In September 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo had expressed concern, during a meeting with a delegation from Citizens Energy and Citizens International (CI), led by a former USAID Administrator, President of the National Democratic Institute and President of Citizens International, Mr. Brian Atwood, that international donors were not assisting the government of Nigeria to meet its domestic development obligations in the areas of food security, improved environment, universal education, job creation and poverty reduction.
The President was informed that official assistance was likely to be delayed until the fulfillment of Nigeria’s commitment to economic reforms and that rising long dormant assistance programmes might take some time.
Mr. Atwood promised to make efforts to raise funds from voluntary private sector for a special development fund to aid Nigeria. Mr. Atwood said Citizens International would work with the World Bank, United Nations agencies and other international development agencies and send a survey team to Nigeria to identify development projects and develop an “action plan” to assist Nigeria.
The survey was conducted in November 1999 by a team which comprised some of the world’s leading development professionals. The team was led by Mr. Brian Atwood and included Executive Vice President of CI, Mr. David Shear, who had over 30 years experience in development planning and management in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Mr. Shear’s vast knowledge and experience were put to use in the design of the Foundation’s initial development programme. Also included in the team were representatives of the International Management and Development Group, Monitor Country Competitiveness Group and Pacifico Energy Corporation.
The survey team had the cooperation of government with the special adviser to the President for Economic Affairs, Chief Philip Asiodu, as the principal coordinator for the exercise. Other government officials who assisted the survey team were the Ministers in charge of Education, Environment, Special Projects and the Special Advisers for Food Security and Petroleum. The survey team visited most regions and met with relevant stakeholders in the public and private sectors.
The team developed an action plan for a Special initiative that would utilize both Nigerian public and private institutions to deliver high impact, sustainable projects for Nigeria. The work of the survey team was facilitated by Dr. Gabriel Soyoye, who was on hand to travel with the team across Nigeria. Though the action plan was a national one, the plan focused particularly on the needs of the Niger Delta region because the situation in the Delta was a threat to the transition to democracy
It was decided that the machinery that will provide resources to implement the action plan will be the New Nigeria Foundation (NNF). During his visit to Nigeria in August 2000, President Bill Clinton acknowledged the formation of the New Nigeria Foundation as a very important step at building public private partnership for development. NNF was incorporated in November 2000 in Nigeria as a not for profit, non-governmental organization to represent a new institutional paradigm that provides a platform for mobilizing non-traditional resources through promotion of public-private partnerships to spur sustainable development efforts. A Board of Directors and operating procedures for its activities were established. The Foundation was set up with initial funding from United Nations Foundation (UNF) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Foundation was launched on Friday, 8th December, 2000 at Nicon Hilton, Abuja. The occasion was attended by a number of people who facilitated the creation of NNF including Mr. President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the Chairman of Citizens International, Mr. Joseph P. Kennedy II, (son of late Senator Robert Kennedy and former Congressman) who has had a relationship with Nigeria for more than two decades, Mr. Brian Atwood and Mr. Mack Mallock Brown, the Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Others present were Dr. Christopher Kolade; pioneer Chairman of NNF Board, Dr. Soyoye, an NNF Director and the Executive Vice President of CI, Mr. David Shear.
At present, NNF mobilizes resources from international development and UN agencies, Nigerian private and public institutions, federal and state governments and other sources that may be available to undertake development activities in Nigerian communities.
The inaugural Board of Directors comprising Dr. Christopher Kolade, Dr. Pascal Dozie, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, Mr. Brian Atwood and Dr. Gabriel Soyoye was inducted and the Managing Director, Prof. Obafemi Ajibola was appointed to manage the day-to-day activities of the Foundation.