President Goodluck Jonathan
Muhammad Bello in Abuja
President Goodluck Jonathan Tuesday received 10 reports from a presidential committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which gave a damning verdict on shady deals and abysmal performance by the interventionist body since 2004.
Jonathan told the Projects Monitoring Committee, headed by Chief Isaac Jemide, that the Federal Government would investigate issues raised by the committee regarding abandoning of projects and variation of contracts without adherence to due process.
Observing that the NDDC was established to check militancy through an articulate regional development modules, the president said if it was not seen as doing that by prudently managing resources, then “we have issues at the NDDC.”
The president also said the government would probe the renovation of Port Harcourt Club, a private entity, by the NDDC, while pledging to find ways of creating synergy between the board and management of the commission that are constantly locked in turf wars.
Expressing surprise at the neglect the Jemide Committee suffered from the commission’s management while it was carrying out its assignment, the president said this development had given government “a little more work to do” in trying to unravel what went wrong with the commission over the years.
He said: “I can assure you that government is going to look into the report and the summary statement you have made and we will see all we can do for the development of NDDC.
“I think the report is from 2004 to 2011, that means the report of 2011 is yet to come in and that concerns the present leadership of NDDC because the chairman has not spent up to a year.
“What it means is that we have issues in the NDDC. NDDC is a body that must be properly focused. The NDDC was set up because of the militancy in the Niger Delta, the feeling that the youths in the Niger Delta feel aggrieved. Some are on developmental issues, which led to the formation of the NDDC. That means that the NDDC must be properly focused to address these issues and there must be efficient management of funds, management of resources and if these are not done that way, then of course, the focus of setting up the NDDC will not be realised.”
The president said the renovation of Port Harcourt Club by the NDDC would be probed to find out why the commission would use public fund to develop a private club.
“One of the key issues you raised that we will also look into and see how we can cement it is that there is a gap between the management committee and the board of the NDDC and they are supposed not to see themselves as cat and dog. Their functions are supposed to complement each other because the NDDC cannot monitor itself,” he added.
Submitting the reports of his committee, Jemide highlighted scores of failures that indicated that NDDC had not lived up to its responsibility in developing the oil-rich region.
Some of the infractions enumerated by the committee included abandoning of projects, inability to accomplish shoreline protection jobs for the same period of time, astronomical variation of contract and failure to properly account for billions of naira appropriated to it by the Federal Government.
Other faults the committee found were omission of some mega-projects from lists of contracts, lack of sanctioning of erring contractors, non-functional water projects, opaque accounting systems and refusal to cooperate with the committee in the discharge of its duties.
The reports, among others, cover projects awarded by the NDDC in three Niger Delta states-Cross River, Edo and Rivers- between 2005 and 2011; financial management report on the Niger Delta Development Commission for the period 2005 to 2011; procurement management report on the commission from 2002 to 2004 and procurement management report on the NDDC for the period of 2005 to 2015.
However, it was not all of the committee’s submissions that castigated the NDDC as Jemide explained that the committee visited a total of 609 projects spread across three states.
“Of the 609 projects monitored, 222 (36.5 per cent) were completed, 102 (16.7 per cent) were ongoing and 285 (46.8 per cent) were abandoned at various levels of completion.
“The monitoring of 1,510 projects for the period 2005 to 2011 in the remaining six NNDC states has been completed and the reports are being compiled for submission to the President to further enrich its findings, the committee interacted with host communities, stakeholders, the NNDC contractors and officials and discussed grey areas, with a view to correcting the anomalies identified in the course of the project inspections,” he said.
Reacting to the reports, the Managing Director of the NDDC, Chris Ogwuoha, said: “For us, on the side of the management, this is a working document for us to take home and see what we can do to bring development to the Niger Delta region.”
He promised to ensure that there is synergy between the management of NDDC and PMC “because the purpose of the two organisations are to ensure that quality service is given to our people.”