By NBF News

Indications emerged on Monday that the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission might have directed the management of the agency to stop contractors executing 500 projects believed to have been awarded in controversial circumstances.

The projects were allegedly awarded at a cost of N46bn by the Commission's Managing Director, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha, without compliance with due process.

Our correspondent learnt that the board intervened on the matter following calls by stakeholders in the region, for the removal of Ugwoha and his Executive Director in charge of Projects, Esoetk Ibong Etteh, for peace to reign.

The duo were said to have been feuding over award of contracts.

But speaking through his Special Adviser in charge of Media Affairs, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo, the Managing Director described the allegation as a ruse.

Ogbodo told our correspondent in a telephone interview on Monday that the news was being reinvented by the same people whom he said had been spreading falsehood.

He said, 'Every matter concerning project had been resolved and everybody had been working together peacefully.

'They should allow the contractors whose contracts were said to have been cancelled to talk. The board has not cancelled any project. We are into serious projects, detractors are at work,' Ogbodo stated.

The alleged indiscriminate award of contracts by the NDDC management team allegedly led to a serious disagreement between Ugwoha and Etteh.

Etteh was said to have petitioned the Presidency on March 31, 2010, alleging that the Commission's Chief Executive was abusing his office with unilateral award of contracts without compliance with due process.

He had insisted that Ugwoha had no power to do so and should therefore be investigated by the Presidency for abuse of office, a development that led the presidency to summon the two warring Directors.

Sources at the Commission revealed that the board's intervention was on the instruction of the Presidency and that the board has since communicated the decision back to the Presidency which has been inundated with petitions from both within and outside the Commission bordering on allegations of mismanagement at the Commission.

Stakeholders under the aegis of Niger Delta Conscious Movement have however, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to save the Commission from the alleged misrule of the CEO.

The group accused the managing director of deliberately causing disaffection among the employees through a divide and rule tactics to cover up for his shortcomings.

President of the Movement, Effiong Okon, in a petition by the group to President Jonathan, said Ugwoha's tenure in the NDDC had been 'acrimonious given that his predecessors had peaceful tenure and were able to contribute to the development of the region through good management.'

He explained that the danger of not taking a position on the crisis in NDDC was that the Commission's mandate areas would be denied the much needed development.

However, Ogbodo denied that his boss was either sanctioned by the board or reprimanded for any reason, saying the contracts are on course.

According to him, if the contracts are stopped, 'it is the contractors that will cry out,' saying the crisis in the Commission is not in the best interest of the Niger Delta region and that some people were out to cause confusion for the commission.

'The call for the removal of the MD has been on since but I think the NDDC should not be in the news for the wrong reason, please let us disregard spurious claims, if all these are true the Federal Government would have reacted,' he stated in response to enquiry by our correspondent.'