The Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, has underlined the importance of traditional rulers in the quest to develop a new Master Plan for the Niger Delta region.
Senator Ndoma-Egba spoke when the South-South Monarchs Forum led by King Edmund Daukoru, the Amayanabo of Nembe, paid him a courtesy visit at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
The NDDC Chairman regretted that the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan was abandoned shortly after it was launched in 2007.
“We must return to the Master Plan. We have to agree on whether to terminate the current Master Plan, update or upgrade it. And we need the traditional institution to play a role in this process,” he said.
Senator Ndoma-Egba stated that a comprehensive plan was necessary for any meaningful development to be made as no state could make progress without a plan.
He said that the NDDC was guided by the need for transparency and accountability, stating that while the Commission should insist on getting its dues, it must also be accountable to earn the trust of its stakeholders.
Senator Ndoma-Egba stated that NDDC must not be seen to be in competition with the state governments but should rather collaborate with stakeholders to add more value to our communities.
According to the Chairman, the traditional institution played a key role in the relative peace now existing the Niger Delta.
He added: “There is no doubt that the South-South region has to speak with one voice and that is why engagements of this nature are very important because it will help us find a common ground.
It will help us synchronize our thoughts and our ideas so that whenever and wherever we speak as leaders of the South-South, whether as traditional rulers or political leaders, we speak with one voice.
“I believe that the reality on ground is that the traditional institution plays a role in ensuring peace, mobilizing for development, providing a forum for dialogue, or providing a framework for furthering an action with others in this country.
If we recognize that as a reality, then there is need to give that reality a legal backing because you cannot play that role in a legal vacuum. So, I support a constitutional role for our traditional institution.”
The leader of the South-South monarchs, Dr Daukoru, said that NDDC had come of age, noting that the landscape of the Niger Delta was dotted with “fruits from the Commission.”
He declared: “We are ready to partner with NDDC and give all the encouragement you need and we are hoping that we will see a bit more of you in terms of outreach through us to the grassroots people. We also want to act as a channel and an advocacy institution for you so that through us, you will be able to communicate to the people whatever opportunities are open that they can participate more effectively.”
He observed that prior to 2009 when the monarchs came together as a group, the South-South literally had no voice. “We provide a voice for the South-South and encourage the political class to work together in harmony,” he said.
King Daukoru, who was a former Minister of Petroleum, stated that the Niger Delta was the “dollar basket of the nation,” adding that in spite of this fact, the region was getting very little from its natural resources.
He blamed the neglect of the region on the inadequate recognition of the traditional institution, identifying the monarchs as the “missing ingredient” needed to galvanize positive development.