The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is set to revoke many contracts for projects in different parts of the oil-rich region to enable it to focus on strategic ones that would open up the areas.
The commissioner representing Delta State on the NDDC board, Dr. Ogaga Ifowodo, who disclosed this during the inspection of the Koko-Oghoye-Escravos-Epe (Lagos) road project and other projects in Isoko and Abraka, said the NDDC had been saddled with too many projects. According to him, the commission, at the last count, had about 9,000 projects in the nine states of the Niger Delta.
To Ifowodo, the NDDC is carrying too heavy a load that it does not have enough resources to give due attention to those high-end projects that would really impact the lives of the people of the region, like the ongoing Koko-Oghoye-Escravos-Epe (Lagos) road project.
“As at the time we came into office, we took count of about 9,000 projects. That means in each of the nine NDDC states, there are about 1,000 projects. That is unimaginable. What we’re doing is to take audit and decide which projects would be taken off our books because we’re carrying too heavy a load to pay attention to the projects like the Delta-Epe (Lagos) road that really matters. Projects like this one we want to give major attention to, but when you have dockets full of a whole 9,000 projects – a lot of those are one kilometer and two kilometers projects – they end up sucking up all the resources and most of the time they are abandoned.
“We recently cancelled projects worth about N200 billion – those are projects that are at zero percent completion rate. The next phase that will go will be zero to five percent and we’ll keep going until we have totally rid our books of these projects that are of no value anymore but are dragging us down,” he said.
Ifowodo described the Delta-Lagos road project embarked upon by the commission as not only ambitious but a high impact one that could open up the Niger Delta through laid down solid infrastructure. He expressed satisfaction with the enthusiasm shown so far by the contractors during his tour of the project sites, especially the quality of jobs done.
He, however, expressed disappointment with the abandonment of the 260-room hostel at the Delta State University (Delsu), Abraka by the contractor, Breden Nigeria Ltd as well as the Koko Shoreline protection pilling being done by Smiec Nig Ltd and ordered both contractors to report at the NDDC office in Warri to explain their problems with the projects.
According to Ifowodo, the NDDC has an exposure of about N1.5 trillion and the Federal Government isowing the commission about N1.8 trillion. He said some funds were received recently and that the NDDC had started paying contractors, which explained why none of the contractors complained about money when he toured the sites. He said with these payments the commission’s exposure had been cut down.
He said the NDDC board had agreed that 70 percent of funds would be dedicated to the completion of ongoing projects while 30 per cent would be for new projects.
The NDDC official said the commission had also weighed the implications of terminating some projects, especially where they owe contractors, and has decided to ensure they are completed because if they were revoked, the contractors could go to court since they are being owed and the NDDC would be at the receiving end.
But some stakeholders in the region have criticised the planned revocation of the so-called low value projects by the NDDC.
The Coordinating Secretary of the Pan- Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Dr. Alfred Mulade, urged the commission to be more creative about sourcing funds to complete all its projects ongoing in the region the way funds are being sourced locally and internationally to rebuild the North East. He argued that there is nothing like low value projects since they are needed by the communities.
Mulade cautioned NDDC against revoking projects that might look small in nature but are of high value and essential to the communities in the region. He likened the situation to a parent deciding to kill a new born baby so as to save money to train the grown up ones.
He said projects like water, cottage industries and fish farming might appear small but they are of high value to the communities.
For the Ijaw People Development Initiative (IPDI), it is an irony that the NDDC is pruning down projects in the Niger Delta while in the Northern Nigeria, no project is ever cancelled.
The acting spokesman of the IPDI, Mayor Timi Ogobiri, said: “We have never heard that projects embarked on in the northern region or west are being cancelled by any intervention agency for whatever reason, so its shocking for us to hear this coming from NDCC. I must swiftly ask the Federal Government where the funding of the multi-billions naira pipeline laying project from Kaduna to Niger Republic and the railway projects and the multi-billion dollar spent to search for oil in northern states are coming from. Where does the Federal Government get all these billions from, and yet someone could wake up from his bedroom and attempt to cancel projects earmarked for the Niger Delta region for unclear reasons . It is political and a slap on Niger Delta people again.”
According to him, “The Federal Government has been raping us on funding of projects. We have often cautioned on the implications of their ethnic bias and bad attitude toward funding of project in Niger Delta.
“Take for instance the Nigeria Maritime University in Okenrenkoko for which the Federal Government found very difficult to release a paltry N2billion from what it is generating from the same Niger Delta via oil and gas sales in the international market. They have deliberately suffocated the region of development.
“It is lamentable that at the time we are talking about restoring peace in Niger Delta and pacifying the people, the government is showing to them they are nobody by deliberately attempting to cancel already existing people-oriented projects under guise of low value embarked upon by past administration.”
IPDI warned NDDC against revoking any project, saying it would scuttle the fragile peace in the region. “The region has been laying the golden eggs for the general consumption of Nigeria, therefore, it is an aberration for any parastatal or an interventionist agency to embark on such a move,” Ogobiri said.
In the same vein, the President of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), Eric Omare said: “I do not agree that any type of project is of low value in the Niger Delta considering the low level of infrastructure. Though I appreciate the fact that the NDDC ought to be engaged with mega projects, since they have been awarded and mobilisation fee paid, the proper thing is for the contracts to be completed, and henceforth NDDC should not be engaged in such contracts again. But the already awarded ones should be completed,” he said.
Meanwhile, a community leader in Ndoki Land in Ukwa East Local Government Area, Abia State, Chief Godfrey Akara, has urged the Federal Government to stop neglecting Ndoki land, saying that the natural resources of Jelly Gas and Hydro Carbon found in Ndoki land contribute more than N86million monthly to the national economy.
Akara, who is the Executive Director of Abia State Agency For Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education spoke when a delegation of Ndoki land visited him in his office at Umuahia. He said that the commumity had nothing to show in terms of infrastructure as a reward or compensation for its natural endowment being managed by the government.
According to him, the difficulties brought to their land by the 1976 Justice Mamman Nasir National Boundary Committee also turned the place into a minority. He pleaded with the government to change its current disposition to Ndoki land for the better.