The House of Representatives Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has appealed to the Federal Government to pay all the outstanding debts to the Commission within a reasonable time.
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Nicholas Mutu, made the appeal on Tuesday when he led his colleagues to pay a courtesy visit to the Managing Director of the NDDC, Mr. Nsima Ekere, at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt.
Hon. Mutu told the NDDC Chief Executive Officer, who received them in the company of the Executive Director Finance and Administration, Mr. Mene Derek and the Executive Director Projects, Engr. Samuel Adjogbe, that the Committee’s visit was part of its oversight function to inspect project sites, look at the books of the Commission, and evaluate its performance.
He affirmed that the Committee would support the NDDC through regular engagements, with a view to enhancing the performance of the Commission and improving on its service delivery to the people.
The committee chairman re-stated the Committee’s displeasure with the debts owed the NDDC by the Federal Government and other agencies that contributed to its funding, calling for a change of attitude.
He declared: “In future, we expect that all statutory obligations to the NDDC would be paid as and when due. The delay in the release of funds has created a situation whereby the Commission is unable to meet its financial obligations to contractors and stakeholders.
Hon. Mutu advised the NDDC to set up a mechanism to leverage resources outside the statutory sources of funds by working out partnerships and joint venture arrangements.
To address the challenge of high rate of project abandonment across the length and breathe of the Niger Delta, which according to him was put at over 3,000, the committee had directed the NDDC to commence the immediate audit of performing and non-performing projects.
“This is with a view to determine non-performing contracts and give impetus to NDDC to put in place a mechanism that will help it to mitigate the abandoned project syndrome currently bedeviling the region.
“Going forward, the NDDC should award contracts to only contractors with capacity and focus more on completing on-going projects as an additional measure to mitigate contract failure and enhance value added service to the Niger Delta region,” he said.
The Committee Chairman charged the NDDC to commit 50 per cent of its funds to completing existing projects while devoting 30 per cent to new projects. “Other available funds should be used to pay contractors with outstanding Interim Payment Certificates, IPCs, to facilitate the completion of existing projects,” he said.
Hon. Mutu called for an urgent review and implementation of the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan. He advised: “The Commission should undertake this review by facilitating the process and allowing other stakeholders to take leadership in determining the content and objectives of the Master Plan. This will engender ownership by the people and institutions of the region to ensure that it will be acceptable and widely implemented by the states, local governments, oil companies, private sector and civil society organisations, as well as other development partners working in the Niger Delta.”
He thanked the board, management and staff of the NDDC for the good job they were doing and assured them that his committee would be a partner in progress, adding that the committee would be willing to work with them to attain the vision to develop and advance the Niger Delta region.
Earlier, the NDDC Managing Director, Mr. Ekere, said that the committees of both chambers of the National Assembly have been most supportive and helpful to the Commission. “They have given us the backings that will enable us deliver on the mandate that we were given by the President and the people of the Niger Delta region.
“We appreciate you, especially for the expeditious passage of the amendment to the NDDC Act without rancour. We owe you and the entire membership of the National Assembly a debt of gratitude for that wonderful show of patriotism and statesmanship.
Mr. Ekere noted that since the appointment of the current board and management by the President, the NDDC had articulated a new a reform strategy christened the 4-R initiative. He stated: “We articulated the 4-R initiative to add value to the process of the NDDC. The new initiative will structure our processes and make them transparent. It involves restructuring the balance sheet, reforming the governance protocols, restoring the Commission’s core mandate and reaffirming its commitment to doing what is right and proper.”
The NDDC boss said that the reform strategy was meant to improve the performance of the Commission as an interventionist agency. He observed that the balance sheet of the Commission was highly bloated.
Accordingly, he said: “We agreed that to move forward, we must find a way to restructure the balance sheet of NDDC and that has led to the cancellation of the first 633 projects worth about 20 billion naira and then a further cancellation of 432 projects worth a little over 90 billion last week.
“The idea is that there is no point carrying on with non-performing projects in our balance sheet because they only help to make the balance sheet bloated. This is why you hear that NDDC has contingent liabilities running into 1.3 trillion naira.”
Amaka Agbu, Port Harcourt