• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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NDDC’s N84 billion projects

NDDC says 470,000 youths captured on database

There is calm these days at the corporate headquarters of NDDC, the 24-year-old interventionist agency established by the Federal Government to fix developmental gaps in the Niger Delta region. The 13-story edifice, commissioned in 2021, breaks into view as you turn into the eastern bypass in Port Harcourt. Inside, executives are hard at work on the 2025 budget and completing ongoing projects. The rest of the workers are no less busy.

The tranquillity is a far cry from the brouhaha that enveloped the commission three years ago in the wake of the forensic audit ordered by the Buhari administration into its affairs. A new management team, headed by Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, seems well determined to leave the ugly past behind. For two weeks beginning Saturday, May 18, NDDC will commission 92 high-impact infrastructure projects executed at over N84 billion across the nine states. They include roads, bridges, water, electricity, electrification, a police station, health centres, and school blocks.

Among the projects is the 25.7-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road, which has created a road link to the ancient city of Nembe in Bayelsa State for the first time in living memory. It includes 9.15 km of prefabricated vertical drains in the swamp and seven bridges. Executed at a cost of N24 billion, the road cuts the travel time to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, from 3 hours on dangerous water routes to a mere 45 minutes. It also opens up 14 communities for development. The project was executed in partnership with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and is regarded as a model of the commission’s partnership approach to tackling the challenges of the region.

Also slated for commissioning is the 132KV Transmission Line and I32KV/33KV Substation electrification project, executed at a cost of N8.3 billion to optimise power supply to five local government areas in the southern part of Ondo State. The project covers the construction of 45 km of double-circuit 33KV feeder lines from Omotosho Power Station (Hook-up Point) to Okitipupa and two 30MVA, 132/33KV injection substations with breakers, gantry, and substation automation. It also includes the construction of a three-bedroom semi-detached bungalow as service quarters.

The capacity of this power station is optimised with the provision of 2 x 60 MVA, a 132/33KV transformer, and other ancillary works at Okitipupa Injection Substation, the rehabilitation of 35 km of 33/11KV transmission from Okitipupa-Igbokoda-Ugbonla and environs, and the construction of 1 km of rigid pavement. The electricity project will complement the Federal Government’s effort in the power sector by improving power supply to Okitipupa, Igbokoda, and about 2,000 neighbouring communities in Ondo South Senatorial District with a direct value chain in small and medium-scale industries, creating jobs, and consequently engendering growth and development in Ondo State.

NDDC’s executive director in charge of projects, Victor Antai, sounded ecstatic when I spoke with him early Saturday morning. It is his brief to deliver on all the projects undertaken by the agency. And so, for five months since late last year, Antai has been touring the nine NDDC states, inspecting projects and ensuring that contractors are up and doing. He told me, “As you know, I have been on the road, inspecting these projects and meeting with contractors and the communities, just to ensure that every project is delivered on time. It is the decision of the executive management to deliver dividends to our people.”

Before he assumed duties in November, Antai was a businessman, a local government chairman, and a commissioner in the Akwa Ibom government. To his folks, he is known for his simplicity, affability, and generosity. Unlike many ‘big men’ in public service, Antai has no airs and does not encourage partisan divisions and ethnic bigotry. So, I asked him, among all the 92 projects, which one do you have for Akwa Ibom State?

In Akwa Ibom State, NDDC will commission the 6.87-kilometre Iko-Iwuochang road in Ibeno LGA, the southern part of the state. The road project consists of a two-lane single carriageway, a 600-metre bridge, and side drains. The N10 billion virgin road project links 20 communities, hitherto separated by the Qua Iboe River. Three years ago, NDDC completed and commissioned a 1005-student hostel at the University of Uyo. I attended the event. In Abia State, NDDC will commission the Obehie to Oke Ikpe road to be reconstructed at a cost of N3.5 billion. The nine-kilometre road restores the road link between Rivers and Akwa Ibom states through Abia (Ukwa East/West). It involved the reconstruction of seven kilometres of failed sections of the road and the construction of drainage.

It is commendable that Dr Ogbuku and his team are completing and commissioning these projects, many of which were started by previous management. It is indeed pleasing that he has not fallen into the temptation to abandon them and start new ones, as has often been the case in public service. Said the chief executive: “The most compelling need in completing and commissioning these projects is to put them for use in the communities and help in renewing hope in the people in line with the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Tinubu.”

It is also important that the NDDC is now generating more good news than negative ones. I was in the centre of the fight in 2021 during the forensic audit controversies, defending the commission in the media. It is my pleasure to report on the calm and the progress that we now have.

ETIM is a former media consultant to the NDDC