The Niger Delta Development Commission could only deliver on its mandate when it is adequately funded by the Federal Government in line with the establishing Act. The Commission has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari and the Senate seeking their intervention in enforcing the implementation for the payment of N1.8 trillion unpaid statutory allocations and ecological funds for the year 2000 to 2015. WILLIE ETIM, writes that in spite of the challenges the new board is not deterred as it has advertised for award of new jobs and payment of over N30 billion outstanding bill to contractors handling different projects in the commission.
The new management of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), is effectively upholding the essence of its responsibility, commitment and accountability in the running of affairs in the commission.
The board under the leadership of Mr Nisima Ekere has demonstrated the will power to follow through the obligation of the commission as he targets to do more for the people of the Niger Delta region.
Successive management of the commission had been consistently criticised for the inability to actualise the mandate of the commission even when it is widely acknowledged that the commission has been poorly funded.
The new NDDC board which was inaugurated November last year is not deterred by the lack of fund as it has gone ahead to advertised for the award of new jobs and the payment of over N30 billion outstanding bill to contractors handling projects in the commission.
Last month the board had petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Senate seeking their intervention for the payment of N1.8 trillion unpaid statutory allocations and ecological funds for the year 2000 to 2015.
The Commission said the sum of N1,797,713,966,652.29 was for unpaid statutory allocations while N45,091,075,401.66 was for unpaid ecological funds.
Mr. Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director of the commission,who signed the letter, urged that the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun be prevailed upon to commence the full implementation of the funding provisions of the NDDC Act 2000 section 14(2)(a) & (c).
At his appearance before the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, the NDDC Managing Director explained that the commission could only deliver on its mandate when it was adequately funded by the Federal Government in line with the establishing Act.
He appealed for the establishment of a joint committee between the Commission and the Finance Ministry to reconcile outstanding claims due to the NDDC, and develop a mutually acceptable workable repayment plan.
Given the fact that the funding of the commission is based on law, but the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, has acknowledged the challenge of release of fund to the commission.
In a formal letter to the President Buhari and the leadership of the Senate, Mr Ekere explained that Since taking over the management of the commission on the 4th November 2016, they have carried out a careful diagnostic review of the operations and the results show the Commission has 8,558 projects in its portfolio with about N123 trillion of contingent liabilities on the balance sheet.
It is on record that the commission since inception in 2000, the Commission has not received the complete statutory allocation due from the Federation account and the Ecological Fund despite the clear and unambiguous provisions of section 14(2)(a) and (c) of the NDDC Act of 2000.
From the computations based on the review by the commission a whooping sum of N1,797,713,966,652.29 is owed NDDC in unpaid statutory allocations and N45,091,075,401.66 in unpaid ecological funds for the period 2000 to 2015.’
The total amount outstanding to the Commission is put at N1,842,805,042,053.95 (one trillion eight hundred and forty two billion, eight hundred and five million, forty two thousand and fifty three naira ninety five kobo).
While still pleading with President Buhari the and approve directive to the Honorable Minister of Finance to immediately commence the full implementation of funding provisions of the NDDC Act 2000 section 14(2)(a) & (c), the NDDc MD from the meagre resource at his disposal is committed to payment of contractors working for the commission.
Only recently the commission within November 4, 2016, being the date of the inuaguaration of the new board has paid over N30 billion to its contractors.
The Managing Director who declared the sum at a meeting with executive members of the NDDC Contractors’ Association at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt, also gave the directives that all interim payment certificates below N20 million be processed for immediate payment.
The new board met over 8,000 projects, among which were numerous abandoned projects spread across the region, as well as and a contingent liability of N1.3 trillion.
Mr Ekere has however outlined the efforts being made to tackle the funding challenge as the commission is already meeting meeting with the Senate Committee on the Niger Delta to ascertain the exact outstanding being owed the Commission.
The Managing Director had told the contractors that the new Governing Board and Management of the commission came prepared for the task of developing the Niger Delta, having used the four months before inauguration to work out new strategies for development, anchored on the 4-R initiatives.
“We were nominated in July and then resumed on the 4th of November, 2016. So, the four months of waiting gave us one advantage that this board and management have over any other board. Those four months gave us the opportunity to sit down and properly go through what the challenges and issues were, and then went ahead and instituted the reforms that we have been trying to implement.” He said.
The reform which is being institute by the new board enunciated the 4-Rs strategy; to restore the core mandate of the Commission, to restructure the balance sheet, to reform the governance systems and to reaffirm a commitment to doing what is right and proper at all times.
He said “We are reforming the governance systems in NDDC. By the time we are done, we will institute the governance system that we know is proper and run NDDC according to best international standards, so that when we leave, it will be impossible for any board that comes after us to reverse them.
For the first time an NDDC board has approached the oil companies working in the Niger Delta to involve them in the budgeting process for them to also make input, since they are working in the communities.