Lauretta Onochie, a former presidential aide, has finally assumed the position of substantive chairperson of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) following the inauguration of the agency’s board on Wednesday.
Onochie was sworn in alongside Samuel Ogbuku who was inaugurated as managing director and about 11 others installed as members of the NDDC board.
The appointees’ inauguration followed the Senate’s confirmation of their nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari in December 2022.
The NDDC board was inaugurated on Wednesday in Abuja by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Umana, who urged its members to immediately implement recommendations of a report of the NDDC Forensic Audit carried out in 2019.
Giving her remarks after the board’s inauguration, the new NDDC chairperson, Onochie, promised that the commission will review all existing policies and guidelines to enable the new management deliver on its mandate as “working with failed templates” cannot yield desired results.
“Since its establishment by the NDDC Act, the Commission has received a lot of flak from all and sundry.
“Consequently, the board will be looking to review also, in addition to all the guidelines issued by the Honourable Minister, will be looking to review the existing policies and guidelines to enable us to have a clear sight as we hit the ground running.
“We cannot continue working with failed templates and expect to get a different result.
“Apart from the physical development of our region, we will be paying extra attention to the empowerment of our teeming youth population, equipping them with requisite skills to enable that to catch up with their peers in other parts of Nigeria and elsewhere.
“There’s no doubt that we have a huge task ahead of us. We ask for the support of Nigerians in general and the Niger Delta in particular.
“We ask that you give us a breathing space to generate great ideas that will bring about the desired change in the region. We are determined to do a great job.
“We are committed to the improvement of the economic and ecological well-being of our region. We are devoted to the prosperous future of the youths of the region. We will not fail. It’s a promise. but we ask that you give us the breathing space to do our job.
“We ask for your support, All and sundry so that we can deliver for the long-suffering people of the Niger Delta.”
Speaking earlier, Umana had asked the new NDDC management to investigate “allegations of irregular employment from 2019 and follow up on the ongoing personal audit in the Commission to make sure all cases of employment during the period under review were in accordance with extant rules and regulations of the service”.
While warning that “severe sanctions” await anyone caught breaching contract approval limits for the commission, the mister said “every contract above the threshold of management is to be referred to the Ministerial Tender Board of the Federal Executive Council.”
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, in his remarks thanked the National Assembly for its role in ensuring that the commission gets a new board after being without one for more than three years.
He urged members of the new NDDC management to bring their experiences to bear and to bring development to the Niger Delta people.
“It is the expectation of government, that development of the Niger Delta will henceforth not be haphazard. It will now be full-time and full-blown such that Nigerians within that part of the country will benefit from the institution, Niger-Delta Development Commission.
“We also expects that the board members inaugurated today would bring their experience to bear and ensure an equitable development within the different states of the Niger Delta
“We, therefore, urge you to ensure compliance with government regulations, procedures, processes, and extant rules and regulations.
“We also expect the management to take into consideration and enable the full procedures in the Public Procurement Act, the Public Service Rules, and the financial regulations in ensuring that they give good governance and give an accountable leadership within the time of the governing board of the Niger Delta commission,” said Mustapha.