Fresh from its contract crisis, which made headlines weeks back, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has invited the President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate a 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road in Bayelsa State. The commission announced on Tuesday.
In a statement titled ‘NDDC Invites President Buhari To Commission Signature Project,’ which was signed by the Director of Corporate Affairs, Mr Charles Odili, the NDDC said the project, which cuts across 14 communities cost them N24 billion to actualise. The road the statement stated was built in conjunction with the Shell Petroleum Development Company and it creates a land link between Yenagoa and the ancient city of Nembe for the first time.
The statement added, “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. The road has cut the journey time to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, from three hours to one and a half hours. This project is a not only flagship of intervention in the Niger Delta but it is also a model of the development partnership between the Commission and international oil companies in the region.”
The NDDC and its supervising ministry have been in the eye of the storm of late with the National Assembly probing alleged financial recklessness to the tune of tens of billions of naira by the commission’s Interim Management Committee.
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and the acting Managing Director of the commission, Kemebradikumo Pondei, were last month grilled by the House of Representatives during an investigative hearing where the minister revealed that some lawmakers were beneficiaries of NDDC projects.
Speaking on the list of lawmakers subsequently released by Akpabio, Odili said, “The Interim Management Committee 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.
“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, and the ongoing forensic audit would unearth those behind the contracts. 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.”
The National Assembly has since called for the dissolution of the Interim Management Committee and the return of the NDDC to the Presidency for direct supervision. The President had in October 2019 set up a three-man committee “to create the enabling environment for the forensic audit” that covers 18 years of NDDC’s operations between 2001- 2019.
The NDDC IMC was later enlarged to five in February 2020 by the President following the termination of the appointment of the then acting Managing Director, Joy Nunieh, who was replaced with Pondei. Other members of the committee are acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Ibanga Etang; acting Executive Director, Projects, Cairo Ojougboh; as well as two members Caroline Nagbo; Cecilia Akintomide.