Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs monday disclosed that it had an outstanding liability of N34 billion, mostly owed to contractors as at 2015.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, who disclosed this at a press briefing in Abuja, also stated that between N800 billion and N1 trillion was required to deliver uncompleted projécts dotting nine states in the region.
Usani frowned on the over N400 billion said to have been expended on projects in the region with 12 per cent completion, saying it was unacceptable.
A technical audit committee set up by the minister, which turned in its report recently, stated that a total of N700,538,741691.30 was budgeted for the ministry between 2009 and 2015 with 60 per cent disbursement.
According to the committee headed by Yerima Bulama, a cumulative sum of N446,421,385,864.41 was certified for payment but N423,172,256,347.84 was paid, leaving an outstanding of N32,111,887,779.32.
In other words, between 2009 and 2015, about 60 per cent of 425 projects awarded were paid for.
Responding to a question on what was required to deliver uncompleted projects in the region, Usani said it was difficult to bandy an accurate figure due to variations in a number of factors, but noted that between N800 billion and N1 trillion could be considered enough to complete the projects.
Usani stated that since his emergence as minister on November 11, 2015, he and his team, in the face of daunting challenges, had worked tirelessly to refocus the ministry with a view to giving people of the region a better deal.
He listed such challenges as social, a large number of litigations, the prevailing economic situation, security, as well as issues of capacity and organisation within the ministry, among others.
But within the limits of the available resources, the minister said quite a lot had been done in the area of empowerment, listing some of them as the training of 130 youth and women in Israel on agriculture with N1 million given to them for start-up.
He also disclosed that another 224 women and youths were trained on agriculture value chain and were also supported with funds while dome other youths were trained on GSM repairs and maintenance just as 150 others are billed to be trained on ICT.
On the flagship projejec–East-West Road, Usani said the contractors have been mobilised to site on Section 1 (Warri-Kaima) to the tune of N4 billion, appealing on them to remain on site.
Section 5, he said, was yet to commence due to a faulty technical design which was uncovered, culminating in the suspension of resumption of work.
The minister said correcting the defect before proceeding with that section was a must because not doing so was replete with grave implications which could negate the entire project.
On what it would cost to complete the entire road project, the minister disclosed that Section alone would require about N70 billion while other sections will require about N200 billion to complete
He noted that efforts were being made to complete the skills acquisition centres and housing projects, noting that although budgetary provisions were not enough due to the nation’s economic challenges other funding options were being explored.
The minister disclosed that the Niger Delta Action Plan and other intervention programmes for the region would be vigorously implemented.
He also said an effective synergy was being worked out with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which is now being supervised by his ministry to avoid projects overlap and duplication.
Usani warned to contractors who have been paid but had not completed their projects to move to site or risk being dragged to the anti-graft Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).