Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa
Stakeholders and groups from the Niger Delta have called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly to hearken to the agitations of the people of the region and lift the restrictions on payment of NDDC contractors and allow the management of the board to urgently commence payment to hundreds of contractors.
The stakeholders made up of Traditional rulers, elders, women groups, youth groups, and a peace advocacy group known as the Movement for Sustainable Development of the Niger Delta (MSDND), said this was imperative as flood continue to ravages communities in the region where hundreds have lost their lives, with millions of persons displaced.
A statement issued via electronic mail and signed by its National Coordinator, Chief Ayibatekena Olodin, said the urgent commencement of payment to contractors would ameliorate the biting hardship and sufferings of the people across the region amidst the crushing effects of the flood.
The group requested that the management of the NDDC should be cleared to urgently commence contractual payments to hundreds of NDDC contractors, and for the President, the Minister, and the House Committee Chairman to work in synergy with the Federal Ministry of Finance to release the over N200 billion of NDDC funds that has been withheld by the Federal Ministry of Finance within the past years.
The statement added: “In-spite of the support for the National Assembly committee to ensure proper corporate governance, accountability and probity at the NDDC, there is the need to urgently commence payment to contractors while the perfection of the NDDC budget defence is ongoing.”
Olodin called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana Umana and the management team of the NDDC to urgently seek presidential approval for the previously approved N46 billion in partnership with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for emergency procurement of housing facilities, food and medical assistance for millions of displaced families across the Niger Delta states.
“We are calling on President Buhari, the National Assembly committee on NDDC to urgently work to end the sufferings of Niger Delta Contractors who have lost so much as many of their businesses and properties have been confiscated by banks for failure to repay the loans they took to fund their NDDC jobs.
“The House Committee should lift payment restrictions and allow the management of the NDDC to pay hundreds of suffering contractors for the contracts executed for the commission.
“The Niger Delta stakeholders will continue to request that the NDDC pay for services rendered by competent and performing contractors of the NDDC, however, we are saddened by a situation where contractors will not be mobilised by the NDDC to execute projects, instead, contractors will use their personal properties as collateral to borrow money from banks at high interest rates to execute projects, yet they will be owed by the commission for five years and more without payment,” they added.
“These debts have accumulated over a period of eight years. Many of these contractors took bank loans to implement their projects.
“Many of them have died due to health related complications developed during the agitations for the payment of debts owed them. Their widows, dependents and families are now being sacked by the raging flood in the region.
“President Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana O. Umana, and the Federal House of Representatives Committee Chairman on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Hon. Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, should as a matter of urgency hearken to the agitations of the people in the region to lift payment restrictions to contractors and expedite the commission’s budgetary process.
“They should work in synergy to make emergency funds available, because millions of your constituents are suffering as hunger and diseases loom from raging floods.”