• NDDC and sustainable development in Niger Delta

    Nddc and sustainable development in niger delta - nigeria newspapers online
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    Reports have it that at Harvard Business School, United States of America (USA), the code of belief about entrepreneurship is quite simply this: It can be taught, and it can be learned.

    Entrepreneurship is, to use HBS’s quasi-official definition, “the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” It is not so much a set of skills as it is a process, a belief, and a commitment. It is a mode of thinking and acting – a war of observing the world, of figuring out how to change it (hopefully for the better), and, perhaps most important, of becoming the person who is capable of implementing the change.

    Likewise, there is a veiled agreement among critical stakeholders that one of the outstanding boards in the present day Nigeria that is visibly capped with skills, belief, commitment, mode of thinking and in vigorous pursuit of opportunities to sustainably remove obstacles on the part of its targeted beneficiaries.

    Without regard to resources currently controlled, is the Barrister Chiedu Ebie-led governing board and management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), a Federal Government’s agency created in 2000 by enabling Act, to offer a lasting solution to the socio-economic difficulties of the Niger Delta and to facilitate the rapid and sustainable development of the region into an area that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.

    Adding context to the discourse, when crude oil was discovered in the region more than 50years ago, the people could not have imagined that they would bear the brunt of the country’s main source of revenue. They expected that the exploitation of the rich natural resources they have in their environment would bring them development and prosperity. But alas, it has been a very painful experience for the people of the region.

    Essentially, it is not as if past administrations in the country did not, at different times and places, make efforts to address the region’s challenges, but noble as those efforts were, considering the level of underdevelopment in the area, such effort appeared too insignificant and short of what is required to cater for the region’s development. More particularly, the effort remains a far cry from what was needed to exorcise the ghost of youth unemployment. This ugly narrative persisted in the face of concerns raised by the global community who were chiefly not convinced that what now rested administrations were doing was the best way to solve the problem of the Niger Delta.

    Understandably, there is some truth in those concerns as expressed just as there is presently, a silver lining in the horizon. What we have today is an exact opposite! Niger Delta people of goodwill are equally of the view that what the region is experiencing this time around may no longer be the second half of a recurring circle, rather the beginning of something new and different.

    Aside from the fact that the new governing board and management have to their credit, a well-established healthy relationship with critical stakeholders within the region and beyond, also worth underlining and of course, a lesson other agencies and commissions must imbibe, is the frantic efforts to put the Niger Delta in order via youth empowerment, human capital development and democratised infrastructural provisions.

    A delectable account further indicates that the policy thrust and programmes coming from the new governing board and management of the agency amply qualify as development-based. This particular point partially explains why this piece is interested in the ongoing developmental strides in the region.

    Prominent among these projects, programmes and initiative are the building of partnerships, lighting up the region, initiating sustainable livelihood, improving youth capacity and skills base, executing efficient and cost-effective projects, including the Project Hope for Renewed Hope, reducing carbon emission, and improving peace and security.

    From what development professionals are saying, a programme is development- based when it entails an all-encompassing improvement, a process that builds on itself and involves both individuals and social change. It also requires growth and structural change, with some measures of distributive equity, modernisation in social and cultural attitudes; a degree of political transformation and stability, improvement in health and education so that population growth stabilises, and an increase in urban living and employment.

    Viewed broadly, it is public knowledge that throughout the early decades, the world paid little attention to what constitutes sustainable development. Such conversation, however, gained global prominence via the United Nations introduction, adoption and pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which lasted between 2000 and 2015. It was, among other intentions, aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger as well as achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, among others.

    Without going into specific concepts or approaches contained in the performance index of the programme, it is factually supported that the majority of the countries, including Nigeria, performed below average. And, it was this reality and other related concerns that conjoined to bring about 2030 sustainable agenda- a United Nations initiative and successor programme to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)- with a collection of 17 global goals formulated among other aims to promote and cater for people, peace, planet, and poverty. It has at its centre, partnership and collaboration, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil societies.

    Very remarkable is that all the NDDC’s projects/programmes were crafted in line with the above initiatives.If in doubt, checkout the agency’s scheme known as Holistic Opportunities, Projects and Engagement (HOPE); It is primed to provide a platform to empower youths of the region on sustainable basis, designed to create a comprehensive resources database of the youth population of the Niger Delta to enable NDDC see clearly what the youths want in their strive for sustainability in conformity with international best practices and development.

    The project HOPE’ initiative is positioned for creating youth employment opportunities, especially in agriculture through support to small-holder farmers in order to ensure operational growth while shifting from traditional to mechanized farming methods.

    “Because of the arable wetlands, rainfalls and other favourable ecological factors to plant various crops and vegetables at least four times within a farming season, the agency is proactively moving away from the oil economy to the agricultural sector which can accommodate our youths in large numbers is the agricultural sector.”

    For me, NDDC’s solutions to youth unemployment and development of climate for sustainable future and innovation will assist to promote the critical thrust of governance and maximise the benefits citizens derive from governance.

    For example, talking about the youth unemployment in Nigeria, a report recently puts it this way: “We are in dire state of strait because unemployment has diverse implications. Security wise, large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed. Any transformation agenda that does not have job creation at the centre of its programme will take us nowhere”.

    As we know, youth challenge cuts across, regions, religion, and tribe, and had in the past led to the proliferation of ethnic militia as well as youth restiveness across the country.

    What the above information tells us as a nation is that the ongoing creative and transformative leadership at NDDC calls for collective support and it should be used as both a model and template by all strata of government in the country, for correcting public leadership challenges via adoption of approaches that impose more leadership discipline.It is in doing this that we can achieve sustainable development as a nation.

    Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Cordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social And Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA).

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