Tuesday, 25 March 2014

NDDC: Charting a new renaissance in the Niger Delta Region

NDDC: Charting a new renaissance in the Niger Delta Region
Determined to make a difference”. Is the well known and acceptable if not applaudable slogan of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Niger Delta Development Commission according to its Act of 2000 is with a vision of offering a lasting solution to the socio-economic difficulties of the Niger Delta region with a expected zeal to facilitate the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and political peaceful in Cross River, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Abia, Ondo, Bayelsa, Imo and Delta States that make up the region.

The commission by nature of its creation was vested with the responsibility of drawing and executing the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan (NDRDMP) as well as awarding of contracts to contractors based on the needs of a particular community, village and state within the region.
In accordance to its pre-determined responsibility the commission since inception has awarded over 6,000 infrastructural projects. Now the big question is how effective and properly executed are these projects, how many of them have been commissioned and functional till date? How many are abandoned and how many are awarded to two or three contractors and while is it so?

It could be recalled that last, year November having received lots of complaints and outcry of how NDDC projects are abandoned in the state, the chairman Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission, Hon. Victor Charles Udofia took it upon himself and the committee members on touring round the 31 local government areas in the state in a bid to assess the performance of contractors and standards of projects executive by NDDC. In a general review of the month long tour of projects, the committee chairman described as unsatisfactory the performance of some of the contractors working for the intervention agency, urging the commission to rise up to their slogan “determined to make a difference”.

It was on this note that a contractor rose in defense of the alleged poor performances of his colleagues in the execution of projects by asserting that what is generally perceived by the general public as “abandoned projects” are actually delayed projects”.

Prince Aniefiok Attah, Managing Director of ET-Dicks Nigeria Ltd. a major NDDC contractor, said, these “delayed projects” were as a result of a number of factors which he listed as inadequate funding of projects by NDDC, Interval strife within Board and Management, Incessant dissolution of Board, and lack of cooperation and support for contractors by benefitting communities.

Emphasizing on inadequate funding, Prince Attah said the 15% of contract value currently paid to contractors as mobilization fee is very inadequate and revealed that it is often difficult for contractors to collect the next tranche of mobilization, thus leading to delay in project delivery which the benefiting communities inadvertently regard as projects abandonment.

In what some segment of the general public will perceive as putting up a defense for NDDC contractors by Prince Aniefiok Attah, the present Managing Director/CEO of NDDC Sir, (Barr) Bassey Dan-Abia supported the position of Prince Attah when he said “The Planning Process in the commission is weak and consistent faulty budgetary allocations are made year in year out. Records show that most projects are given 15% allocations yearly. 

Barr Dan-Abia who addressed Governing Board and Management of NDDC during their 2014 management retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on the theme “Re-focussing NDDC for Better Service Delivery” while assessing the performance of the commission over years, has this to say” “There is poor image/perception from the general public mainly because of our stakeholders’ engagement process, which is not all quite received the value they expect from NDDC, we have been tagged “contract cow” because of the large number of infrastructure projects we have awarded since inception (over 6,000 infrastructure projects have been awarded). There is rumour that our award letters are being hawked in the major cities of the country and the quality of our infrastructure projects fall below acceptable standards and this had made the people of the region to differentiate NDDC projects from the other well delivered projects.

Again, our programmes do not achieve the stated objectives because of poor or no Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Mechanism embedded in their planning, critical stakeholders are excluded from our budgeting process, abuse/distortion of regional projects and poor record keeping etc”. 

Still at the recent 2014 Governing Board and Management retreat of NDDC in Akwa Ibom State, the chairman, NDDC Governing Board Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw said, “indeed, for the short time that the new Board and Top Management have been in the commission, some of the things we have seen are extremely shocking” revealing that “Contracts are awarded with no design and no specific location but with the sole purpose of collecting advance payment, one contract is awarded to 2 or 3 different contractors. And there are allegations that NDDC staff may be colluding with outsiders to sue the commission then come to push for out-of-court settlement, after which they share the settlement money from NDDC”.

Undoubtedly nonchalance attitudes displayed by past leaderships of the commission has culminated in the current dwindling situation of the commission. It is believed that with the present leadership of the commission, the time has come where Niger Deltans will receive better service delivery and a general upliftment of their well being. As assured by Barr Abia when he said”…… how do we get back on track? Holding this 2014 Board and Management Retreat is our first step at getting back on track”. And Senator Henshaw supported his stance by saying: “I believe that it is now time to tell ourselves some home truths. It can no longer be business as usual. Substantial and immediate changes for the better must take place. We must root out impunity from NDDC”.      

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