No new contracts in NDDC until on-going ones completed- President Jonathan

By The Citizen
Click for Full Image Size

President Goodluck has directed the newly constituted Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) not to award any new contracts until all the too many ongoing projects are completed.

President stated this today at the inauguration  of the NDDC Board chaired by Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw. The ceremony was held at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa.

Jonathan admitted that there were enormous challenges facing the board but charged them to be conscious of the fact that the people were now more inquisitive and more open to the activities of the commission as well as the freedom of information laws, adding that it was the responsibility of the Commission to do things differently henceforth.

He said, “For the incoming board you have a lot of challenges. But I just have to admonished you very clearly that there are so many issues about the NDDC.  The Niger Delta people feel that the NDDC is not really doing what they are suppose to do over the period. There are so many ongoing projects. A body like NDDC should not just go into a voyage of contracts procurement but ongoing projects must be completed for people to benefit before new ones are awarded. There are just too many ongoing projects and we believe that you don’t even have enough manpower to manage the ongoing projects. You have a lot of responsibility and for those of you from the Niger Delta who are even there, you know that the history of intervening agencies is legion. From three per cent to one intervention or the other, if you aggregate the total amount of money the Federal Government has spent on this agency is enormous and I don’t believe on ground that we have something to show very clearly.

“People are so inquisitive now, society is becoming more open and of course the freedom of press laws and so on, so everybody will want to know what is happening in the NDDC and is your responsibility to do things differently.

“The former board at a time had to be dissolved because instead of the board to work with the management to make sure that people from the area benefit from the NDDC they were busy quarreling over money. The money does not belong to the board members nor the staff, the money belongs to the people yet they were quarreling. If the money that belongs to the people is being spent the way it should they will be no reason why people should quarrel. There are guidelines in terms of procurement and managing of funds and if the MD or ED is doing things contrary to expectations there are lines of reporting, there are lines of authority and I will expect you to follow. I don’t expect you to go and start quarreling. I expect you to be committed both the board and the management so as to ensure that the people from the area benefit from the resources.

“Let me use this opportunity to urge the governors from the region to meet regularly to make sure they also play their role in terms of overseeing what is happening in the NDDC.

“I urge you particularly the chairman as the head of the team now, the MD, other board members and the EDs to work together to make sure that within this period, Nigerians see clearly that you are totally committed to the development of the place.

“You know everything done by government body, the blame if wrongly done is on the head of the president. If you do badly, it is Jonathan that is probably using NDDC funds for election campaigns, that is what people will say. I will really look at your activities clinically, and I will not accept any aberration from the conventional and acceptable way of managing resources of the people.

“Let me congratulate you for this assignment and charge you to go and manage the NDDC well for the benefit of the Niger Delta people, for the benefit of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

In his response, Ewa-Henshaw said members if the board were fully aware of the criticisms that have trailed the performance of the commission for a number of years, assuring that they will  do our level best to change its image before the Nigerian people.

“By adopting a fresh approach and forging a new direction and focus we hope to create a new more positive image for the commission.

“We believe that the NDDC can become the veritable vehicle for it is intended to be for the upliftmeantime of the people of the Niger Delta, a vehicle by which their situation can be transformed from one of deprivation to one of prosperity and hope. You have already charted the course through your transformation agenda for the Nigerian nation.

We will follow your footsteps and key into that agenda for the people of Niger Delta.

“To do this we will focus on major infrastructural developments that will open up and integrate the sub-region. Our projects and programmes will target wealth creation and employment generation especially for the youths of the area. And we will work assiduously to infuse good governance, transparency and efficiency into all facets of the commissions operation”, he said.

In his remarks, the Board’s Chairman, Ewa-Henshaw  assured that they will not take their responsibilities lightly.

“We know how important and serious it is. Therefore, I believe I speak the minds of all my colleagues when I pledge our unalloyed loyalty to your administration and our commitment to ensure that we deliver on the trust you have so graciously reposed on us, the mandate of the NDDC and the hopes and aspirations of the Niger Delta people. Please indulge us by giving us your ears when we come to seek your support and guidance during challenges, which we know will come”.

Speaking to newsmen later on President Jonathan’s embargo on contracts, Ewa-Henshaw, said the board will change direction to ensure it’s impact is more felt by the people of the region and Nigeria in general..

He said, “I think for us we are going to change direction and focus as I said. There is no reason why NDDC cannot get involved in major infrastructural development. The 2013 budget is about N300 billion. The first thing we are going to do is to put up a small thing to do a thorough analysis of existing projects to let us know where and what has been paid, percentage completion, expected completion period and then we can do analysis and agree on which ones that we need to follow but beyond that we will take a more substantial proportion of the NDDC budget and focus it on major infrastructural development

“We will take a look at the entire region and identify, roads for example, that will link up all the states within the region, so that you can open them and integrate them.

“Once you build those roads and allow people to move freely, integration will begin to take place, there is no reason with the kind of budget that the NDDC has that we cannot  begin to be initiators of power development for the sub region, we don’t want to be full owners of any project particularly power, oil but we want to be a catalyst for developing those projects, we will look for partners, we will encourage them, and if necessary, put small investment and look for private equity that will assist in establishing this project.

“If we provide sufficient power for the sub- region, we will solve the unemployment problem by half.the oil industry is based in the Niger Delta region, there is no reason why the citizens of that region cannot begin to take parts and become important stakeholders, not stakeholders in the sense that oil is coming from their backyard but taking ownership of some off the aspects of those explorations, developments, refineries.

“In whatever way we can, we must begin to to get the people of the area involved, we must begin to open up the area, find ways to create wealth and reduce unemployment for the people

“For the NDDC to tackle unemployment, if we are able to improve power supple, that by itself will begin to generate employment because the little hairdresser, welder will be able to do their business and the extra cost on generators will be removed, If we are able to be catalyst for development of industry like power, it will generate employment, we will look at agriculture too by supporting small medium scale farmers”, he said.

Also speaking, the Managing Director,  Bassey Dan Abia said the board was aware of the “unmet expectation of the people of Niger Delta region that the NDDC was suppose to be following a regional master plan so what I will do is to ensure that we review the Niger Delta regional development plan and most of those critical and fundamental issues that are contained in that plan we have not been following, we just have to review the master plan”.

On how they will address the issue of in-fighting he said, “We have learnt our lessons over the years and this time around, I have interacted with the quality of people that are coming on board and we have resolve as a team and once we have a common agenda there is no reason why we will not succeed, it is when you are working from different points and objective that there will be crisis

“We will not see it as my father’s thing where you struggle over who should take head or the tail, we are not sharing, we are building, creating, we will engage the youth, the days of new voucher or coupon is over. We will accelerate sustainable development in the region. There will always be business but not business as usual”.

Other member of the board are Dr Itotenaan Henry Ogiri, (Rivers) as Executive Director (Finance and Administration) and Tuoyo Omatsuli (Delta), as the Executive Director (Projects).

Others are, Turofade Oyarede (Bayelsa); Ephraim Sobere Etete(Rivers); Etim Inyang Jnr (Akwa Ibom); Adah Paul Andeshi (Cross River); Tom Amioku (Delta); Samuel Okezie Nwogu (Abia); Uchegbu Chidiebere Kyrian (Imo); Maj. Gen Suleiman Said (Niger, North Central); Alhaji Abdumalik Mahmud (Bauchi, North East).

Those yet to have nominees on the board are Edo, Ondo and North East.