Nsima Ekere ’s One Year At NDDC: The Impact On Akwa Ibom

The stewardship of Mr. Nsima Ekere as NDDC Managing Director in the last one year has brought joy and hope to Akwa Ibom people (as former Governor Victor Attah puts it), what with various emergency road repairs ongoing or completed in the state while several contractors of long-abandoned projects in the state have returned to site to escape revocation and prosecution

By Inemesit Ina

“Obong Nsima Ekere deserves an enviable place in history for the giant strides recorded by the management and board of the NDDC since he assumed office”

– Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

“Akwa Ibom people are very proud of him. Akwa Ibom people say Nsima Ekere has brought a lot of joy and hope to the people”

– Former Akwa Ibom State Governor Victor Attah.

His friends and admirers knew all along that Mr. Nsima Ekere would deliver on his assignment as the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) after his inauguration on November 4, 2016. But not even the most enthusiastic would have imagined his complete transformation of the once not-so-credible commission. Perseverance through trials and challenges has always been Ekere’s guiding principle. And it has come in handy to work wonders in the commission in the last one year. To most people in Ekere’s home state, Akwa Ibom, the NDDC boss cannot be appreciated enough for the massive development he has brought to the state in so short a period. It is as if NDDC never existed before.

The Silent Achiever

On two occasions, the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere, has been asked this question by newsmen in Uyo: “Why are you not making noise about various NDDC completed and ongoing projects in Akwa Ibom State under your watch?” His standard reply has always been: “I do not need any credit. Let the people take the credit.” The first occasion was his presentation of a 5KVA generator to the Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo, on behalf of the commission. The second occasion was his interaction with the state-based media.

That attitude of not making a song and dance about NDDC’s projects actually reflects Ekere’s character. It sits in with his philosophy of doing much and saying little.

And really so much is being done by the NDDC under Ekere’s watch in Akwa Ibom and the other eight member-states of the commission.

The Emergency Road Repairs In Akwa Ibom

Out of concern for the people, Ekere, on assumption of office in November, last year, ordered the emergency repair of some terribly dilapidated roads across the state. Between then and now, 24 of such roads have been fixed or are being fixed.

The four completed ones are the emergency repairs of Etim Okpoyo Street, Ewet Housing Estate, Uyo; Mbiabong Road and Ifa Ikot Road, all in Uyo; Ikot Obong Road, Market Square/Opobo boatyard and environs in Ikot Abasi; and 1.2 km Enwang-Oron Road with 500m drainage system in Enwang, Mbo.

There are more emergency road repairs at various levels of completion in the state namely Rev. John Asuquo Avenue and environs, Shelter Afrique Estate, Uyo; internal roads in Federal Housing Estate, Uyo; Anamfa Street, Ola Street and Eyo Akan Close, Oron; 1.3 km of Obubra Ekpo Bassey Street, Oron; Primary School, Okon and environs, Ikot Abasi; Cross River Basin Road and environs, Obiokama Ete, Ikot Abasi; Ikot Akpan Omon, Otong/Ibok Brothers Estate Road and environs, Ikot Ekpene; and 3 km of Control Post to Federal Government College, Ikot Ekpene.

Others are 3.5 km of Ifa Atai Junction-Ibiaku Ishiet Road, Uruan; 1 km Ikot Andem Itu/Ikot Akakpam Abasi Ibiono Road, Ibiono Ibom; Ikot Akpaden-Okoroette Road, Eastern Obolo; Ekparakwa-Ekpene Ukpa Road, Etinan (Section 1); Mercantile Bank Road, Ekparakwa, Oruk Anam; Edeobom-Afaha Offiong Road and environs, Nsit Ibom and Ekparakwa-Ekpene Ukpa Road (Section 11), Etinan.

The latest one is the award of contract for the construction of the dilapidated Hospital Road in Abak which was almost washed away by erosion. Several more new infrastructural projects, across the state, are underway.

The Fear of Ekere, The Beginning Of Contractors’ Wisdom

It appears that when Ekere gave the order some months ago that contractors of abandoned projects in the Niger Delta must return to site or risk prosecution, most of them took him serious because of the new businesslike attitude he has brought to the management of the commission. He has even caused the termination of over 600 non-performing contracts across the region.

In Akwa Ibom, so many such contractors have returned to site so much so that long-dead projects have come back to life. Eight have even been completed. Those are provision of solar-powered street light (Lot 1 and Lot 2) in Uquo community and environs, Esit Eket; provision of solar-powered street light at Ewet Housing/Shelter Afrique Estates in Uyo; construction of Oku Iboku internal roads, Itu; construction of Mary Hanney Lane (Phase 1), Oron; construction of solar-powered water projects in Okoro Itak, Ibeno, in Iman, Ikot Abasi, in Afaha Ikot Edem Ewa, Ukanafun and in Mbiabong Ikot Udofia, Ini.

There is also a completed major dredging work in Ibeno which is the maintenance of waterways at Okoro Itak Channel.

The revived building projects that are ongoing are construction of NDR Specialist Hospital (Cardiovascular), Ikot Akpaden, Mkpat Enin; construction of NDR Specialist Hospital (Orthopedic), Ikot Akpaden; construction of NDR Specialist Hospital (Children & Maternity), Ikot Akpaden; and construction of two-storey maternity blocks for pregnant women and provision of electricity services and standby generator at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, Uyo.

The ongoing road projects are construction of VVF Hospital Road, Nung Ukot Itam, Itu; construction of Ididep-Ekpenyong-Ikot Etim Afaha Itiat Road, Ibiono Ibom; construction of Ndukpoise Junction-Ikot Essien village, Nsit Ubium; construction of Nsasak Junction-Akon-Urua Inyang Road, Essien Udim/Ika; construction of internal roads in Amamong, Okobo; construction of Iko-Atabrikang-Akata-Opolom-Ikot Enwang-Okoroutip-Iwuochang Road (2.5km), Lot 3, Ibeno; construction of Nduo Eduo-Ikot Akpo Enang Road, Eket; construction of Aka Atan Road from Aka-Etinan Road to Ring Road, Uyo; construction of Edemaya internal roads, Ikot Abasi; and construction of Eket-James Town Road, Etebi-Oruko Alignment, Lot 1, Esit Eket/Urue Offong/Oruko.

Equally ongoing is an erosion control project at Ididep, Ibiono Ibom.

The ongoing water projects that have been brought back to life due to Ekere’s threat of prosecution are solar-powered projects in Ikot Antuen, Ikot Otu and Ikot Eka Iko, Itu and in Amadaka Town, Eastern Obolo.

Indeed, the fear of Ekere is the beginning of contractors’ wisdom.

But why the emphasis on completing abandoned projects?

“It is unfair to abandon government projects when money has been spent already. The current board and management of NDDC are committed to completing abandoned NDDC projects as much as possible. We don’t care who awarded them. But as long as they will touch the lives of the people, we will go ahead and complete them,” Ekere says.

To Arc. Ezekiel Nya-Etok, a renowned project consultant from Akwa Ibom, the emphasis of the NDDC boss is pleasantly unusual.

In a widely-circulated post on social media titled, “Completing Old Projects: Who’s to blame?” he wrote: “Some days back, I attended a meeting of all the NDDC consultants and couldn’t help but applaud the MD who announced that they were allocating 60% of incoming funds to completing past projects and settling outstanding debts.

“Is the MD being naive? Will posterity judge him kindly or harshly? Is he not being under pressure from you and I to ‘do your own thing and make your own name?’

“Often times it’s you and I that put pressure on leaders to do the wrong thing. It’s however the duty and responsibility of the so-called leader to know what makes sense to do.”
A Prophet Honoured At Home And Abroad

NDDC’s massive development of Akwa Ibom, under Ekere’s stewardship, has received the commendation of most people in the state, both the high and the low. The dissenting voices have been few.

On a daily basis, hundreds of people register their appreciation to the NDDC, under Ekere, through the print, electronic and social media. They include politicians, activists, clerics, monarchs, academics, students, professionals, entrepreneurs and artisans.

Mr. Umana Umana, the Managing Director of the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, seems to sum up the feelings of the generality of Akwa Ibom people when he describes Ekere as a star and performer. “That is why in his first three months in office, bulldozers started moving all over Akwa Ibom State. Some people instead of celebrating it got angry. The people need development,” Umana says.

Abroad, Ekere is also being celebrated.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was full of praises to for him and the NDDC Board Chairman, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, during the Second Council on Niger Delta meeting in Akure in September 2017. He specifically recognized their efforts in driving the development process in the region. “We have reinvigorated the NDDC to make it more effective. It is re-assuring that the Commission is now putting pressure on its contractors to deliver on on-going projects,” Osinbajo said.

Almost all the Governors of the nine member-states of the NDDC agree with the Vice President that the NDDC story has changed for better in the last one year.

To Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, “We are excited by the new spirit in the NDDC. There seems to be a reinvigoration and a new spirit. People now see NDDC in a better light. The previous experience where NDDC projects were looked at with suspicion appears to be over.”

He is not done: “I assure you of the full cooperation of the people of Abia State. We will tell the story that this NDDC Board and Management are running a new agency of development.”

His Edo State counterpart, Godwin Obaseki, even makes a case that the new NDDC should not be judged by the sins of the past: “We know that this management was not the cause of the poor performance of the Commission in the past. So, it will be unfair to continue to blame them.”

Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu praises the present NDDC leadership for re-appraising its approach and focusing on a few key projects that would be completed expeditiously, noting that by setting its priorities right, the Commission would be able to effectively address the issue of abandoned projects.

“I concur with the new direction at NDDC to focus on few projects that impact the lives of the people of the Niger Delta,” he says. “The development focus of the current NDDC Board has my full support.”

Okowa of Delta sees Ekere as “a patriotic Nigerian with the political dexterity and drive to reposition the NDDC as a beacon of hope for the Niger Delta.”

He does not mince words in accepting the NDDC’s call for collaboration: “I want to welcome the spirit of partnership and we are ready to cooperate with you on the development of the Niger Delta. The state and your agency need this cooperation to help our people.”

Governors Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa State), Rochas Okorocha (Imo State) and Ben Ayade (Cross River State) all toe Okowa’s line in accepting the NDDC’s new approach of collaboration championed by Ndoma-Egba and Ekere.

Dickson says his government is ready to partner with the commission to achieve its goals. He advises the NDDC to ensure that available resources are channeled to projects that would affect the lives of the people. And he wants all Niger Delta leaders to close ranks and rededicate themselves to the development of the region in order to change the narrative of underdevelopment plaguing the region.

Ayade, in his characteristic style is very blunt: “Cross River State has been very cautious on comments about NDDC. For me, aggression and fighting is not my style. For me, it is always better to sit down and share thoughts. For me as a professor, I cannot be involved in boundary politics. I like the new spirit of NDDC and if you can sustain it, it will be good. We are partners in progress. All the nine member-states and NDDC must work together.”

Okorocha is not happy with the neglect of Imo State in the past. He wants the present NDDC leadership to redress the incongruity as they have promised. To this end, he handed over a list of abandoned projects to the commission’s board and management during a courtesy call on him in February 2017.

It is not only indigenes of Akwa Ibom and other Niger Delta states that are seeing the change in NDDC under Ekere’s watch. Foreigners also do. For instance, United States Ambassador Wil¬liam Stuart Symington told Ekere during a courtesy call at the NDDC Headquarters, Port Harcourt, in June 2017: “We are highly interested in the success story of the Niger Delta region. So, we are satisfied with the approach of taking stock and, thereafter, chart¬ing the way forward.”

Prophecies For Ekere

Buoyed by Ekere’s impressive performance, there are prophecies and expectations that he will go higher.

In a sermon during Ekere’s thanksgiving service at Ikot Abasi in July 2017, Dr. Samuel Uche, the Prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria, the MD’s church, said: “Your thanksgiving shows you are a child of God. It shows that you love God, that you put God first and that you revere God. You will have occasion to gather again for another thanksgiving. I don’t know what God will do.”

Ayade wants Ekere and Ndoma-Egba to leave NDDC as shining stars: “I can’t see how two young people like yourselves and the two Executive Directors cannot surprise the world. NDDC under your watch can’t be NDDC as usual. You have the capacity. You have the drive. You must make a difference. I want you to leave the place as shining stars.”

To Umana, “It is only a matter of time, he (Ekere) will go higher.”
Attah speaks in similar vein: “Nigeria is talking about restructuring today. If Nsima Ekere can successfully restructure NDDC, there is every possibility that he can restructure a few more institutions.”

For all what Ekere has done for the state, Attah, the Leader of Ibibio Nation, the largest ethnic group in the state, suggests a reception for him: “I want to appeal to Akwa Ibom people. He has come here to thank God by himself. We must call him to appreciate him.”

But Ekere, apparently, has not done Akwa Ibom State proud only. To Okowa, Ekere is an asset to Nigeria as a whole. “Your Excellency, the immeasurable and invaluable contributions you have made to national development is indelible in the minds of Nigerians. Your life symbolizes the assured reward for single-minded commitment to the ideals of diligence, humility, perseverance, focus and dedicated service,” the Delta State Governor wrote in a birthday message to the NDDC boss on his 52nd birthday on May 29, 2017.

If Ekere’s first one year has been this impactful, one wonders how the next one year would be, especially in Akwa Ibom.

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