Niger Delta Stakeholders Urge FG to Release over N2tn Owed NDDC

•House committee pledges speedy passage of commission’s budget

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

Niger Delta stakeholders have tasked the federal government led by President Bola Tinubu to release the outstanding debt of over N2 trillion owed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the government.

This was as the Committee on NDDC at the House of Representatives has assured the Commission of speedy passage of the N1.9 trillion NDDC budget before it.

Speaking during the technical session of the Niger Delta Stakeholders’ Summit, held in Port Harcourt, yesterday, National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Senator Emmanuel Essien, noted the need for the federal government to release the accrued fund for the NDDC to expand its projects across the region.

Essien, disclosed that the forum has endorsed the present management and board of the NDDC.

He said the stagnation of the NDDC was caused by fund delay by the federal government and poor management, saying the regional projects cannot be executed because of lack of funds.

Essien, who expressed joy over the summit, described the NDDC as an agency that is supposed to intervene in the problems and development of the Niger Delta region.

He said, “Incidentally, I was the Deputy Chief Whip in the Senate at the time we enacted the NDDC Law. Incidentally, also when President Olusegun Obasanjo refused to sign the bill into law, we from the Niger Delta region pleaded with our colleagues to override him and incidentally I led the walkout at the Federal Republic of Nigeria, before our colleagues came to agree to override that veto.

“I want to say that the ideals of that law has not been achieved, partly because of under-funding and partly because of management issues. That is why I want to thank the present board and management in what they are doing to redeem that deficiency and I want to join the traditional rulers to plead with Mr. President to release all the outstanding money for NDDC which is over N2 trillion.”

According to him, “You cannot set up an agency and you don’t fund it and expect it to do what it supposed to do. There are lots of issues in the Niger Delta region. The master plan for the region cannot be implemented. I was part of the master plan for this region, as the Vice Chairman of NDDC Committee in the Senate at that time.

“We are borrowing money to do other things, even if it is to borrow to refund the money to NDDC, we should borrow so that NDDC can achieve its core mandate.”

Speaking on the NDDC Act, he said “We also want to say at this stakeholders meeting, that there is need to review that NDDC Act. There are other sources of money that had to be brought into the Act to enrich the purse of the NDDC.

“Also, the single Treasury Account should not be applied to NDDC. They should have their money so that they can do their projects.”

In his submission, the Chairman, Founding Fathers of defunct OMPADEC and NDDC, Prof. Jasper Jumbo, said the Act that set up the Commission left out seven key proposals in the setting up of the Commission.

He said the federal government began to owe the Commission from inception and still expects them to deliver, urging the federal government to go and borrow from wherever they had been borrowing to defray the debt owed the NDDC.

“Tell the National Security Adviser to tell the President, if they are borrowing money to execute projects in Nigeria, they should borrow money and pay back to NDDC.

“I can’t see why the NDDC should not be getting three per cent VAT, as part of its funding position.

“They should give them three per cent VAT. Let them have and see how they cannot give us legacy projects. We have full confidence in this board.”

The Deputy Chairman of House Committee on NDDC, Hon. Jafaru Leko, promised that he and his colleagues would ensure speedy release of the 2024 budget of N1.9 trillion.

In his presentation, the National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, said the Niger Delta must be clearly captured as a National Security priority in the vision of President Tinubu, and his Renewed Hope Agenda, in a more active and determined way.

Ribadu, who was represented by Mrs. Osareti Ihuoma Grace, said the President’s broader and long-term National Security vision included moving internal security from kinetic to non-kinetic operations, noting that his office would emphasise security from human and socio-economic development point of view to deepen democratic culture in the Niger Delta.

Also speaking, the NDDC Managing Director, Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, assured that the Commission would continue to focus on completing capital projects that would add value to the Niger Delta region.

He said: “Our commitment is to work together towards transforming the region, in line with the 8-Point Presidential Priorities, as well as in accordance with the demands of the NDDC Act of 2000.

“We have no intention of clashing with or competing with State governors in the region. Instead, we aim to collaborate as development partners to facilitate the rapid progress of the Niger Delta region.”

Earlier, in his opening address, the Chairman of the Governing Board of the NDDC, Mr. Chiedu Ebie, charged leaders and key stakeholders from various sectors and ethnic nationalities to collaborate for the development of the Niger Delta region.

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