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NNDC: Sardauna’s growing legacy

In this memorable 50th year since the passage of the revered leader and former Premier of the Northern Region, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu…

In this memorable 50th year since the passage of the revered leader and former Premier of the Northern Region, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the New Nigeria Development Company Limited (NNDC) remains one of the most critical and thriving legacies of the Sardauna and his foundational regime. Through numerous socio-political and economic odds and changing demographics and technologies, the company has exhibited the pragmatism of a 21st century conglomerate, reforming and transforming itself to meet the challenges of contemporary times, while discharging its core obligations to the region.
The legacies of the truly larger-than-life Sardauna continue to regale our imagination just as they continue to replicate themselves. By 1966 when Sir Ahmadu Bello passed, the entire Northern Nigeria had just two or three qualified chartered accountants. That the NNDC alone has directly facilitated the training and qualification of over 500 qualified chartered accountants in Northern Nigeria from 2007 to date is a strong testimony to the growing legacies of the Sardauna. 
When the NNDC was incorporated in 1965 under the Companies Act, the primary agenda of the Ahmadu Bello-led Northern Region Government was to fast-track economic development in the region.  A critical element of the agenda was to empower northerners and position them in the driving seat of the region’s economy, and by that extension, the national economy. Thus, the NNDC was a preparation ground for many leading Nigerian corporate players of northern extraction, most of whom were chartered accountants, a profession significantly tailored for the commanding heights of all sizes of economies worldwide. Apparently, the NNDC as it is today is outperforming the achievements of its predecessors in terms of advancing the cause of training and preparing leaders for economic development.
In terms of projects, investments and returns, it is not yet a period of glory for the NNDC, not with the national economic challenges of recent years. Currently in the third year of an on-going five-year strategic development programme, the company is being re-designed and re-structured to proactively respond to some of its challenges and enhance its capacity for greater profitable returns from its far-flung investments in various sectors of the Nigerian economy. To achieve further consolidation and development, it is currently stimulating the growth of its investments by renovating most of its properties and commissioning new ones.
It has recapitalized some of its wholly-owned subsidiaries such as NNIL Commercial Company Limited and New Capital Properties Limited (NCPL), and has embarked on a complete rehabilitation of the Arewa Suites in Abuja. Its flagship hospitality brands, the Hamdala Hotel and Arewa Hotels Limited (AHL), are in the process of being strategically restructured to meet the standards of global transformations in the industry.
Though it has equity holding in thirty-nine associate companies including Arewa Textiles, Chellco Industries, Crittall Hope, National Truck Manufacturing Company of Kano and New Nigeria Construction Company, its interest in these companies is less than 20% in many cases. This, of course, translates to minority equity, and implies that it could only influence corporate decisions in the associate companies up to a certain level. Thus, to make the most of its participation in these associate companies, it has increased its investments in the ones that guarantee best returns on investment. Amongst these are Songhai Health Trust Limited, Abuja, Nigerian Life & Provident Company, Lagos, Nigerian Life & Pensions Company, Lagos, Rigid PAK Containers Limited, and Newdevco Investment & Securities Company Limited Lagos.
In line with the NNDC’s five-year strategic plan, the construction of a state-of-the-art shopping mall located along Muhammadu Buhari Way, Kaduna, was recently completed. The development of a sizeable number of residential estates owned by the company have also either been completed or reached advanced levels of progress. Good examples are the Degel II Road Kaduna Housing Estate and the 50-unit Golf Course Road Housing Estate.
In 2005, the NNDC made its first foray into the oil and gas business following the Federal Government’s inclusion of the acreages of Northern Nigeria in the 2005 oil blocs bid round. The company took part in the bid and won four of the oil blocs in the Chad Basin and the Benue Trough. But only recently did it succeed in securing a partnership with a UK-based oil and gas company, Savannah Petroleum Plc, to develop the blocs. Efforts are currently being made by the management of the company towards actualizing this dream. In collaboration with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Department of Petroleum Resources, the company has also ventured into and is exploring opportunities in the downstream oil sector.
Working with foreign partners, the NNDC is also currently promoting the establishment of Agro Industrial Parks (AIPs) and a Commodity Marketing Company for the nineteen Northern States. Very fundamental to the economic development of the North is the capacity of small and medium businesses to thrive. We certainly can say this as well of Nigeria as a whole. If these businesses cannot succeed, all the good works of the NNDC, or any government for that matter, will amount to little. The NNDC has also been working towards establishing a primary mortgage institution and a microfinance bank that could be utilized for home ownership and for accessing funds for small and medium scale enterprises in the region.
The NNDC has taken several giant steps towards resuscitating the ailing textile industry in the country. With the support of the Northern States Governors’ Forum in 2010, it engaged Gherzi Textile of Zurich, Switzerland, to conduct a study towards the restructuring and reopening of the Kaduna Textiles Limited (KTL). The result of the engagement is the current effort towards the establishment of Armed Forces Garmenting and Polypropylene outfits in the present location of KTL. The Islamic Corporation for Development (ICD), an arm of the Islamic Development Bank, has already committed itself to support the restructuring process of the KTL. What is required at this point is the buy-in of the Federal Government through the Ministries of Defence and the Interior. These are ministries with the highest number of military and para-military outfits, and they provide a ready market for the products envisaged. There is no doubt that the governors of the northern states have some work to do in this regard, especially as the Federal Government itself has repeatedly expressed interest in resuscitating the Nigerian textile industry.
Several simple facts and figures speak to the efforts being made by stakeholders in the NNDC in facilitating and fast-tracking concrete development in Northern Nigeria. I imagine that the Sardauna himself would be proud that after so many decades down the line, the company has become a stronger source of economic strength and replenishment for the North than it ever was, all demographics considered. We can only hope that in line with the recent thoughts expressed by the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, which I believe is shared by the leaders and people of the region, the owner-states will offer more strategic support – in all ramifications – to enable the NNDC achieve far more than its current five-year development programme, and become a much more formidable economic bastion in Northern Nigeria. 
Dr. Udu Yakubu is a biographer and corporate historian.
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