Rural development is defined as the improvement of the living conditions in rural areas through the increased productivity of agriculture and related enterprises which constitute the main economic activities of the population (Ajayi, 1999), as cited in Mundi and Zakariah (2007). Rural development is thus a strategy designed to improve the economic and social life of the rural dwellers.
Rural development, in general, is used to denote the actions and initiatives taken to improve the wellbeing or to improve the living standard of the rural people (those living in non-urban neighborhoods, countryside, and remote villages). Rural development actions are mostly geared at the social and economic development of the areas. In the developed countries of France for instance, rural development actions also include environmental management as a core component. Rural development programs are usually top-down from the national or regional authorities, regional development agencies, and Non-governmental organizations (NGOs). But then, the rural people can also bring about endogenous initiatives for development. The outsider, for example, will not understand the peculiarities of the rural area (setting, culture, language). Therefore, indigenous people have to be integral participants in development projects and programmes for it to be sustainable especially in the rural areas. It is based on this understanding that in developing countries like Nigeria, Indian and Nepal, integrated development approaches are being followed up with a bottom-up approach, Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) (Paudel 2011).
The rural development aims at finding the ways to uplift the rural living condition with the participation of the rural people themselves so as to meet the required needs of the rural areas. The term rural developed is not limited to developing countries alone, but in many developed countries which have active rural development policy, it is to develop the underdeveloped villages.
The Niger Delta is a predominately rural area with small and scattered hamlets. The vast majority of settlements comprises of rural communities in dispersed and linear village settlements, with 80 percent of the population of the region residing in the rural areas. According to Koinyan (1989), the bulk of the country’s population is in rural areas, so also the bulk of the country’s resources, particularly the country’s natural and mineral resources. The Niger Delta is reckoned to be one of the largest Deltas in the world and the largest in Africa. (Durotoye, 2000). It covers an area of about 70,000 km2 and consists of a number of distinct ecological zones, which are characteristics of a river Delta in a tropical region, coastal ridge barriers, mangroves, freshwater swamp forest and lowland rainforests (NDES, 1996). The name ‘Niger Delta’ is derived from the river Niger, an area rich in alluvial deposits and reservoir of the world’s number one energy resources, petroleum, and natural gas. This area is where Nigeria’s crude oil and natural gas are produced and home to more than 10 million people found in the south-south geopolitical zone. Despite its uniqueness and rich mineral resources, the area is plagued with rural poverty, underdevelopment and massive pollution of its natural environment.
Previous attempts had been made by the Federal Government of Nigeria to develop the Niger Delta region especially the rural areas through Boards, Commissions and Agencies focused on the socio-economic development of the areas. Some of these agencies/boards are the Niger Delta Development Board sequel to the recommendation of Sir Henry Willink Commission in 1958. The Niger Delta Development Board was established in 1960 to manage the developmental needs and challenges of the region.
The special area consisted of Yenagoa Province, Degema Province, the Ogoni Division of Port-Harcourt and the Western Ijaw Division of Delta Province. The Board existed for seven years, achieved little and faded away sequel to the military coup in 1966 and subsequently to the outbreak of Civil War in 1967 (NDES, 1996).
Following the growing agitation for a renewed focus on the development of the region, the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1980 set up a presidential task force on derivation (popularly known as the 1.5 percent committee) Niger Delta Regional Development and Master Plan (2006). The aim of the committee was to allocate 1.5 percent from the Federation Account to tackle the developmental problems of the region, but that did not yield the desired result needed by the people of the region. Furthermore, in 1992 the Oil Mineral Producing Area Commission (OMPADEC) was set up, funded from three percent of federal oil revenue. The commission was established to take care of the developmental needs of the people which initially raised the spirit and hopes of the people, but inefficiency and corruption in the organization resulted in yet more disappointment (Niger Delta Regional Development and Master Plan, 2006). Fourthly, the Niger Delta Environment Survey was set up in 1995, by Shell Petroleum Development Company. It was set up to reconcile industry, environment and community interest in the Niger Delta region and to undertake an environmental study of the region and to provide the required database. The survey is now almost entirely funded by oil companies in Nigeria under the Umbrella of the Oil Producers Trade Section of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce (Niger Delta Environmental Survey, 1996).
In 1999, the Federal Government of Nigeria scraped Oil Mineral Producing Area Commission and replaced it with the Niger Delta Development Commission. The Niger Delta Development Commission was officially inaugurated on December 21, 2000 with a vision to offer a lasting solution to the socio-economic difficulties of the Niger Delta region, and a mission to facilitate the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta in to a region that is economically regenerative and politically peaceful” (NDADMP, 2006). The commission has offices in each of the nine oil producing states, with the headquarters in Port- Harcourt. It has received N47 billion from its funding sources since inception, awarded about 700 contracts of which 358 of them have been completed. The projects include 40 road projects, 90 water projects, 129 electrification projects, 47 shore protection/ jetty projects, 50 health centers and 205 new blocks of six classrooms (NDRDMP, 2006).
In spite of the past and present efforts of government aimed at rapid poverty reduction and rural development of the Niger Delta, the countryside is degraded with constant agitation for resource control and prevalent youth restiveness. This research, therefore, seeks to identify the developmental projects carried out by Niger Delta Development Commission and its role in rural development in the Niger Delta region.
The study investigates the impact of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on rural development in the Niger Delta, with emphasis on Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa States. The study seeks to identify the rural development projects carried out by NDDC in the three states, to assess the spread of the projects, to identify the criteria used in locating projects by NDDC, examine the significant role played by these projects on the lives of the rural people. It assesses the level of community participation in the executed projects by NDDC and the sustainability of the projects. A proportional sample size of 0.005% was used from each state population, and multi-stage sampling techniques were used in the selection of the states, LGAs, and 56 rural communities from 56 Local Government Areas of the three states. Questionnaires, oral interview, personal observation and focus group discussion were used in collecting data for the study. The data were analyzed using both descriptive and inferential statistical techniques. The result of the analysis reveals that the projects executed by NDDC in rural communities do not play a significant role in terms of rural development. The projects executed by NDDC are not evenly spread in the Niger Delta with some communities having no single project while others are having many projects. The study further revealed that; the rural communities are not consulted before locating projects by NDDC. The criteria used in locating projects are not objective and often abused. Its further shows that, sustainability of the projects is not often incorporated into the planning thereby resulting in numerous broken-down project after commissioning.In conclusion, the NDDC has achieved very little in the region since its inception for the past 11 years. The study, therefore, recommends that the Commission should take a holistic look at its rural development projects in the study area. Communities should be incorporated in the project planning, execution, and maintenance, in order to ensure their involvement and the sustainability of the projects.