LET NDIs WORK WITH BUDGET MINISTRY FOR PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION, NDCEF SAYS
CIVIL SOCIETY STATEMENT AT THE END OF THE 3RD NIGER DELTA CIVIC ENGAGEMENT FORUM (NDCEF 2017) ON 13TH NOVEMBER, 2017
The 3rd Niger Delta Civic Engagement Forum (NDCEF 2017) organized by Strengthening Advocacy and Citizen Engagement (SACE), a governance project funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Partnership Initiatives for the Niger Delta (PIND), was held on Monday November 13, 2017 at Emerald Event Centre, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. The one-day event brought together a broad range of state actors, private sector representatives, civil society organizations and citizens from the nine states of the Niger Delta region to discuss on the theme ‘Strengthening Niger Delta Institutions through citizen engagement’.
The objective of the Forum was to explore avenues for bolstering the responsibility of citizens of the region to participate and check the discharge of the mandate of state institutions responsible for delivering prosperity, sustainable development and peace in the region.
Keynote addresses were delivered by Mrs. Ibim Seminatari, former Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), entertainer and activist Charles Oputa (a.k.a. Charly Boy) of #OurMumuDonDo Campaign and Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. This was followed by an engaging panel discussion that included civic activist Ken Henshaw, Director General of the Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta States (BRACED) Commission Ambassador Joe Keshi, entertainer and women rights advocate Hilda Dokubo, Program Director at PIND Foundation Dara Akala and Enugu State INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner Emeka Ononamadu.
During the one-day Forum the following observations were made:
- That the Niger Delta region continues to be a study in underdevelopment almost sixty years after the Willinks Commission first designated the area a special development zone requiring urgent intervention
- That the continued poverty, conflict and environmental degradation in the Niger Delta is for the most part a consequence of oil production, and the manner revenues therefrom have been managed. While proceeds from the resources of the region has been the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, it has sadly not translated into tangible improvements in the economy or the key social indicators of the region
- That over the years, there has been significant, albeit insufficient, inflows of resources into the region especially from 13 percent derivation payments to Niger Delta states in addition to interventions by specialized institutions such as the NDDC, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA), the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) and Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) among others. These interventions, contrary to expectations, have failed to deliver the expected outcome of a healthier and more prosperous Niger Delta region
- That the failure of the Niger Delta Master Plan, the widespread corruption in Niger Delta Institutions (NDIs), weak community ownership of projects, the obvious disconnect between development interventions in the region and the real needs of the people and the subsisting uncertainty in political will to address the region’s challenges are all fallouts of the absence of genuine citizen engagement with development processes, particularly in project design and implementation
- That politics, poor coordination and the absence of a commonly agreed intervention framework between the relevant NDIs and state governments have undermining development efforts in the region through project duplication, contract bazaars and rampant cases of abandoned projects
- That the absence of transparency, accountability and citizens participation in governance at all tiers in the region continues to undermine development efforts in the region
- That there has been scant political will on the cleanup of Ogoni land and the rest of the Niger Delta region, which has further eroded confidence in the commitment of the current administration to restore the Niger Delta environment
- That the important role of women, youth and persons with disability in civic engagement continues to be treated as an afterthought rather than a central dimension of development decision making in the region
- That the role of local governments as the 3rd and closest tier of governance to the people has seriously undermined by the lack of people centered democratic processes which ensures that the needs of local people are met.
At the end of the Forum, participants agreed as follows:
- That the role of the BRACED Commission should be revitalized to serve as an intervention clearing house for states in the region and between the states and Niger Delta Institutions (NDIs)
- The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA), the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Presidential Amnesty Programme and the state governments should work with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to develop a template for project implementation which will be the basis for budget formulation by the NDIs and state governments in the region. In addition to ensuring effective citizen monitoring, such a template would also reduce incidences of project duplication in the region.
- The Federal Government needs to demonstrate more political will on the cleanup of Ogoni land and the rest of the Niger Delta region
- That citizens organizations need to be more innovative in their approaches to exert greater advocacy influence on state actors in the region
- That elected representatives should look beyond voter apathy and confront other manifestations of civic apathy that are currently undermining the level of citizen engagement in the region
- That state governments and legislatures should go beyond legislative Public Hearings and create more spaces to ensure effective citizens participation in all stages of the budget cycle
- That the federal government should disburse arrears of funds due to Niger Delta institutions, especially the NDDC, and ensure financing of projects in a timely manner so as not to defeat the purpose for such funding
- That NDIs and state governments in the region should institutionalize spaces for capturing the voices and priorities of women, youths and persons with disability in the region rather than treat them as an afterthought
- That existing spaces for collaboration within and between key actors in the region (such as the NDDC’s Committee of States; the BRACED Commission, Partners for Development, Niger Delta Dialogue, etc) should be strengthened to promote communication and cooperation between communities, CSOs, security forces, Niger Delta Institutions and oil companies and to reduce incidences of avoid overlaps and duplication of efforts
- State governments as a matter of priority should make efforts to return democracy to the local government tier and ensure that they are funded in accordance with the law and strengthened to adequately play their role of local impacts.
- That the Niger Delta Civic Engagement Forum (NDCEF) continues to serve as an important space for citizens mobilization, networking and experience sharing towards improving citizen engagement in the region.