By Sylvester Idowu in Warri
An intellectual group, South South Reawakening Group (SSRG) yesterday tasked the Federal Government to release over N900 billion owed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to enable it meets its mandate to the people of the region.
The group, in a statement titled “Setting Agenda for the new NDDC Board” and signed by its Convener, Mr. Joseph Ambakederimo said it had implicit confidence in the pedigree of persons constituted in the board to now deliver on the mandate set for the commission.
It declared: “The monies owed the commission by the federal government should be released to the commission as soon as practicable. About N900b is said to be owed the commission and this amount could go a long way if judiciously expended.
“The lOC’s too should ensure that the statutory 3% of their operating budget be released as at when due. The NDDC should benefit from the ecological fund and the contributions from the states should all be brought under the revenue template of the NDDC”, it maintained.
The group urged the board to scrape all the money it could find and put in the region for it to succeed.
SSRG however noted that for the board to succeed, it must reclaim the confidence reposed in the commission.
“Chiefly of all these is that the Banks should begin to have confidence in the NDDC’ projects. Both the NDDC and the Banks should go back to the drawing board and fashion a new way of funding projects via, Advance Payment Guarantee (APG). If possible put some more requirements in place to ensure that hope is rekindled in the commission and people of the region”, it added.
The South South intellectual group described the appointment and eventual inauguration of the NDDC board as a good omen for the region going by the pedigree of the persons whom were round pegs in round holes but noted that in going forward the most important issue facing the commission now is for the new board to reclaim the confidence of the commission.
“In the past NDDC contracts award letter are a “HOT CAKE” bankers will chase you everywhere you go just to get you to offer to give APG, but now the reverse is the case, we are looking towards the days of old when NDDC contract award letters are equivalent to ‘cash’ at hand.
“Presently it is seen that many people are cut off or denied access to projects as a result of scrapping of APG. The commission is now seen as in existence for only the elite and those who can secure bank loans. Even for those who can secure loans to execute these projects it has become a nightmare getting payments to repay and at the end of the day they are defaulting in loan repayment because of delay in payments for interim payment certificates.
“Again the number of projects that have been completed since the APG financing arrangement was stopped has become minimal compared to when the APG financing arrangement was in place, although the level of bad APG’s then could be managed until everything irretrievably fell apart.
“The observation of what led to the abuse of the APG financing arrangement was when there was infighting within the third set of board members. People now see the infighting as survival for self aggrandisment and who will control the levers of power and influence and who can steal most”, the group observed.
The SSRG also noted that another area of abuse that must be quickly addressed by the new board was award of contracts where one contract would be split into 10 or 20 contracts and awarded to different companies but all incidentally were traced to one person.
“This is called contract splitting. This pattern is clearly in breach of the procurement law and henceforth such wrong doing must be punished.
“There is also a processing fee which is based on the value of the contract, contractors are required to pay this “processing fees” before you can sign the contract agreement. There is nothing like processing fees in our procurement laws.
“Going further is another issue of a system popularly referred to as ” point and kill” a system that has become institutionally entrenched where interim payment certificates are picked for payment based on how much the contractor is willing to part with as facilitation fees.
“All of these are institutional corruption that are entrenched in the NDDC, and this new board must put an end to these infractions in line with the current Anti-corruption fight. The NDDC cannot be an exception.
“This new board should be oblivious of the fact that the task before them is enormous and not a tea party in as much as it’s the issues of the Niger Delta physical infrastructure and human resource development that is at stake.
“Therefore they must do everything within their powers to ensure that they deviate from the path of previous boards and concentrate on the core mandate of the act setting up the commission. It is only this path that can guarantee success for this board”, it added.