• Sunday, June 23, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Performance bond, marching order system, may have created a new NDDC

Performance bond, marching order system, may have created a new NDDC

The marching order given to departments in the Niger Delta Development Commission as well as the performance bond signed by the topmost management with the Federal Government seems to have caused both a boon and boom in the oil region.

This is because the present management and 7th board which emerged after the rancour of forensic audit report and steam of over N6trn loss in the Commission in 20 years may have forced the presidency led by Bola Ahmed Tinubu to hold the management and board to account with a performance bond the commission’s leaders signed with the FG.

A one year review shows that the leadership of the commission now submits quarterly report of funds and activities to the FG.

Inside, it was gathered, the heads of the commission are mandated to work only two days in the office and move to the fields in three days every week.

This is said to have forced the unit heads and their assistants to work with the contractors almost everyday to ensure that work moves on every day.

These were disclosed on Thursday, May 30, 2024, in Port Harcourt at a regionwide media engagement and tour of projects by media executives across Nigeria.

At the session, the managing director, Samuel Ogbuku (PhD), affirmed that what is on ground at this moment is a new NDDC, saying it is from the resolve of the present leadership to improve on the successes of their predecessors.

Ogbuku vehemently said there is no looting anymore in the Commission, saying restructuring is making it difficult to loot, just as he appealed to the media to give the Commission a chance.

The MD spoke by virtual means. The executive director, projects, Victor Antia, who stood in physically for him, mentioned the challenges and areas where more funds were direly needed. He mentioned legacies projects which had lingered for many years, and other projects that cover many local council areas, and large populace.

He mentioned some of the mass impact projects as the Borokiri-Okirika Road which has been taken over by Julius Berger. It is said to have three major bridges. “It is an important road for oil operations.”

He also said the Commission has interest in economic nerve roads such as the Bayelsa International Airport Road; the Ibono Road near the Gulf of Guinea, and others that get to the Atlantic ocean.

“We have interest in shoreline protection projects such as in Sangana in Bayelsa State. Many oil operations take place there. It is three hours by water from Yenagoa. High tide damaged a lot of things there.”

He pleaded with the partners and international oil corporations (IOCs) to help the situation by remitting their funds on time. It is not clear if the IOCs have started remitting directly to the NDDC accounts because they began to remit to an Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) allegedly on instruction from security agencies. It was also not made clear if the FG has started repaying the over N1trillion debts owed the Commission.

The NDDC leadership cried out, saying there is big threat to the oil region especially at the oceanic areas where they said shorelines were being washed off up to 50%.

This must have prompted the media executives to appeal to the presidency to look into the cries of the Commission especially in the issue of bureaucracy caused mostly by the Single Treasury Act (TSA) which stifles funding.

Leading in the call, Felix Mamode Akugha, CEO of ‘Inside Niger Delta’ that produces dedicated television and radio content on the oil region also appealed to the National Assembly to compel the IOCs to release funds to the NDDC promptly.

He went on: “The president got it right with the board and management of the NDDC this time. Our appeal to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is to take away all obstacles especially the Single Treasury Act (TSA) requirements.”

Opening the goodwill messages, Eze Anaba, the president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), said: “It is rare for any government agency to exude the level of confidence we have seen here today. This shows a lot.

“The slogan, transaction to transformation, is good and appropriate this time. So, no more ‘off the mic’. This shows there is nothing to hide any more.

“Newspapers exist to improve the lives of the people. Any agency doing this will get the support of the media (newspapers).”

Our focus this time:

During the main briefing, Antia said: “Our focus is mass impact projects that touch more than one local council area, plus legacy projects that have lingered for long. We are transiting from militancy to militech. This is our focus to bring the boys out of militancy mentality. The war has shifted to tech.

“Image of corruption is gone. We are now interested in transformation. No more siphoning of funds.”

Conducting the media executives on a virtual tour of the nine states, he said the task before the commission is many but roads and bridges have taken a huge chunk because of the swamps and virgin forests in the region. He said the Commission has thus constructed and rehabilitated 5,141.3km of roads through swamps and virgin forests. The Commission also built 42 bridges and thousands of hydraulic structures plus 87 jetties.

He gave examples such as Ogbia-Nembe Road of 27.5km, five bridges, seven culverts, connects, for 14 riverine communities; Ibeno Road and six bridges making six km with 600 meter bridge linking 20 communities; Commissioning of Ididep Ekpeyong Ikot Etim Afaha Itiat Road in Akwa Ibom; and commissioning of Ugilimai-Ogume, Abbi Road in Delta State.

He said the NDDC also commissioned Onicha-Ugbo, Idumuje-Ugboko-Ewohimi, rehabilitation of Port Harcourt – Owerri Road, and repaired Atani-amuvi Road, Arochukwu in Abia State.

According to him, notable ongoing road projects include Kaa Ataba Road and bridges; Borokiri-Okirika Road and bridges, and Army Forward Operation Base and Jetty with slipway, basic clinic, helipads, parade grounds, fuel dump, fire station, etc.

He mentioned completed electricity projects to include 3,806km of distribution lines and 527 transformers; Okitipupa substation in Ondo State for five local council area of 2000 communities, Amufi substation in Edo State, Ikot Ekpene transmission substation and extension projects; solar streetlights projects to light up the region.

The Commission constructed and rehabilitated 678 water projects in various communities in the region; did reclamation and sand-filling projects of over 427.16 hectares.

There is economic empowerment such as skill development programmes, agric projects, Rice Mill at Elele in Rivers State, agric project in Ikot Ebom in Akwa Ibom, and welding and fabrication scheme for over 200 youths.

In education, he said the NDDC awarded 2,323 foreign post-graduate scholarships, constructed and rehabilitated 924 schools and 1571 hostel rooms, provided 10,480 educational items, and built NDDC-protype hostel in Michael Okpara University in Umuahia, Abia State and ICT Centre in Niger Delta University.

In healthcare, he mentioned that the Commission invested in 142 health centres and hospitals, and free medical outreach across nine states touching over one million persons with 20,000 surgeries.

Relief materials were supplied to flood victims, etc, while youth development schemes, environmental sustainability schemes, alignment with SDGs, etc. were carried out.

He said climate change actions were executed such as mangrove restoration scheme in the region. “There is project light up Niger Delta which helps to reduce use of fossil fuel.”

The moderator seemed to touch the minds of the media executives deeply when he said the event was about the NDDC and legacies to the Niger Delta (especially in infrastructure). “We realise that no media, no information about anything or about NDDC relevance. We have moved from transaction to transformation. The MD is a man sold for public private partnership (PPP) who has the NDDC at heart.”

By the end of the event, most critical media executives seemed to agree with him.

Ifedayo Abegunde from Ondo State, who is the executive director, corporate services, in his welcome remarks, said the NDDC is now setting a landmark to give bite to the journey from transaction to transformation. “Now to engage in regionwide media engagement instead of sectoral engagement. The NDDC needs the media to accurately communicate its works so the Niger Delta will live in peace. Feedback will help us do our work well.”