By Ikenna Omeje
The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has invited President Muhammadu Buhari to commission the 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road in Bayelsa State. The road, built in conjunction with the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), creates a land link to the ancient city of Nembe for the first time.
The Commission’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili disclosed this in Abuja after delivering the NDDC management’s invitation to the President through the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, a release by the Commission on Tuesday said.
Odili noted that the road project, which costs N24 billion, cutting through swampy terrain with spurs to 14 other communities, needed 10 bridges and 99 culverts. “To conquer the swampy terrain. The construction involved digging out four metres of clay soil and sand filling it to provide a base for the road,” he observed.
Significantly, he said, “the road has cut the journey time to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, from three hours to one and a half hours.”
Odili said the joy of the communities served by the road was unspeakable, noting: “This project is a not only a flag ship of intervention in the Niger Delta, it is also a model of development partnership between the Commission and international oil companies in the region.”
Odili also disclosed that scholars of the Commission who are facing hardships abroad because of the non-remittance of their fees and stipends would be paid by the end of the week, following the order of President Buhari.
He said the delay in the remittance of the fees was caused by the sudden death of Chief Ibanga Etang, the then Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, EDFA, of the Commission in May.
Odili stated: “Under the Commission’s finance protocol, only the Executive Director (Finance) and the Executive Director (Projects) can sign for the release of funds from the Commission’s domiciliary accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“With the death of Chief Etang, the remittance has to await the appointment of a new EDFA.”
Odili said further: “Senator Akpabio, the Honourable Minister, said President Buhari who has been briefed on the protest by students at the Nigerian High Commission in London, has ordered that all stops be pulled to pay the students by the end of this week. We expect a new EDFA to be appointed this week. As soon as that is done, they would all be paid.”
On the list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the National Assembly, Odili said, the one submitted by Senator Akpabio was not compiled by the minister but came from the files in the Commission.
The NDDC spokesperson said the list submitted to the National Assembly was actually compiled by the then management of the Commission in 2018. He observed that there was another set of lists for emergency project contracts awarded in 2017 and 2019 but these were not submitted to the National Assembly.
Odili affirmed: “The Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the Commission stands by the list, which came from files already in the possession of the forensic auditors. It is not an Akpabio list but the NDDC’s list. The list is part of the volume of 8,000 documents already handed over to the forensic auditors.”
The NDDC Corporate Affairs Director also said that prominent indigenes of the Niger Delta whose names were on the list should not panic as the Commission knew that people used the names of prominent persons in the region to secure contracts, adding that the ongoing forensic audit would unearth those behind the contracts.
The spokesperson said the intention of the list was to expose committee chairmen in the National Assembly who used fronts to collect contracts from the Commission, some of which were never executed.
Odili added that the list did not include the unique case of 250 contracts which were signed for and collected in one day by one person ostensibly for members of the National Assembly.
On the forensic audit exercise, he said that it was on course and the Commission had positioned 185 media support specialists to identify the sites of every project captured in its books for verification by the forensic auditors.
Odili advised members of the public to discountenance the “avalanche of falsehood being orchestrated by mischief makers,” regretting that “more insinuations and accusations may be thrown into the public space by those opposed to the IMC.”