The Problem Statement
Oil was first discovered in Nigeria in 1956 at Oloibiri in present-day Bayelsa. Ever since oil exploitation has been ongoing in the Niger Delta region. It was only in October 2019 that crude oil deposit was discovered elsewhere outside the Niger Delta.
Revenues from oil exploitation have become the base for the Nigerian economy since the 1970s.
Sadly, while other non-oil producing regions have benefited hugely in terms of physical and human development, the Niger Delta region has remained steeped in squalor and deprivation. The tale of the Niger Delta makes for woeful commentary.
Following agitations by the Niger Delta people for a fairer share of development, the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) was established in 1992.
OMPADEC was set up to transform the Niger Delta region from the state of deprivation and underdevelopment to a prosperous society, fit enough for its peoples to survive and achieve their fullest potentials.
However, OMPADEC was laden with serial corruption, absence of accountability, transparency and community participation from project conception to execution, poor project execution and other factors, which made it unable to fulfil its mandate.
Further agitations and protests led to the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment etc.) Act (No. 6) 2000 with the same mandate as the OMPADEC but with greater levels of expectation.
The Policy Solution
The Act (No. 6) 2000 establishing the NDDC provided for the repeal of the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Commission Decree 1998.
The Act further provided for the re-organisation of the Commission management and administrative structure for more effectiveness.
The Act is charged with the responsibility of formulating policies and guidelines for the development and rehabilitation of the region.
It provides for the monitoring of the activities of oil-producing and gas processing companies operating in the Niger Delta to guarantee compliance with appropriate laws and regulations to prevent pollution.
The Act also provides for the use of monies received from the allocation of the Federal Account for tackling ecological problems which arise from the exploitation of oil minerals in the Niger Delta area and for other aligned objectives.
NIGAC Constructive Position
Whereas the formation of the NDDC is excellent, and the Commission has indeed carried out several projects within the region, questions are still being asked whether the Commission is fully delivering on its mandate. Many reasons may be posited for these shortcomings.
One of such is the very structure of the Act establishing the NDDC. The Act prescribes the members to constitute the governing board of the Commission to be drawn from across the oil-producing companies operating in the region, Federal Ministries of Finance and Environment, oil-producing states, etc.
Though the representative from each of the nine-member states of the Commission must be an indigene of an oil-producing area, the mere fact that the Act does not stipulate that such a representative be an exclusive decision of the people he/she is expected to represent makes such a representative subject to the whims and caprices of the person appointing him/her.
This, in most cases, is the Presidency. The people may not have confidence in the so-called representative if they did not collectively decide on such a person, just like the oil-producing companies choose a representative from among themselves.
Moreover, such a sensitive position is thus left open for cronyism and nepotism.
Another complaint from time immemorial which the NDDC was meant to address is the lack of appropriate projects and the incompletion of projects began.
Though the NDDC Establishment Act stipulates that a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Committee be set up to monitor and evaluate the management of the Commission funds and the execution of the Commission projects, such a committee should be made independent to increase its chances of success.
This might require another amendment of the NDDC Act to specify the independent constitution of the M&E Committee.
The NDDC has complained about the shortage of statutory funds supply from the Federal Government and International Oil Companies.
This shortage may be a direct factor why the NDDC may struggle to thoroughly fulfil its statutory mandate.
The NDDC Act will need to include clauses that compel the prompt release of funds accruing to it or otherwise impose penalties on defaulters.