The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has invited President Muhammadu Buhari to commission a 29-kilometre road linking Ogbia community to Nembe in Bayelsa State.
The NCDC spokesperson, Charles Odili, in a statement on Tuesday said the road was built by the commission in partnership with the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) at a cost of N24billion.
“The road cuts through swampy terrain with spurs to 14 other communities, needing 10 bridges and 99 culverts 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,” he explained.
“The road has cut the journey time to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, from three hours to one and a half hours.”
The development comes amid a forensic audit of the NCDC following allegations of massive corruption and mismanagement of funds.
The NDDC was set up to change the economic and infrastructural outlook of the Niger Delta but trillions of naira sunk into it has not yielded any visible results as infrastructural development has been sluggish.
This informed Mr Buhari’s decision to order a forensic audit into the finances of the agency since its inception.
Mr Buhari said his administration is determined “to get to the root of the problem undermining the development” of the region.
The National Assembly has also engaged in a series of probes, including into allegations of procurement infractions at the Commission.
In Tuesday’s statement, Mr Odili said scholars of the Commission who are facing hardships abroad because of the non-remittance of their fees and stipends would be paid by the end of the week, following the order of President Buhari.
He said the delay in the remittance of the fees was caused by the sudden death of Ibanga Etang, the then Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, EDFA, of the Commission in May.
“Under the Commission’s finance protocol, only the Executive Director (Finance) and the Executive Director (Projects) can sign for the release of funds from the Commission’s domiciliary accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“With the death of Chief Etang, the remittance has to await the appointment of a new EDFA.
“Senator Akpabio, the Honourable Minister, said President Buhari who has been briefed on the protest by students at the Nigerian High Commission in London, has ordered that all stops be pulled to pay the students by the end of this week. We expect a new EDFA to be appointed this week. As soon as that is done, they would all be paid.”
On the list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the National Assembly, Mr Odili said the one submitted by Mr Akpabio was not compiled by the minister but came from files in the Commission.
The NDDC spokesperson said the list submitted to the National Assembly was actually compiled by the then management of the Commission in 2018. He said there was another set of lists for emergency project contracts awarded in 2017 and 2019 but these were not submitted to the National Assembly.
“The Interim Management Committee, IMC, 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.”
The official said 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, adding that the ongoing forensic audit would unearth those behind the contracts.
The spokesperson said 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.
Mr Odili noted that the list did not include the unique case of 250 contracts which were signed for and collected in one day by one person ostensibly for members of the National Assembly.
On the forensic audit exercise, he said that it was on course and the Commission had positioned 185 media support specialists to identify the sites of every project captured in its books for verification by the forensic auditors.