The Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Sen. Godswill Akpabio assured that as supervising minister of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, he will ensure the people of the region feel the impact of the commission.
Speaking on the Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, programme, WEEKEND FILE, on Saturday 26,2019, the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State lamented that the commission established to intervene in the special needs and circumstances of the Niger Delta region, has failed the people.
“You need to be angry with the situation of the NDDC to change NDDC, and I am angry. I was angry with what was going on in my state and I wanted to show that government could work and I did. I’m not running NDDC, I’m only a minister and my job is to supervise NDDC. Mr. President has entrusted that me and ordered the proper supervision of the commission and I’m assuring you that I will do so.”
” They saw NDDC as an ATM machine and choose to steal it dry, leaving nothing to show for. They also believe that the Bible says one who works in the pulpit deserves to eat from the pulpit. But they don’t know that God didn’t say they should steal the pulpit in the process. I am here to do thorough auditing in the ministry”
He lamented the level of abandoned projects by the commission in the area attributing it to corruption, which he also pledged to tackle.
“You can see the terrain in the area, quite challenging and at the same time people who do not possess the requisite skills to carry out the jobs went after the jobs, took the jobs and abandoned the jobs. I understand that they have almost 12,000 abandoned projects across the nine states of the Niger Delta. If those things were completed, you can imagine what the area would have been turned into. I believe strongly that the people who conceived the idea of Niger Delta Commission from 1991 right 2001 must be very disappointed with what they have seen,” he said.
Besides the issue of corruption, the minister identified political interference as part of the problems which the commission has faced.
“People bring ideas to the commission not to move it forward but to move their pockets forward. Even though the bible says if you work in the pulpit, you can eat from the pulpit, it did not say you should steal the pulpit. What has been happening in Nigeria, including the NDDC is people coming in and attempting to steal the pulpit and if you steal the pulpit, it means nobody else can come in and preach.
That’s why the region is the way it is.”
The minister, who lamented the amount of money wasted by the commission in the past years with regards to abandoned projects equally decried the low quality of some road project carried out by the NDDC saying they cannot last up to two years.
He promised a paradigm shift in the commission saying, “I don’t associate myself with failure.
There is no way I would be made the minister of the Niger Delta and I’m from the Niger Delta and people will not feel the impact. I believe my appointment was as a result of the pains Mr. President felt about the commission. My records as Akwa Ibom sate governor for eight will speak for itself.
“It is the totality of these that made Mr. President pronounce that there is need to have forensic auditing of the commission, to not just look at the projects in the region, but also to look at the amount of money that has gone into the region from 2001 till date and find out why we have so much failures. With me, things will to be done differently.”
He disclosed that as part of efforts to reposition the commission its budgeting system will have to change. “When you have a project that should take N30 billion a year, and you go and put N5million. At the end of the day, it means you are planning to finish the project in six years and no regime stays that long. So we will start from budgeting. We actually want to complete projects. So we will look at the hanging projects and see the once we can quickly complete and commission for the benefit of the people.”
He also revealed that he has mandated the commission to complete its headquarters, construction of which has been ongoing since 1996. He described as unfortunate the fact that after so many years the commission is still paying rent. According to him, as at last year, the commission paid a whopping N300m as rent to Rivers State government.
He said he has assured President Muhammadu Buhari that within the next six to eight months he (Buhari) will commission the headquarters of the NDDC.
Akpabio spoke further on his plans for the NDDC: “We will also undertake the forensic auditing and look at the projects, out of the 12,000 the one that we can merge, the once that we can complete for the benefit of the people.
“We will also look at the healthcare situation in the area. They are faced with a lot of diseases as a result of pollution from oil exploration and exploitation. They don’t have land to farm, we will need to get back the land for the people. So side by side with mediation and provision of infrastructure, we will look at how we can assist the people with health care.
“We have a lot of ideas and I assure you that in the next three years of Mr. President’s tenure there will be positive stories about NDDC.”
The Minister advocated for government-NDDC partnership such that where the funds of the commission cannot meet up with the cost of the project, the government of the state should come in.