By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Acting Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Dr Gbene Joi Nunieh, has said the commission has suspended the monthly payment of N1 billion to a consultant that collects money from International Oil Companies (IOCs) on its behalf.
Nunieh, who spoke in an interview with journalists at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt Tuesday, emphasised that the commission did not need middlemen to collect statutory funds due to it.
She said: “We have a consulting firm engaged as a collection agent. We have another company that also collects three per cent whenever money is paid by the International Oil Companies (IOCs).
“We don’t need a middle man to collect three per cent for gas. The money should just be paid into NDDC accounts with the CBN.”
Nunieh stated that political interferences were setting the commission back, noting that her desk was overflowing with files waiting for payments, even from companies belonging to an individual.
She asked: “How can someone have 87 companies waiting for payment?”
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said in spite of the political interferences, she was not going to compromise, adding that: “That is why I have suspended the contract of a collection agent. We are no longer going to pay anyone N1 billion every month. That is wicked.
“That money can put mono pumps in rural communities in the Niger Delta. It can buy books and set up primary health centres. The three per cent for a consulting firm is over. That is why we are under pressure. But I laugh because those who live in glass houses should never throw stones.”
Nunieh called on the people of Niger Delta to stand up to protect their region.
According to her, “What is happening is very embarrassing. We must all get up and know that these people have taken our commonwealth.”
The NDDC boss said things were beginning to look up as many contractors have gone back to site since she mounted the saddle as the MD/CEO.
“We have about 57 contractors that have gone back to site. I am encouraging everyone to go back to site so that things will be done properly. Those that actually execute their contracts will be paid,” she said.
Addressing the issue of the legitimacy of the three-man Interim Management Committee (IMC), Nunieh wondered why people were misconstruing the situation, observing that although the NDDC Act was silent on the matter of an Interim Management Committee, the president has the right to set up the body.
She said: “The NDDC Act is clear on the matter of the commission’s chairmanship. It says that after Cross River State, Delta State is supposed to produce the chairman of the NDDC board. If the Act says that after Cross River, Delta should produce the chairman, why would anyone say no?
“When the governors of the South-south states, led by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, visited President Muhammadu Buhari, he assured them that he would comply with the Act setting up the NDDC in taking decisions concerning the agency. He said that he would respect the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“He also directed that a forensic audit be carried out from 2001 to date, stating that it was only after the audit that he would decide what to do with the Ccommission.”
Nunieh remarked that the NDDC would make sure that everything runs smoothly in the course of the forensic audit ordered by the president, as the audit would be deep and detailed, which has resulted in panic in certain quarters.
The Acting Managing Director stressed that her focus was on rural development, saying: “We are trying to see how quickly we can get water to every village before long. We will try to see how we can use existing infrastructure to get water to the villages.
“No big contractors. Get the locals who are plumbers to get the mono-pumps to work. We are going to take development to the people and that is why you no longer see the young men hanging around our gates. We have asked them to go back to their communities and we will meet them there.”
Nunieh said that NDDC would encourage communities to set up cooperative societies to address peculiar challenges, adding that: “We are going to give awards for the cleanest villages in the Niger Delta. We are going to see who has the cleanest water fronts. Everyone will take care of their water fronts and the Niger Delta will be green again.”
The NDDC boss promised that the commission would carry out an epidemiological study in the Niger Delta to find out the prevalent sickness in the region and see what could be done.
She said: “Our people must be helped to stay alive and healthy. Look at the United Nation Environmental Project (UNEP) report which states that one in eight Ogonis would die of cancer. So, you can imagine the situation in other parts of the Niger Delta.”