the importance of reviewing the Niger Delta Regional Development Master plan to guide the activities of the NDDC, noting that such a plan would serve as the compass for the region.
He advised the NDDC to focus on regional intervention projects, noting: “We need to have big-ticket projects that will be impactful on the lives of people in the region.”
Okowa underlined the need to engage the youths of the Niger Delta through skills acquisition programmes, adding that the youths need skills that would give them the confidence to stand on their own.
He also charged the NDDC Interim Administrator to try to make a mark for himself, regardless of how long he stayed at the helm of affairs in the Commission.
In his address, the NDDC Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Akwa, said it was important to engage and consult stakeholders of the Niger Delta as directed by President Buhari, particularly in the conceptualisation and implementation of programmes and projects.
He told Okowa: “As our leaders, you stand behind the oars of our shared journey towards sustainable regional development, as well as the moral compass of our collective determination to build a better Niger Delta region. That is why we must continue to defer to you as a member of the Advisory Council on the NDDC.
“We are here to share with you our strategy and plans for collaboration with your Government, as well as listen to you because we have a lot to learn from you.
“We are here to, among other things, facilitate a stronger collaboration with you and Delta State, as well as to build a more vigorous partnership towards the sustainable development of Delta State, in particular, and our dear region, in general.”
Akwa reassured the governor that the past practice where the NDDC undertook projects and programmes in the member states, without first building a working coalition with the state governments, to integrate plans, policies, projects, and programmes into the state government’s overall master plan, would no longer hold.
The NDDC boss said that as part of the commitment to a working partnership, the Commission was donating five waste disposal trucks to assist in keeping Delta State clean. He observed: “As a medical doctor we understand how important good public health is to you, and the importance of cleanliness to the individual. As they say, cleanliness is next to godliness.”
Akwa also commiserated with the governor on the death of his father, stating: “We convey our deepest and most sincere condolences on the passing of your dear father, Sir Authur Okowa. His death is as much a great loss to you, your family, your community of Owa-Alero in Ika and Delta State, as it is to the entire Niger Delta.”
The Interim Administrator later presented keys to five waste disposal trucks to the Delta State Government to assist it in its efforts to improve the sanitary conditions in the state.