the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) cancelled over 600 contracts because the contractors lacked the capacity execute the projects, Managing Director of the Commission, Mr Nsima Ekere has declared.
Ekere who spoke exclusively on “Good Morning Nigeria”, an NTA Current Affairs Breakfast Programme on Friday said it was necessary to clean up all non viable projects as some of the contractors did not mobilise to site more than seven years after the contract was awarded.
He noted that as a result, the NDDC has a liability deficiency of over #1.4 trillion hence the urgent need to cancel such projects and reaward those that are evaluated to be viable.
The NDDC boss explained that though the federal government is owing the Commission an outstanding arrears of over #1.7trillion of which a presidential directive has been given to the Finance and Budget Ministers to sit down with the management to reconcile the figure and effect release of the outstanding balance, he decided to ensure that 70% of revenue available to the NDDC go into completion of ongoing projects.
As part of his reforms, the NDDC boss said he has initiated the 4R initiative aimed at restructuring the balance sheet of the NDDC, reform the governance system to ensure policies are followed, restore the Commission to its core mandate as well as introduce technology in the way things are done.
“Rules must be followed, laws must be respected”, he admonished.
On the controversy of tenure elongation, Ekere noted with dismay that issues of the Commission are over politicized, but expressed happiness that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) has clarified the issue, explaining that there is no tenure elongation as what happened was the constitution of a new board of the NDDC after the dissolution of the former board.
” We serve at the pleasure of the President”, he declared.
He explained that part of the reforms initiated to achieve the goal of the NDDC master plan includes getting the buy-in of all stakeholders which led to the reviving of the Partnership for Sustainable Development (PSD) to ensure continuous engagement with all relevant stakeholders and the reviving of the Budget Committee for each of the state headed by the State Representatives on the NDDC board to ensure greater collaboration and synergy between the Commission and the States.
He assured that the NDDC will continue to seek better partnerships and collaboration with State Government’s, expressing happiness that the new partnership is already yielding results such as the collaboration with the Ondo state government to build a road that will link Ondo to Lagos making it possible for people to travel from Ondo to Lekki in just 45 minutes as well as the collaboration with the Delta state government in building a road from Warri, passing through Escravos to the site of the new Maritime University.
According to Ekere, he is poised to tackle the issue of poor project execution which explains why he had an engagement with all NDDC Project Consultants and the Commission’s Project Inspection Directorate where he read the riot act and advised them to ensure that right from project conceptualization, correct standards and specification are adopted taking into account the challenging terrain of the region where by over 70% of the landmass is below sea level.
He said, in view of the fact that oil may no longer be viable in the coming decades, the NDDC is already exploring alternative sources of funding which include partnering with Nexim Bank to establish the Niger Delta Agricultural Export Initiative aimed at developing the agricultural value chain for export with an initial contributory fund of #2.5billion each by both NDDC and Nexim Bank as well as collaborating with SMEDAN to revamp the Industrial Development Centers (IDC’s) towards creating an Enterprise Hub in the Niger Delta region, the first of its kind in the country.
He explained that the new initiative with SMEDAN/BHIIP will bring forth a new Skill Acquisition Programme where by beneficiaries will be trained, built, given skills and mentored within the enterprise zone, expressing optimism that the new partnership is a robust arrangement which will address lapses previously encountered in past NDDC empowerment programmes.
He assured that the new empowerment initiative under the Enterprise Hub will help build startups and SME’s that will create jobs and reduce crime in the Niger Delta region.
On the controversy surrounding the NDDC Foreign Scholarship Programme resulting in some beneficiaries not been paid their entitlements, Nsima Ekere said while he believes education is key towards creating the much needed manpower, the board is poised to ensure that government money is not frittered away.
He said it was wrong for a beneficiary who went for a Masters Programme in 2010 which was meant to be a 12 month programme to be sending bills of such programme in 2017, a situation he noted led to the setting up of a committee to look at the issue. He explained that presently, genuine beneficiaries fees have been paid directly to the schools of study rather than to private accounts as was previously done.
“If there are still some genuine students who have not been paid their entitlements, I apologise. We have to sanitise the system. We had to make enquiry directly to the schools and it takes time. All genuine recipients of the NDDC scholarship programme will receive their entitlements”, he assured.
By Dan Etokidem