Could it be true that it is under female interim managing directors that the most abandoned project in the Niger Delta, the multi-billion naira headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) moves to any new level of completion? Could it also be true that it is the female CEOS that strive to return to the mandate and master plan of the NDDC?
The assertion in the oil region is that the moment a full time MD takes over, the project which started decades ago under the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), would get huge lip-service. By the time that CEO leaves office, the project would witness huge payouts, contract reviews, but little or no percentage increase in completion steps, insiders stated last weekend.
Could this be why the project which started at a couple of billions of naira has to N16BN during Nsima Ekere or far more now under Pondei/akpabio? Yet, it seems to be the pressing under the regimes of recent female CEOS (from
Ibim to Nunieh) that acted as managing directors that whatever shift upward in completion took place, except the present interim management committee (IMC) that is seen to continue with the hunger to complete it.
Christy Atako (PHD), a one time director of public affairs of the Commission, was the first female to be made acting MD at the Commission.
The drive and determination of female MDS seemed to spark when Ibim Semenitari was appointed in December 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari. Ibim was seen to bring her acute transparency, huge administrative and managerial sagacity to bear on how things ought to be done at the Commission.
Having numerously investigated and reported the affairs of the Commission as a journalist, editor, and publisher, as well as having served as member of the Rivers State executive council, Ibim seemed to push for an audit to strengthen the path it should go, and return to the original mandate. It was felt at that point that the politicians that were preferred to govern the Commission over the years had redefined the mandate of the Commission.
It was Ibim that rescued small contractors’ debts (under N10m) by verifying and paying them without them needing to come and lobby for payment. This is said to bring ovation in the region as alerts rang out here and there. She told newsmen then that there was no point holding small suppliers hostage for years.
Next, she ensured that contractors were not judged for payment on party lines but on work done and readiness to go back to site. This worked wonders and won hearts to this day, sources monitoring the activities of the Commission hinted newsmen.
It was Ibim that also introduced digital system of running the Commission for the purpose of accountability such that every contract would be registered online with location, stage of completion, and payment update. She told newsmen then that the purpose was to make indigenes the custodians of every project so they could call a contractor to order. She said secrecy was what contractors and politicians used to perpetrate evil.
She initiated almost 300 emergency repair projects across the oil region that helped long-neglected roads such as the Calabar-itu Road to spring back to life and restore the economies of surrounding areas such as the stone and quarry business in Cross River.
She and other female MDS are said to have done battle with Abuja to stop cash demands. This aspect is said to be dicey and most complicated. It later understood that expecting a woman, mother and wife to risk imprisonment for moving sums to top leaders was unacceptable.
Most striking was Ibim’s resolve that the NDDC should go away from perpetual payment of rent for offices in the states and the head office, a practice that is said to be fraught with fraud; in fact a cash-cow. This is how she completed the Rivers State office of the Commission nearby in the GRA 2 and commissioned it. She got lands across the states to start other ones before she was removed for the permanent CEO to take over.
On the permanent headquarters project, it was gathered that a review was to be done and one plan was for a credible construction firm to start afresh and complete it with an a small amount including original cost, while another proposition was for the former contractor to complete it with even less. When the permanent MD came, it was gathered that a third option emerged that gave the contract to a politician outside the two previous propositions on the table and at an outrageous cost.
When Akwagaga Enyia came as acting MD in 2019, she launched a task to get the project completed and even wanted to move her office there. She introduced prompt payment too. The building moved fast. What led to her removal will be another story, inside sources said. When she left and Joi Nunieh came, she was said to introduce even more fire on transparency and determination to complete the project. She is even said to have accumulated over N200BN cash for the Commission before her sudden and bizarre removal that seemed to shock the world. What is important at the moment, however, is the determination of her successor to complete the project. The transparency, strictness and application of the funds Nunieh left behind is said to be another matter which many groups said they are fighting over.