Akwa and the NDDC challenge

The Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr Effiong Okon Akwa, has in the last few months been revolutionising the affairs of the commission energetically by liaising with stakeholders across the region for peace and development anchored on accountability.

Since its establishment in 2000, the NDDC has been faced with the poser on whether it would ever be well managed as an interventionist agency aimed at bringing about the desired peace and development through accountable and equitable allocation of resources for infrastructural development or be politicised and frustrated. This poser has over the years been a clog in the affairs of the commission with the last two years serving as the deepest low in terms of controversies, alleged corruption and demeaning claims of fraud.

Notwithstanding the schisms around its operations, the appointment of Akwa Ibom-born Akwa on the advice of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has started clearing the mess which lingered until President Muhammadu Buhari, out of passion to put the pathetic story of the Niger Delta region to an end, endorsed the deserving appointment; and since then, the story of the NDDC has been one on the positive flipside.

Akwa, lawyer and until the appointment the vommission’s acting executive director, finance and administration, showed that he was born with an innate tendencies to take risks, identify and act on opportunities, build bridges among stakeholders, itemise targets amidst peaceful disposition and fulfill the goals.

Interestingly, he is successfully navigating the affairs of the NDDC amidst the brouhaha created by the frenzied calls for the quick completion of the forensic audit ordered by President Buhari as well as the calls for a substantive board for the commission.

Fortunately, Akwa has served as the needed link between President Buhari on the successful completion of the forensic audit ordered in October 2019, following persistent allegations of financial misappropriation within the development agency and the expected transition into a substantive board for the commission. His attributes as a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria has thus led to phenomenal growth and expansion in the affairs of the 21-year-old commission.

In the last nine months, the NDDC’s focus under the Akwa leadership has been to facilitate the completion of the forensic audit, because he knows that all eyes are on him. All the paid agents within and outside the NDDC will monitor everything he does or says and be scheming for loopholes and omissions with which to nail him when the opportunity arises. He has been firm, proactive and sensible.

Which is why since his appointment as the Interim Administrator of the NDDC, Akwa has been able to reach out to key stakeholders from the region in decision making and crisis management. Without doubt, youth leaders, traditional rulers and civil society organisations from the Niger Delta region have now come to understand the vision of President Buhari for the region through the commission’s constant and constructive engagement with stakeholders.

The successes achieved by the Akwa-led NDDC was corroborated by the Chairman, Abia State Traditional Rulers Council, Eze Joseph Owabeke, and National President of Host Communities Organisation in Nigeria (HOSTCOM), Dr. Benjamin Tamiararebi, who commended the NDDC for organising stakeholders’ engagements.

Following the crisis between the previous administration and members of the National Assembly, there was no oversight function by the lawmakers. Ostensibly, the head-on collision denied the commission the opportunity of articulating its programmes anchored on a workable budget but with the proper and amicable engagement between the Akwa-led NDDC and the National Assembly of late, there has been an aura of peace with stakeholders and lawmakers for articulate estimates and defence of the budget and projects.

Corroborating the development, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, said the cordial relationship between the NDDC and the House resulted in the success so far recorded in the process of amending the NDDC Act. He commended the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and the interim administrator of the agency for the progress the commission has recorded so far, describing Akwa as the best choice this government has made. And he said,“I am very proud of you and the National Assembly is proud of what you are doing. We will give you all the support you need.”

Chairman, Senate Committee on NDDC, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, recently said there is a stronger need for stakeholders to close ranks to move the zone forward, commending the NDDC’s interim administration for realising the need for cooperation between the National Assembly and the commission. And this is a clear endorsement of the administrative capability of an interim administration that is changing the narrative and repositioning the commission for a visionary intervention within the Niger Delta region.

For many stakeholders in the region, the NDDC is born again! Contrary to its distasteful past, the core of our new personnel is in continuous consultation and collaboration with stakeholders to co-create commonalities for the effective development of the Niger Delta. The born again status was witnessed with the commissioning of the NDDC Headquarters after more than 16 years of abandonment. President Buhari, who commissioned the headquarters of NDDC 25 years after the groundbreaking ceremony, commended Akpabio for his steadfastness in ending years of renting by the commission.

In what seems like a trend, the sole administrator ordered all contractors handling the commission’s projects to return to sites and complete the work for which they were engaged. Akwa, with his administrative skills, directed the contractors to report to the commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt for comprehensive evaluation of the constraints which would assist in putting together the necessary things to ensure the realisation of various abandoned projects.

The repositioned commission by Akwa also initiated new policies to fast-track payments to contractors upon job completion verification. In furtherance of critically needed training, skills acquisition and empowerment of youths across the Niger Delta region, Akwa operates an open-door policy to all stakeholders. And that is the turning point at the NDDC at the moment.

Alex is of the Niger Delta Patriotic Alliance, North America Chapter U.S.A.