A pioneering unison: NDDC and NLNG’s embrace for flourishing Niger Delta

CEO of NLNG, Dr. Philip Mshelbila and MD of NDDC, Dr. Samuel Ogbuku

In the heart of Nigeria’s energy landscape, the resplendent Corporate Head Office of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) became a vibrant tapestry on a momentous Tuesday, October 10, 2023. It played host to the esteemed Management team from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), embarking on a journey that would redefine their shared destiny.

This auspicious gathering marked the genesis of a novel and profoundly symbiotic relationship between two entities dedicated to nurturing the cradle of Nigeria’s prosperity, the Niger Delta region. In a breathtaking twist of fate, the NDDC and NLNG, once locked in a contentious dance over statutory financial contributions, came together in harmonious accord, binding their aspirations with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Together, they pledged their unwavering commitment to sculpting a sustainable future amidst the oil-rich landscapes of Nigeria.

This transformative pact was etched into history by the signatures of NLNG’s visionary Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Philip Mshelbila, and the NDDC’s luminary Managing Director, Dr. Samuel Ogbuku. Their strokes on the MoU canvas signaled a resounding declaration of unity and purpose.

Intriguingly, these two stalwart organizations vowed to unite, igniting the spirit of empowerment within the region’s communities, fostering the flame of local content, and nurturing the growth of capacity. In their grand tapestry of collaboration, stakeholders along the value chain were enlisted as co-artisans, weaving together the fabric of sustainable development projects with unparalleled efficacy.

But what lends this partnership its unique luster is its journey through the annals of legislation. In the years between 2016 and 2017, the two protagonists found themselves before the hallowed halls of the National Assembly. There, they defended their positions on the sacred pages of the NDDC establishment Act, particularly section 14(2)(b), which ordained “three per cent of the total annual budget” from oil-producing companies, including NLNG, as an offering to the coffers of the Niger Delta Development Commission.

The NDDC, with grievous lament, raised its voice, asserting that NLNG had shirked its fiscal duty. Yet, NLNG’s counter-argument leaned on the Nigeria LNG (Fiscal incentives, Guarantees, and Assurances) Act, invoking a Supreme Court judgment that bestowed upon them a coveted exemption, stemming from their identity as a gas processing company, ensconced within the Gas Act.

Nevertheless, May 9, 2017, saw the House of Representatives etch a new chapter in their ledger, demanding that NLNG make the prescribed three per cent annual contribution to the NDDC. The Senate’s subsequent ratification solidified this momentous shift. Amidst fervent debates, lawmakers championed the cause of the Niger Delta, recognizing the dire need to amend the Act and bring forth a regional development master plan forged in unity.

The NDDC, an agency renowned for its steadfast resolve, had long collaborated with key stakeholders to confront the monumental challenges of transforming remote communities in the Niger Delta. One remarkable alliance resulted in the construction of the arduous 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe road, a project that traversed swampy terrains, featuring ten bridges and 99 culverts. This endeavor, cloaked in multi-billion naira investments, bore witness to the stark reality that the Niger Delta’s development demands resources beyond the ordinary.

This narrative is just one thread in the grand tapestry of mega-projects undertaken by the NDDC, a beacon of hope amid limited funding. Indeed, the NDDC’s coffers must swell to accommodate the monumental task of nurturing the crucible from which Nigeria draws its oil wealth.

Section 14(2) of the NDDC Act proclaims the commission’s funding provisions, beckoning funds from the Federal Government, oil-producing companies, and other sources such as grants and loans. It was these provisions that spurred legislators to mediate in the NDDC-NLNG tussle. After meticulous investigations, the scales tipped in favor of the NDDC, setting at rest the impasse over financial contributions.

The amendments of 2017 breathed new life into the NDDC and NLNG. Dr. Ogbuku, the elated NDDC Managing Director, hailed the pact as a testament to their commitment to sustainable development and progress in Nigeria.

In his vision, this MoU heralded a new era of synergy, not only for the Niger Delta but for the entire nation. The words he penned echoed the common melodies of sustainable development, socio-economic empowerment, local content, capacity building, and stakeholder collaboration.

For Dr. Mshelbila, the Chief Executive Officer of NLNG, this partnership served as a beacon of hope, illuminating the path toward positive change in the Niger Delta. NLNG, a global LNG industry player, pledged to replicate its successes across the region, in concert with the NDDC.

This MoU, a parchment infused with goodwill, seeks to cultivate harmonious relations between two entities poised to steer the Niger Delta toward an oasis of peace, security, and unceasing development. It aspires to provide a framework for a partnership grounded in objectivity, transparency, sustainability, and global best practice, ensuring the collective efforts of NLNG and NDDC blossom into a symphony of progress for Nigeria and its cherished people.

What do you think?

Written by Tom Chiahemen

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