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 stated this in an interview with journalists at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, River State, yesterday, emphasised that the Commission did not need middlemen to collect statutory funds due to it.
According to her, “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 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 Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).”
Nunieh stated that political interferences were setting the Commission back, noting that her desk was overflown with files waiting for payments, even from companies belonging to one individual, asking: “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, declaring: “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 area. 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, saying: “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 of the Commission. “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 who actually execute their contracts will be paid,” she promised.
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 IMC, 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 State, Delta State should produce the chairman, so 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 he would respect the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The president also directed that a forensic audit be carried out from 2001 to date, as he stated that it was only after the audit that he would decide what to do with the Commission.”
Nunieh remarked that the NDDC would make sure that everything runs smoothly in the course of the forensic audit ordered by the president. Affirming that the audit would be deep and detailed, she said this explained the panic in certain quarters.
The acting managing director stressed that her focus was on rural development, explaining: “We are trying to see how quickly we can get water to every village soon. We will try to see how we can use existing infrastructure to get water to the villages.”