Diri urges Buhari to constitute substantive board for NDDC
By AHERHOKE OKIOMA (Yenagoa) and ISAAC JOB (Uyo)
- Laments 1700 abandoned projects in Bayelsa
- Group alleges moves by bigwigs to thwart audit
Bayelsa State Governor Douye Diri has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in accordance with its enabling Act.
He said its absence was hindering the commission’s operations and deliverables. Diri, who stressed that the interim administration arrangement was alien to the Act and unacceptable to governors of the Niger Delta, noted that the commission had not been able to meet its mandate because of the absence of a substantive board.
The governor stated this, yesterday, when the NDDC Interim Administrator, Dr. Akwa Effiong, visited him in Government House, Yenagoa. Describing the NDDC as an interventionist body created to fill the development gap in the Niger Delta region, Diri said the governors have also been robbed of their advisory role, which would have enabled the board to embark on people-oriented projects in the region.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Daniel Alabrah, he expressed his administration’s preparedness to work with the commission to foster development in the state, saying: “The NDDC has a lot of abandoned projects in Bayelsa State. From reports, we have over 1700 projects across Bayelsa State and that is not healthy.
“At this juncture, I again, appeal to President Buhari to constitute a substantive board for the NDDC according to the Act setting it up.
The NDDC was conceived and established as an interventionist body to fill developmental gap. We cannot accept these policy summersaults that make our development to suffer. “The interim arrangement has become the norm rather than the exception.
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That is totally unacceptable to us as governors of the Niger Delta states. We have a very huge stake according to the Act establishing the NDDC and that role is not being played. With the interim administration, there is no board for us to advise.”
He also disclosed that there were over 1,700 abandoned NDDC projects in different parts of the state, describing the situation as unacceptable. Some of the abandoned projects include the Angalabiri Ebedebiri-Toru-Orua shore protection project captured in the commission’s 2020 budget, the Sabagreia Polaku Bridge and the Akenfa Bridge, among others.
Diri stressed that there be synergy that will profile the projects before they are conceived. NDDC was not to go into every nook and cranny of states in the region.
It should be looking at very large projects, sometimes inter-state projects with mutual agreement and cooperation of the state governments. “I believe that collaborating with the NDDC will create a more robust impression and leave a lasting legacy for our people and generations yet unborn.
The NDDC must continue to work closely with governors in the nine states to ensure synergy and avoid duplication of projects and activate the powers of the governors in the board in line with section 2 of the Act establishing it,” he said.
He stressed that he was against the scrapping of the NDDC, but that it should be revived to enable it to deliver its core mandate, noting that the non-collaboration of the commission with catchment states that would advise on priority projects had led to duplication and abandonment of projects.
Diri, however, commended Effiong for the donation of a 1000KVA generator and a coaster bus to the state-owned Niger Delta University as well as four waste disposal trucks to the state government. Earlier, Effiong appreciated the governor for his developmental strides, saying he had done well within the short period in office and assured of NDDC’s preparedness to collaborate with the state government on construction of the Nembe-Brass road project the state had undertaken.
Meanwhile, a group under the aegis of Niger Delta Network has alleged pressure by some individuals and organisations to scuttle the proposed personnel audit of the NDDC. In a statement made available to newsmen in Uyo, the Director of Public Communication of the group, Dr John Douglas, said the annexation and the audit process were directives from the presidency.
Recall that some groups had accused that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Obong Umanah Okon Umanah of attempts to annex the commission.
The statement tilted: “Re’ Attempt by the Ministry of the Niger Delta Affairs to Annex NDDC is illegal, Unlawful and shall be strongly resisted,” described the alleged annexation of the NDDC personnel audit as baseless It reads in parts : “We have read with amusement, the above sponsored press statement against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Umana Umana, alleging attempt to annex the NDDC to MNDA.
“No one whose recruitment is legal, lawful and legitimate, will oppose or fret over a Ministerial directive for a personnel audit of the NDDC. “It can no longer be business as usual for unscrupulous persons who used NDDC funds to finance personal or sectional interest.
Time to do things differently starts now. “It is on record that the annexation of the commission was initiated by the presidency. The transfer of the supervisory role of the NDDC from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, did not start under Mr Umana Umana.”
The Director of Public Communication explained that there is a new dawn in both the NDDC and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, stressing that It can no longer be business as usual.
He stated that it is unlike the past when corruption was a direct principle of state policy where NDDC funds were used to finance personal or sectional interest.
He disclosed that only those who perpetrated and benefited from the faulty and fraudulent staff recruitment will be happy while lovers of good governance will attest that the ongoing reforms are meant to ensure that processes and procedures are transparent and followed due process.
“Abuse of office and public trust must give way to due process, transparency, accountability, “ he said. He solicited support from Niger Delta stakeholders for the Umanah in his strategic Ministerial Action Plan of ensuring among others, the review of disproportionate staff recruitment during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Douglas maintained that the plan of the Minister to audit the NDDC personnel was based on petitions over irregular staff promotions and deployment in the commission including the compilation/publication of list of all completed projects awaiting payments for public scrutiny.