Tuesday, November 27, 2007

(BLACK BRITAIN) Same plan, different approach

Same plan, different approach
The new administration appears to be very committed - more than Obasanjo – and, if they make an effort, I believe they will deliver. Paul Ihediwanma, Executive Director of the International Center for Youth Development

The former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, created the NDDC in 2001 after a three-year survey and research the federal government adopted a 'master plan' in 2004. The current plan is not fundamentally different, but since his inauguration in May President Yar'Adua has pursued a policy of transparency and accountability and he has impressed some activists in the region. "The new administration appears to be very committed -- more than Obasanjo – and, if they make an effort, I believe they will deliver," said Paul Ihediwanma, executive director of the International Center for Youth Development in Umuahia, Abia State.

Others remain cautious. "We're all just watching," said Sofiri Joab-Peterside, a research llow at the Centre for Advanced Social Science in Port Harcourt. "It's about the level of sincerity in implementation." Previous plans fell victim to politics, said Willie Okowa a lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt. "One of the key problems is that most of the implementation is left for the authorities other than the NDDC," he told IRIN. Some 83 percent of spending and operations comes from local, state and federal governments who have failed to live up to their promises in the past.

"Forcing implementation is very difficult. The NDDC cannot compel the state government [to comply]," Okowa said. In October, NDDC managing director Timi Alaibe alleged that since 2001 the government and oil companies have failed to release 224 billion naira (about $1.8 billion) in funding. But for Ledum Mitee, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, the NDDC is part of the problem, often awarding contracts to cronies. Stories of 'white elephant' in the Niger Delta abound, including schools without desks, hospitals without medicine and road projects left half-completed.

"You have an organisation that is supposed to be interventionist that is now loaded by all these structures which are calculated to take from one hand and give to the other hand," Mitee said in an address to the Niger Delta Stakeholders. On 4 November, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated a committee to ensure that projects and funding are not duplicated and money is not wasted. The vice president is also leading a host of negotiations with community and militant leaders ahead of a Niger Delta summit intended for later this year.

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